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07 August 2012

What to do if a CFL breaks

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are green winners, but they can release a small amount of mercury if they break. Know the correct cleaning-up procedure.

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Compact fluorescent lights are green winners, but they can release a small amount of mercury if they break. Know the correct cleaning-up procedure.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) use 75% less energy than old-style incandescent bulbs and save you money in the long term: switching over to them is a no-brainer.

They do contain a small amount of mercury though, which is safely sealed inside. Unless, of course, they break – then it can vaporise, and as mercury is poisonous, you don't want to breathe it in, even a small amount.

If a CFL breaks:

  • Get everyone (pets too!) to vacate the room for about 10 minutes, and open the doors and windows to give it an airing out.
  • Then put all the broken pieces in a sealable container. Wearing disposable gloves is a good idea - put these in the sealable container too.
  • Remove any remaining fragments and dust with a damp cloth or sticky tape. Put used tape in the sealable container.
  • Don't vacuum unless you've already thoroughly cleaned up using the methods above first. Vacuuming may spread mercury-laden powder or vapor.
  • Promptly place the sealed container in the refuse bin
  • Wash your hands
  • Continue to air out the room for a few hours.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, August 2012

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