OOPS! What to Do With a Broken Compact Fluorescent Light

broken CFL bulb James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

A broken CFL has the capacity to release the small amount of mercury contained within it in the form of a gas. Should you accidentally drop a CFL, follow the EPA’s “Cleanup and Disposal Guidelines for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs – June 2008” linked below.First and foremost, as soon as the break happens, clear out. Get pets and people away from the area and shut off the AC or heat. Open a window or windows if possible and allow at least 15 minutes for ventilation to occur.

If the break occurs on a hard surface, use stiff cardboard to scoop-up fragments (don’t sweep—this can cause bits to go airborne—or vacuum) and place in a glass jar or a sealed plastic bag. Use strong tape such as fibrous duct tape to collect the rest of the glass fragments and powder. Finally use a damp cloth to clean the area. Place all the items used during the clean-up process into the glass jar or sealed plastic bag being used for collection.

If the break occurs on carpeting or a rug, carefully collect fragments and place them in a jar or plastic bag, and use strong tape for the tiny bits. If you choose to vacuum, dispose of the vacuum bag or canister contents in the jar or plastic bag. It is important to ventilate the room where the break occurred for the next several times you vacuum.

Now that you’ve got your jar/bag of hazardous waste, what to do next? In Pinellas County, “We want people to bring broken bulbs and associated cleanup materials to HEC3 (Pinellas County Solid Waste), not put them in the regular trash,” says Andy Fairbanks, Waste Reduction Program Supervisor, Pinellas County Utilities Solid Waste Operations.

See links below for more information. Hey, accidents happen. The good news is CFLs do not need to be handled very often (only seven years in some cases!), so the odds of a mishap are greatly reduced.

Cleanup and Disposal Guidelines For Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) June 2008

Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury
July 2008

Pinellas County Household Electronics & Chemical Collection Center


Posted: May 21, 2009

Category: Home Management, Work & Life

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