Fluorescent Bulbs Can Be a Costly Environmental Hazard to your Home
You know those cute little curly shaped fluorescent bulbs (CFL – Compact Fluorescent Light) that can save you a lot on money on energy bills? Well, if the bulb is broken, they can create a hazardous waste nightmare in your home that home insurance will not pay for. And while they do come with a disposal warning label, few people read a warning label on a light bulb. Furthermore, many of the CFL’s made in China can start a fire when the ballast burns out.
The problem is the toxic mercury inside and while the bulbs are harmless while in use they can pose a big problem for landfills and if the bulb breaks, for homeowners.
Brandy Bridges, of Prospect, Maine did the environmentally sound thing to do – she went and bought a bunch of CFLs to put in your home, but one broke while installing in her daughter’s bedroom. She called Home Depot who correctly warned her not to vacuum due to the danger of spreading mercury throughout her home. Eventually, the Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection sent out someone to test her house for mercury levels.Hazardous levels were found on an area of carpet the size of a dinner plate. They also recommended that she not try to clean up the mercury powder herself and suggested she contact an environmental cleanup firm. The company’s estimate was $2000. (1)
So, how do you clean up mercury in your house from a broken CFL? The EPA offers a checklist at epa.gov/mercury that suggests you leave the room for 15 minutes, then return to sweep up and double-bag the mess — and not to vacuum unless absolutely necessary, as vacuuming will spread the mercury powder throughout your home as you vacuum. (2)
Virtually all homeowner’s policies exclude environmental losses, even those from mold spores, so Brandy had to seal off the bedroom until she could afford the cleanup.
CFLs are not designed to go in tack lighting, recessed lighting or lights with dimmer fixtures as they could cause a fire used this way. They also note that you need to find a certified recycling center that can handle dead or broken bulbs and the EPA is drafting guidelines and/or requirements for disposal of the bulbs. IKEA, a big seller of CFLs does recycle burned out bulbs. (1) Sites such as epa.gov/bulbrecycling, lamprecycle.org and earth911.org offer information about where CFLs can be recycled. (2)
But new technology now provides mercury free IED lights for homes and commercial uses - most new car brakes lights are made of IED lights, which use very little energy. They are less expensive over time, longer lasting, less amperage, also dimmable and brighter than the CFL. No mercury and they come in color selections, I like the 3000K or the 3200K spectrum light, they are not the blinding white, rather they brighten colors like red and brown, people look healthy, a beautiful light.
(1) WorldNet Daily.com April 16, 2007 (2) Fowsnews.com – November, 07, 2007 – Are Compact Florescent Bulbs Good for the Environment by Jackson Kuhl