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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CFL Safety Guide & Clean Up Precautions

As energy-savvy consumers know, equipping five of a home’s most frequently used light fixtures with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can save a family $70 a year in lighting costs. Please be aware of proper disposal of CFLs. Most importantly, let the CFL cool before replacing the bulb and take special care not to break the bulb.
But what should you do if a CFL breaks?
CFLs are made of glass tubing containing about 4 milligrams of mercury. Although this isn’t much—classic thermometers contain 500 milligrams of mercury—consumers should still take precautions if a CFL breaks, since mercury vapors may pose health risks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated the guidelines for cleaning a broken CFL. The revised guidelines break the process into three steps: what to do before cleanup, during cleanup, and after cleanup. More in-depth guidelines are available at www.epa.gov/cflcleanup.

Before Cleanup 

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:  stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces) and a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
During Cleanup
  • DO NOT VACUUM.  Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken.  Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
After Cleanup
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.  Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
  • Local disposal locations include the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna, the Homer Bailing Landfill Facility and at Home Depot in Kenai.
If a consumer has a particular concern they can contact EPA or their local/state environmental agency for assistance. The updated guidelines feature a brochure on proper handling of CFLs, cleanup procedures, and recycling tips. The brochure may be downloaded at www.epa.gov/cflcleanup.

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