How to Clean Up a Broken CFL Bulb

January 5, 2011 at 6:40 am Leave a comment

A few days after Christmas, the EPA issued updated guidance on how to clean up a broken compact fluorescent lamp (“CFL”) bulb.  CFLs are made with a small amount of mercury that can be released as vapor when broken.  That vapor is a health risk, although the EPA still encourages the use of CFLs to save energy and reduce GHG emissions.  Here’s an outline of the EPA’s CFL cleanup guidance:

Before Cleanup

  • Clear room of people and pets
  • Open a window or door to ventilate the room for 5-10 minutes
  • If on, shut off the central HVAC system
  • Gather cleanup materials

During Cleanup

  • Collect broken glass and visible powder
  • Contain glass and powder (in a glass jar with lid or sealable plastic bag)

Hard Surface Cleanup

  • Scoop glass/powder with paper or cardboard
  • Use duct tape or something sticky to grab remaining glass/powder
  • Wipe the surface clean with damp paper towel or moist wipes
  • Place everything in jar or plastic bag
  • Place outside in trash or protected area for proper disposal

Carpet/Rug Cleanup

  • Scoop glass/powder with paper or cardboard
  • Use duct tape to grab remaining glass/powder
  • Place everything in jar or plastic bag
  • Place outside in trash or protected area for proper disposal

After Cleanup

  • Avoid leaving bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors
  • Place bulb materials and debris outside in trash or other protected area
  • Wash hands with soap/water after disposal outside
  • Naturally ventilate room for several hours
  • Leave HVAC system off while ventilating room

The EPA discourages the use of a vacuum to clean broken CFLs.  That said, if you’re going to use a vacuum, the EPA has some detailed guidance on how to do it.  Among other things, you should try to use the vacuum hose, remove the vacuum bag, clean the vacuum, and seal the bag and cleanup materials.

The EPA also has several suggestions to avoid breaking a CFL in the first place.  You should avoid twisting the glass tubing and try to use CFLs with a cover over the spiral or folded glass tubes.  Also, CFLs should be replaced with a drop cloth on the ground — this will soften a drop or contain breakage.

CFLs have about 3-4 milligrams of mercury contained within the glass tubes and should be disposed of properly.  To find a disposal site, visit Earth 911 or the EPA’s Bulb Recycling page for more information.

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“Why Solar?” presentation, Nov 22 “Climate Refugees” documentary screening and talk back at The Palladium at St. Petersburg College

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Early in 2008, St. Petersburg College recognized its responsibility to model to our students, employees and community ways to minimize global warming emissions and provide the knowledge to our graduates to help achieve a more environmentally friendly future. Because of this, the College made sustainability (defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs) a top priority. As a result, the Office for Sustainability was established.

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Working alongside internal and external partners, the Office for Sustainability focuses on the following areas of environmental stewardship: educational programs and corporate training, energy and natural resource conservation, green buildings and facilities, carbon emissions, recycling and student activities.

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To learn more about The Office for Sustainability at St. Petersburg College, contact Jason Green, Sustainability Coordinator at green.jason@spcollege.edu

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