So we all have been making the switch to Compact Fluorescent Lights/lightbulbs, right? Yes, they are more energy efficient and will save you some bucks in the long run but they contain a small amount of mercury in them. So we wanted to make sure all you Smarty moms knew what to do if you happen to drop and break one. Although this has not happened to me (yet), I would be the one to drop a kidney like Meredith from Grey’s Anatomy last week. So I figure that I better know what do because it’s likely to happen to me or one of us at some point in time! The following information is from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA recommends for Americans to use CFL’s and to RECYCLE them as well. Carefully recycling CFL’s prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of the materials that make CFL’s. So here is the to do and NOT to do list for a mercury spill. Remember it’s not just the powder on the floor that will be harmful but it’s the mercury vapors that are toxic as well.
– Ask everyone to leave the room.
– Open window/door to air out the room for at least 15 minutes.
– Shut off central air/heat.
– Put on gloves.
– Carefully scoop up pieces with cardboard/stiff paper and put in a glass jar such as canning jar.
– Use duct tape to pick up remaining pieces or powder.
– Use damp paper towels to wipe area clean. Place towels or wipes in glass jar/plastic bag.
– It is not recommended to vacuum unless you have broken pieces on carpet/rug since it will cause the mercury to become airborne.
– Throw away clothing, bedding, etc. that has come in direct contact with mercury. Do not wash since it will contaminate the washing machine, septic tank, etc.
– You can wash clothing that has only been exposed to the VAPOR.
– Wipe/wash the bottom of shoes.
– Put bag/jar in trash and contact local government to confirm how to dispose of the hazardous material.
– Wash hands thoroughly!!
– Use vacuum. Use only if break occurs on carpet
– Do not use broom, it will break the mercury up into smaller pieces.
– Put mercury down the drain.
– Never wash clothing that came in direct contact with mercury
– Never walk around if your shoes may be contaminated with mercury
Items needed to clean up small mercury spill
– Ziplock bags
– Trash bags
– Rubber or latex gloves
– Paper towels
– Cardboard or squeegee
– Duct tape
Now it’s great to know what items you need and then you could make your own “clean up” kit and keep at home. Here is a company that sells their own clean up kits which would be good for work or at home.
This particular company states that mercury is a powerful neurotoxin and one of the most toxic elements on the planet. “Mercury has the most significant effects on children and unborn children. For this reason pregnant women and children should be kept away from a CFL break site for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours or more.”
Please visit the EPA’s site for more detailed information.
You can take your expired CFL’s into any Home Depot, as long as it’s not broken, and it will be put into their recycling program. From what I can see on the Charmeck website it appears the North Mecklenburg Recycling Center will recycle CFL’s as well. Here is the link for other recycling centers.
Please let us know if you have any suggestions or if this has happened to you!