Warning: Vacate room when CFL bulb breaks


Energy-saving devices called so dangerous everyone must leave for at least 15 minutes.

Thomas Edison must be rolling over in his grave.

Less than a month after the U.S. Congress passed an energy bill banning the incandescent light bulb by 2014, the UK Environment Agency issued guidelines calling for evacuation of any room where an energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb is broken, releasing toxic mercury.

The warning comes a month before the British government begins its phase-out of tungsten bulbs, scheduled to be completed in 2011. The switchover to CFL bulbs will save at least five million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the government said.

Health experts warned this week that people with certain skin ailments will suffer from the new eco-friendly bulbs which cause conditions such as eczema to flare up. Additionally, the bulbs have been linked to migraine headaches in some people.

The Environment Agency's latest advice focuses on the 6 to 8 milligrams of toxic mercury in each bulb.

Users who break a bulb should vacate the room for at least 15 minutes, the new guidelines say. The debris should not be removed with a vacuum cleaner, which could put toxic dust into the air, but with rubber gloves. The broken glass and all residue is to be placed into a sealed plastic bag and taken to a local official recycling site for proper disposal.

"Because these light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, they could cause a problem if disposed of in a normal bin," environmental scientist Dr David Spurgeon told the London Daily Mail.

"It is possible that the mercury could be released into the air or from land-fill when they are released into the wider environment. That is a concern, because mercury is a well-known toxic substance."

The Environmental Agency noted that neither warnings about the bulbs' toxicity nor directions for proper disposal is printed on any packaging.

Such warnings aren't necessary, said one toxicologist who said a number of bulbs would have to be smashed simultaneously before there was a danger.

"Mercury accumulates in the body – especially the brain," Dr. David Ray, from the University of Nottingham, told the BBC. "The biggest danger is repeated exposure – a one off exposure is not as potentially dangerous compared to working in a light bulb factory.

"If you smash one bulb then that is not too much of a hazard. However, if you broke five bulbs in a small unventilated room then you might be in short term danger."

The most-immediate hazard from the CFL bulbs may be to Brits' pocketbooks. It costs about $1,300 to properly dispose of one municipal recycling bin full of bulbs – a figure that is sure to increase residents' tax bills.


It's still nothing compared to the amount of mercury that's released into the atmosphere from other sources (eg. coal power plant smoke). I don't agree with the incandescent bulb ban, people should be allowed to buy what they like. I like saving money on electric bills with CFL bulbs. I have a mercury thermometer too, it's amazing I'm not brain damaged already. ;P

Don't fight alarmism with more alarmism.

The environmentalist simply can't admit they've ever made a mistake. About anything.EVER.
This mistake is MASSIVE. Pushing MERCURY all over all western countries.
Almost NONE of the electricity in my country is produced from coal. It's hydro-electric.
NO MERCURY. That's always their argument. Their BOGUS coal plant argument.
Yet, we now have an upcoming ban on SAFE non-toxic incandescent bulbs, as in all the western countries. Even though we use NO coal.

You can't find an proven exact amount of mercury in the bulbs ANYWHERE...Just some figure "they" always say. there's "just" "about" "6 mg" (who really knows how much? I've heard a lot higher numbers) and that the CFL-bombs "probably" wont "seriously" harm you.
Environmentalists are downplaying and trying to hide this ticking time-bomb because they completly screwed up. As far as many of us are concerned the environmentalists' credibility about just about everything is completely shot. There aren't even any HAZARD! WARNING! TOXIC! MERCURY VAPOUR! on any of the packaging.
The only substances more toxic than Hg (mercury) are uranium and plutonium.
The environmentalists are now being evasive and deceptive as to the risks of these swirly death-bulbs---mercury gas grenades.
We used to use them until my entire family was OFFICIALLY poisoned (all went to hospital) and the house virtually permanently contaminated by ONE broken CFL

PS the lifespan advertised for the CFL's is an blatant lie. I never had one last even one year, used as directed.

I think the giant political machinery of Big Environmentalism came up with the COAL PLANT-mercury argument AFTER it started becoming known that these CFL gas-lights are FULL OF MERCURY GAS
They had to invent another junk-science argument because they were going to look like idiots AGAIN.
And now... MERCURY VAPOUR right in EVERYONE'S HOME is ok, it's not that bad....it "probably" won't "seriously" harm you or your children.

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I wish I would have read your post. But unfortunately the code is messed up on my end. Is it just me? I can barely see the box for leaving comments. You may want to give it a check...

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This page contains a single entry by Elmer published on January 6, 2008 9:57 AM.

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