Break a CFL? Run away!

A danger of using CFLs that most people don't know about.

On March 21, 2011, I submitted an article to Patch explaining why using “curly bulb” Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) is not a good idea, and why using Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs is a much better choice.  

Some main points I covered were: CFLs emit UV light, which damages skin and eyes; CFLs don’t last as long as claimed; they can smoke or catch fire; they do not reach full brightness right away; they are ugly; and they contain mercury and must be recycled.

Another reason to avoid CFLs is that if you break one, you have to leave the room, and then you have a really burdensome cleanup job ahead of you!  Below is a warning (verbatim) that appears in the 2012-2013 Monmouth County Recycling Directory - Page 8.


If you Break a CFL:

1. Open a window and leave the room for at least 15 minutes so vapors can disperse.

2. Wearing disposable rubber gloves, carefully scoop up fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.  Then wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe and use sticky tape to pick up small pieces and powder.  (Don’t use a vacuum cleaner for the initial cleanup; that will disperse any remaining mercury vapor in the air and leave particles in the bag.)

3. Place all cleanup materials and gloves in a plastic bag and seal it.  Recycle. Or if your state allows it, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put it in the outside trash.  Wash your hands.

4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag when you’re done cleaning (or empty and wipe the canister). Put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags and put it in the outdoor trash for normal disposal.


Enough said.  LED bulbs are much cheaper now than they were in 2011. They use less energy and last much longer than CFLs. Why not use LEDs and avoid having to call out the decontamination squad if you break a CFL?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

James McEowen October 22, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I would appreciate it if you folks would stick to the original topic and use your REAL NAMES! These comments have nothing to do with CFLs.
Brad Buscher October 26, 2012 at 05:50 PM
To prevent mercury vapor exposure, used fluorescent tube-style lamps and CFLs should be safely recycled, as exposure to mercury vapors can lead to significant health risks, including neurological damage. Despite the potential health issues, fluorescent lamps and CFLs are growing steadily in the industrial, commercial and residential markets. They are four to six times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, offer energy cost savings and deliver a longer working life. In order to safely dispose of and recycle used fluorescent lamps and CFLs, they must be properly packaged in an effective mercury-safe storage or shipping container that includes an adsorbent technology.
James McEowen October 26, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Brad, Thank you for your important and relevant comment!
Larrabee M. Smith October 27, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Jim, I assume you are the James McEowen that I knew at Bell Labs. Thank you for trying to educate us on the nature of the new light bulbs. You are right on. How about helping me get people to understand that we know how to build safe NeuclearPlants and that they produce clean energy 24 hours a days and, unlike wind and solar, don't require the existing poluting plants to back them up. We had a thoium-based plant operating in the 60s but you can't builded bombs out on thorium Larrabee Smith
James McEowen October 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Larrabee. Rather than comment on this blog, since your topic is different from mine, I am sending you an email with my response to your post. Thanks.


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