Using CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs in your house is a great way to protect the environment and save on energy bills. However, breaking one of these bulbs can create a dangerous situation. When you break a CFL bulb, you need to be very careful how you go about a cleanup process.
A broken CFL bulb can be very dangerous because these bulbs contain mercury, which is poisonous to humans and animals. A correctly performed cleanup operation will ensure that your home is safe and the people within it are not at risk for mercury poisoning. Cleaning up a broken bulb isn’t difficult or harrowing, though. It can be done all by yourself in just a few minutes. Here are a few tips to help you keep your family safe from harm.
Air Out Room
The room where the bulb has broken should be aired out before cleanup begins. This will allow the mercury in the air to dissipate. Instruct any people and pets to leave the room immediately, taking precautions to avoid the area where the bulb was broken. Once everyone has left the room, you should open windows, doors and vents to the outside, but not into the house. The last thing you want is to allow the spread of mercury throughout your home. Let the room air out for about 5 to 10 minutes, if possible.
Shut Off Any Air Supply
The next step to turn off any air supply you have running. Turn off any central air, heat pump or air conditioning systems you have operating in your home or in that specific room. These systems move air throughout your home and spreading air infected with mercury can be very dangerous.
Get Your Materials
There are several items you will need to properly clean up the broken CFL bulb. You will need stiff paper, cardboard or plastic to scoop up the broken glass. You will also need tape, dampened paper towels and cleaning wipes. A glass jar with a metal lid or a plastic bag is also necessary to get the job done correctly and safely. A glass jar with a tight fitting metal lid is the best item to dispose of the broken shards of glass because it keeps the mercury vapor sealed inside. If one is not available, a sealable plastic bag will do if you handle it as little as possible. You may also want to wear disposable gloves or gloves you don’t mind throwing away in order to prevent the glass shards from cutting your hands.
After you’ve gathered what you need, re-enter the room where the bulb was broken. Leave the windows, vents and doors to the outside open in order to continue to let the mercury vapor dissipate. Using the cardboard, stiff paper or hard plastic, you can scoop up the pieces of glass from the floor. Place the shards into the glass jar or plastic bag. Use the tape to pick up the smaller pieces of glass. Make sure that all glass is removed from the hard surface or carpet.
Once the glass has been picked up and placed in the jar, use the damp paper towels to clean the affected area. Disposable disinfectant towels will also be good for this purpose. When you have cleaned the area with your disposable towel of choice, place it in the glass jar or plastic bag. If you wear gloves while cleaning up the mess, those should also be placed inside the jar or bag. You should then seal the jar or bag tightly.
If you are using a plastic bag to contain your debris, it must be removed from inside your home immediately. Plastic does not seal the mercury vapor inside, so it will continue to leak out into the air. Check your local regulations for the best way to properly dispose of the mercury infected items. Some places require you to dispose of the glass in a recycling center, but others allow you to simply throw it out with the trash. Make sure you know the laws before you dispose of your debris. Once the jar or bag has been disposed of, wash your hands to rid yourself of any remaining mercury.
Allowing the mercury to sit, undisturbed, in a room with no ventilation to the outdoors is extremely unsafe, especially if you have a central air system. While the room does need to air out before it is safe to pick up the bulb mess, it is important to be prompt in your cleanup. Don’t leave it for a couple of days. That only increases the risk of someone getting hurt.
Trying to vacuum up the glass from a broken bulb can put more mercury into the air, where your family can breathe it in. However, you may use a vacuum cautiously after all the larger pieces have been picked up. On a carpeted area, it can be difficult to find all the smaller pieces of glass from a broken bulb. Vacuuming can help, but it should be done with windows open and entry ways into the rest of the house closed. You should always use the hose attachment to the vacuum in this instance. Dispose of the vacuum bag or contents of the vacuum chamber in the same way you disposed of the other debris from the broken bulb.
Leave Windows Closed
Never clean up broken CFL bulbs in a non-ventilated area. This can be extremely dangerous for you and your loved ones. Working in a non-ventilated space means that you will be directly breathing in the mercury vapor, which can lead to mercury poisoning. It can also have adverse effects on your lungs and breathing, as well. Always make sure that when you are cleaning up a broken bulb that contains mercury, the room is as ventilated as possible.
Forget to Wash Your Hands
Even if you wear gloves when you clean up the broken bulb, there is no guarantee that mercury didn’t get onto your hands. After cleaning up the shards of glass and throwing all the debris away in the best and most legal way, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water. This will remove the rest of the mercury on your hands.
Cleanup of any broken CFL bulbs should be prompt and precise. Making sure that the mercury within the broken bulb is not able to come into contact with any people or pets in your home is the best way to prevent someone from being poisoned.