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Compact Flourescent Lights

Compact Flourescent Light (CFL)

Yes, there is mercury vapor in all fluorescent bulbs – long fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).  Mercury and phosphorous are necessary parts of all fluorescent bulbs.  Fluorescents create light by heating gases inside a glass tube.

The benefits of using CFLs clearly out weight the hazards.  The benefits of CFLs include 75% savings in electric usage resulting in lower electric bills, 13X longer life, reduced power plant emissions and equal light output with lower heat output.

Disposal of any mercury-contaminated material in landfills should be of concern to everyone.  The mercury content in the average CFL is about 4 or 5 milligrams, or the amount that would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pin.  Today, manufacturers are committed to reducing the amount of mercury to less than 3 milligrams and some have tested bulbs with as little as 1.23 milligrams per bulb.

Governmental regulators, manufacturers and environmentalist note that, because CFLs require less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs reduce overall mercury in the atmosphere by reducing the amount of emissions from coal-fired power plants.  The EPA estimates that a coal-fired power plant emits 13.6 milligrams of mercury to produce the electricity required to light a 100-watt incandescent light bulb, compared to 3.4 for milligrams for a 23-watt CFL.  The combination of 5 milligrams for mercury content in the bulb and the 3.4 power plant mercury emissions is still 40% less than that of the incandescent light bulb power plant emissions of 13.6 milligrams.

What should I do with burnt out CFLs?  Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA) and most environmentally minded companies are embracing CFLs and are asking consumers to dispose of them properly. 

What should I do if my CFL breaks?  Because there is such a small amount of mercury in CFLs, your greatest risk if a bulb breaks is getting cut from glass shards.  Research indicates that there is no immediate health risk to you or your family should a bulb break and it’s cleaned up properly.  You can minimize any risks by following these proper clean-up and disposal guidelines:

  1. Have people and pets leave the room and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage.

  2. Carefully scoop – don’t vacuum – all of the glass fragments and fine particles.  Use sticky tape, or duct tape to pick up any remaining small glass fragments.

  3. Place broken pieces in a sealed plastic bag and wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up any stray shards of glass or small particles.  Put the used paper towel in the plastic bag as well.

  4. If weather permits, open windows to all the room to ventilate.

  5. If on carpet, you can now vacuum the area where the bulb was broken and dispose of vacuum bag.

  6. Wash hands after disposing of the plastic bag(s) containing clean-up materials.

For more information on all sources of mercury, visit
For more information on CFLs, visit


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