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Do you know how to clean up a broken compact flourescent lamp (CFL)?

2010 December 30

Compact flourescent lamps (CFLs) are a great way to save energy and prevent greenhouse gas emissions, but they also contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. EPA recently updated our guidance on how to properly clean up a broken CFL, including a new consumer brochure with CFL recycling and cleanup tips.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Dorothy Allen of massdep permalink
    December 30, 2010

    The CFLs that I have purchased often stop working much sooner than advertised. They often don’t last one year. If this is a widespread experience by other customers, does this mean that much more mercury is used in society’s effort to replace the incandecent bulbs AND does this mean that the vacumm is broken and gas, including mercury is released, when bulbs cease to light?

  2. Miles Ballogg of Self permalink
    January 4, 2011

    In terms of environmental justice I think we need to continue to be diligent to make sure that we are not letting the mercury that is collected form used CFLs enter into potential contact with low income and minority communities and other communities at large. Particularly in terms of bio accumulation in fish used for consumption we should insure that Mercury sources form the waste stream or in cases where the lights are “recycled” are controlled. In my community we have a waste to energy plant and I have not heard of any releases form CFLs but know that many households are disposing of these in the trash can that untimely goes to the Waste to Energy Plant. I also know that in Florida we have Mercury advisories for certain types of fish so it would appear that Mercury is still entering and staying in the environment.

  3. John W. Schweizer, P.E. of T3W Business Solutions, Inc. permalink
    January 6, 2011

    In my locale (Berkeley, California) broken CFLs, as well as whole ones that no longer work, can be taken to the Berkeley Recycling Center located at 2nd Street and Gilman Street, Berkeley, California.
    Their website is for further information.
    Berkeley Recycling Center will accept broken CFLs if they are bagged up.
    I use leather gloves when handling broken CFLs to protect myself not only from broken glass, but also from small amounts of mercury that may be plated out on the inside of the glass, and can be exposed if the lamp is broken. I like sturdy zip-lock bags to bag up broken bulb(s) to meet the recycling center’s acceptance criterion.
    Some information about hazards and protection for CFLs is available at: ,
    which is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) supplied by TCP, Inc.
    325 Campus Dr. | Aurora, Ohio 44202 | P: 1-800-324-1496 | F: 330-995-6188 |

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