Live crickets and other insects

EPA Recommendation for Broken Bulb Clean Ups

Releases and Spills

What Never to Do After a Mercury Spill

  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury (but see the "What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks" section below for more specific instructions about vacuuming broken fluorescent light bulbs). The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
  • Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
  • Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded. By "direct contact," we mean that mercury was (or has been) spilled directly on the clothing. For example:
    • if you broke a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came in contact with your clothing, or
    • if you broke a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) so that broken glass and other material from the bulb, including mercury-containing powder, came into contact with your clothing.

You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, like the clothing you happened to be wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.

  • Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

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What to Do if a Fluorescent or Other Mercury-Containing Light Bulb Breaks

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are lighting more homes than ever before, and EPA is encouraging Americans to use and recycle them safely. Carefully recycling CFLs prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights.

EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs to ensure that the Agency presents the most up-to-date information for consumers and businesses. Maine's Department of Environmental Protection released a CFL breakage study report Exit EPA Disclaimer on February 25, 2008. EPA has conducted an initial review of this study and, as a result of this review, we have updated the CFL cleanup instructions below.

Pending the completion of a full review of the Maine study, EPA will determine whether additional changes to the cleanup recommendations are warranted. The agency plans to conduct its own study on CFLs after thorough review of the Maine study.

Types of Mercury-Containing Bulbs

  • Fluorescent bulbs, which include linear, U-tube and circline fluorescent tubes, bug zappers, tanning bulbs, black lights, germicidal bulbs, high output bulbs, cold-cathode fluorescent bulbs, and compact fluorescent bulbs;
  • High intensity discharge bulbs, which include metal halide, ceramic metal halide, high pressure sodium, and mercury vapor;
  • Mercury short-arc bulbs; and
  • Neon bulbs.

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal below. Please also read the information on this page about what Never to Do After a Mercury Spill.

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

  • Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials

  • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
  • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

  • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

  • The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
  • Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Recycling and Disposal Options

Many states and local agencies have developed collection/exchange programs for mercury-containing devices, such as thermometers, manometers, and thermostats, and recycling programs for fluorescent light bulbs. Some counties and cities also have household hazardous waste collection programs.  For information about these programs, contact your local officials to find out when and where a collection will be held in your area. Earth911 also provides information about local collection programs. Exit EPA Disclaimer For compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) only, The Home Depot launched an in-store CFL recycling program (PDF) (2 pp., 32K, About PDF) at all of its store locations in June 2008.

Households are generally exempt from Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations that govern the transportation, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes that contain mercury, but small and large businesses and industries are not exempt. Their mercury wastes are governed under EPA’s Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR) Program. EPA has designated some widely generated hazardous wastes, including certain spent batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment and light bulbs, as "universal wastes". The regulations that govern universal wastes include special management provisions intended to facilitate the recycling of such materials. Find more information about how households and businesses can manage, recycle and dispose of fluorescents and other mercury-containing bulbs.

Note that some states and local jurisdictions have elected to pass regulations that are more stringent than the federal hazardous waste regulations. Several states and municipalities do not recognize the exemption for households; others regulate all fluorescent bulbs as hazardous, regardless of their mercury content. For example, Vermont bans all mercury-containing waste from landfills, including mercury-containing waste generated by households. For more information specific to your state, contact your state or local environmental regulatory agency.

 



Source www.EPA.gov - Version December 2, 2009. We recommend clicking on the EPA page link to check for updates to their guidelines and recommendations.