Pracitical Application and CF Bulbs

When I first wrote the post on CF (compact fluorescent) lightbulbs, it was from more of a “Hey, this is interesting and might merrit some thought” point-of-view. Today, I learned first-hand what cleaning up one of these little toxic nightmares really entails.

While taking down the kitchen (ceiling) light, where I though they would be safe, nice and high- and trying to be extremely careful, I dropped the bulb. Hitting the kitchen tile, the bulb blasted into a gazillion pieces, and all three of my kids were standing there watching, within three feet. (now, if you want to fault me for having them nearby, go ahead, but should a mama have to vacate the house just to change a lightbulb? Evidently, yes.)

Immediately swooping up Abby and Bean, I rushed all of them outside. I went back in to, a) open the windows (the only thing I could remember from the EngeryStar website) and b) pull up the website to see what I should do next.

Here is what it said:

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?

The following steps can be performed by the general public:

  1. 1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  2. 2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
    1. 􀂃 Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
    2. 􀂃 Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

  3. 3. Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
    1. 􀂃 Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
    2. 􀂃 Note: some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
    3. 􀂃 Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.

  4. 4. If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:
    1. 􀂃 First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
    2. 􀂃 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 two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

OK, Mamas, does that sound like a safe and fun activity for your family? Empty the house, dont touch the debris, and double-bag it all. For. A. Lightbulb.

For about half an hour, I played outside on the kids swingset with them, then I went into my toxic waste-dump of a kitchen and began the tedious job of cleaning up without using a vacuum, broom and having no rubber gloves. I used the wet paper towels, per instructions and a stiff piece of paper. Then the Swiffer thing. Disposable pads are ok, I presume. Double bagged all the danger-shards and then, finally, did run the vacuum, just in case I missed a shard. (Paranoid about glass slivers)

So, why do I buy organic laundry soap, organic dish soap, natural and locally grown veggies, use cotton diapers, canvas grocery bags and natural fiber clothing if my lightbulbs are going to constitute a minor Chernobyl when they (and they will, don’t kid yourself!) break? What’s the point?

I’m sorry, but it just seems too dangerous. These things are not welcome in my home. If we are trying to save the earth for our kids, what’s the point if my kids get mercury poisoning or can’t have children of their own someday?

What, exactly, are we saving?

14 thoughts on “Pracitical Application and CF Bulbs

  1. Pingback: Mormon Mommy Wars » CF Bulb and My Cleanup Story

  2. Yikes–we just bought some of these but hadn’t actually gotten around to replacing the old bulbs yet. I am thinking I might just leave them in the package and take them back to the store. Sheesh…

  3. A broken bulb gives off mercury vapor. From Wikepedia, “Acute exposure to mercury vapor has been shown to result in profound central nervous system effects, including psychotic reactions characterized by delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendency.” That is pretty serious. Nice job on the containment.

  4. Hi Mr. Renn! thanks for the Wiki nod- there is another thread going on at MMW where a man argues that the mercury level is so minute so as not to be a danger, after a breif airing-out, and that the mercury in the landfills is compatible with natural, elemental mercury levels.

    Not sure how I feel about all that, but risking my kids over a p.c. lightbulb seems kind of silly.

  5. Wow! How fortunate that you’d done all the research a few months ago about how to handle the situation rather than giving your kids sketchy poisoning. I can’t believe these don’t have a bigger warning label on them about the hazards of breakage!

  6. Yeah, after reading about the initial problems that you posted the first time, I didn’t buy any. I am still wishing that there was a better alternative to the bulbs we DO use. Like, I don’t know, RECHARGEABLE bulbs? Why has no one made these yet?

  7. You are making a great point here. I have thought about this issue as well; mercury exposure is not something you want to mess with.

    Is it just CF Bulbs that can pose a risk when broken, or is it all flourescent bulbs? Just wondering.

    Hope you all are feeling better. Great post.

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