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. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
- 2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
- 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.
- Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
- 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.
- Note: some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
- Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
- 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.
- 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?