Not Martha

what to do about a broken CFL, learned the hard way

Yesterday I was carrying a standing lamp up some stairs when my general lack of awareness of the space around me caused me to knock it into the ceiling. The bulb hit at the correct angle and made that strange popping noise before exploding into tiny shards that fell down around me. I shook myself off and vacuumed the glass out of the berber carpet. I was washing my hands when I remembered: oh right, CFL bulbs contain mercury.

I went to the internets to check and, after running off to take a Panic Shower, found some news that made me feel a little better and a little worse.

Apparently, a Hazmat team does not have to get involved in the case of a broken CFL bulb. Most of the resources I found on how to clean up and dispose of a broken CFL bulb repeat these guidelines from the EPA:

    Before Clean-up: Ventilate the Room
    1. Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
    2. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
    3. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
    4. Carefully scoop up glass fragments 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.
    5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
    6. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
    7. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Great. But, my bulb broke over my carpet (not to mention myself). What about that? Am I supposed to duct tape all the carpeted areas and hope a mercury contaminated shard of glass doesn’t embed itself into the bottom of my foot in a couple of weeks?

Happily a bit later on I tracked down the full EPA guidelines that include:

    Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug
    4. 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.
    5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
    6. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
    7. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

    Disposal of Clean-up Materials
    8. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
    9. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
    10. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

    Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming
    11. The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
    12. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

This thread on this broken compact flourescent bulb question at Ask Metafilter makes me feel a bit better as well. Basically it says that while mercury is never a good thing to have around, the amount in a broken CFL won’t be fatal, but careful clean up is probably important.

Still, needing to carefully ventilate my home due to my possibly mercury-contaminated vacuum the next few times I use it, this doesn’t sound so (macroscopically) eco-friendly to me.

Then again, I have been hoping for an excuse to buy a nice yellow Miele vacuum with, swoon, automatic cord retraction for a while now.

· comments [59] · 03-11-2008 · categories:the home ·

59 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Justin // Mar 11, 2008 at 6:58 am

    This is totally something I would do and actually.. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet. Thanks for the info!! Now when (not if!) it happens I’ll be prepared.

  • 2 amyp // Mar 11, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Get the Miele. You will not believe the awesomeness.

  • 3 Sara // Mar 11, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Yet another reason to buy CFLs at IKEA, where most sizes come with the coil encased in a thin plastic shell that not only protects the glass, but helps refract the light.

  • 4 Jen // Mar 11, 2008 at 8:10 am

    good to know! thank you!

  • 5 Tammy // Mar 11, 2008 at 8:38 am

    This is awful. I fell asleep with the lights on the other night and woke up to a loud pop around 4am…. realized it was the new bulb – opened my bedrooom door, prayed I’d live till morning and fell back asleep. Well, I’m here now & hope there’s no permanent damage. I’m not really enamored with these bulbs.

  • 6 Angela // Mar 11, 2008 at 8:43 am

    This is pretty much why I refuse to buy CFLs. Everyone is focused on how much less energy they use, but the disposal and cleanup issues have not been adequately addressed. How many people even realize you’re not supposed to throw CFLs in the garbage, or know where to take them to dispose of them, or (most importantly) are willing to go out of their way to do so? How many people even realize they contain mercury? To my mind that’s not an acceptable tradeoff for the energy savings.

    Rant over. :)

  • 7 Gina // Mar 11, 2008 at 9:08 am

    that is one fiiiiiine vacuum.

  • 8 Megan // Mar 11, 2008 at 9:22 am

    ok.that is just weird. My blog post today is about spilled mercury as well. With three kids in the house we actually had the local fire dept/haz mat team there. All was fine.

  • 9 Judy // Mar 11, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Good info, thanks. I love your blog.

  • 10 cara // Mar 11, 2008 at 10:54 am

    oh great, we broke one of those once, all over our dining room table… shattered everywhere… i pretty much did every bit of clean up incorrectly…

  • 11 Ana // Mar 11, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Just reading thru this I realised that all of a sudden there is more expenses to the cost and energy saving of a CFL bulb. If per each one that one pops/breaks you have to use all that paper towel to clean and then an entire bag for the vacuum cleaner which costs $3.00 at an average cost, then this becomes quite an expensive bulb…. That’s just the cynic in me.
    On the other hand Megan, I own the yellow Miele and the HEPA filtered white one, they are a blessing. Now my entire family in Europe owns one… :-)

  • 12 Melissa A. // Mar 11, 2008 at 11:08 am

    I broke a bulb last fall and wish I had known this. I just picked up the broken pieces and vacuumed the carpet.

  • 13 Gail // Mar 11, 2008 at 11:19 am

    And, frighteningly enough, I once had a big ball of mercury that I played with (gift from a dentist) that I’m pretty sure was absorbed into my skin and bathroom cabinets. Hope the suceeding family hasn’t died of mercury exposure and at least it seems that neither I nor kids have been irretrievably damaged by heavy metal poisoning! Although maybe that is why I am allergic to thimerosal.

  • 14 susan // Mar 11, 2008 at 11:25 am

    okay.. so… what happens to you if you broke SEVERAL cfl bulbs over the summer while working as a light bulb changer in a condo community where every incandescent bulb was replaced with CFLs in hundreds of dwellings … and… your training did not include how to clean it up when they break… and i didnt clean them up like this….

    am i doing to die?

  • 15 Thomas // Mar 11, 2008 at 11:28 am

    The instructions here are the safes way. However no disasters will happen if not followed in detail.

    As for macro effects: the amount of mercury in a CFL is less than what a coal fired plant would emit generating the saved energy.

  • 16 Shannon // Mar 11, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I have a yellow Miele (school bus yellow, we call it). I got it for Christmas when my brother was serving in Iraq and my mother had only one kid (20-something) to spoil. I could NEVER afford one on my own. It is one of my most prized possessions.

  • 17 gigi // Mar 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    wow. i had no idea the work involved in cleaning up after a little light bulb!

    i also must encourage you to go for it with the miele. i’ve had one for two years now and that thing has changed my whole view of vacuuming. now i get my best ideas when i’m in zen mode cleaning the house!

    thanks for this post.

  • 18 paola // Mar 11, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Buy a Dyson… the best vacuum cleaners ever….

  • 19 Susan // Mar 11, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    When I was a kid, if we broke a thermometer, we’d play with the mercury. We also ran outside to watch the crop dusters swoop down in the field bahind the house, and drank well water from a hose.
    Just sayin’.

  • 20 EB // Mar 11, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Holy crap! Thanks so much for the tip!!! I never would have thought of any of that.

  • 21 tina // Mar 11, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I found it “amusing” to compare the craze over mercury thermometers to the huge lack of info and awareness about these cfl bulbs. Our environmental health and safety department (I am a grad student in the biological sciences) just went through a huge effort to replace and dispose of all the mercury thermometers in our school and the associated hospital. At least in our lab, we’ve had the same set of thermometers for years and years (so it’s not like a disposable/consumable item) and a thermometer has only broken once in the last ten years or so, and he who broke it knew exactly how to deal with the mercury danger. Now, all over the place, people are buying these much more fragile, disposable/consumable items, with nothing like the training we must undergo to be using those mercury thermometers. Baffling.

    {I do understand that there is much more mercury in a thermometer than in these bulbs, but I’d like to know how the math works out when you factor in the mass effect of how many more lightbulbs will be bought and broken or not disposed of correctly)

  • 22 megan // Mar 11, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Susan – I too played with mercury from a broken thermometer when I was a kid, and I can pass myself off as normal most of the time.

    Tina – I’m curious as well. The Ask Metafilter thread linked to above contains this advisement: “But realistically, you probably eat more mercury in fish in a year than is on your carpet now.” To which somebody added “…and the mercury in the fish is the amazingly toxic organic compounds, not the far less toxic metallic type.” So overall I’m not too freaked out, but I’m a bit angry that these bulbs that are so good for the environment are so bad for me.

  • 23 Julie // Mar 11, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Yeah — I’m still not quite clear on how all those CFL bulbs, once burnt out and leaching mercury into our landfills, are going to be “better” for the environment that all those incandescent bulbs we grew up with.

  • 24 MC // Mar 12, 2008 at 4:48 am

    I recall reading in the past that the manufacturing of incandescent bulbs (during refinement of tungsten) uses more mercury than is contained in the vapor within a CFL bulb.

  • 25 liz // Mar 12, 2008 at 6:29 am

    I was considering switching, but between the dog and child, I think I’ll stick with my regular lightbulbs. If I have to consult the EPA to clean up when I break one (and I dropped a lightbulb the other day when I was cleaning out the cabinet I store them in), I’ll pass.

  • 26 Kimberly Ann // Mar 12, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Really good information! I had no idea that such clean up would be necessary. I’ll definitely only be buying the energy efficient bulbs from now on.

  • 27 Maman // Mar 12, 2008 at 8:10 am

    It is elemental mercury and as a result not much of a hazard. Like the stuff in old thermometers.. it is when you start mixing other stuff into mercury and start heating it up or dropping acid on it that mercury gets ugly

  • 28 dana // Mar 12, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I was just thinking about when I was 9 and I put my thermometer in my tea and the damn thing broke and I was scared I would get in trouble…but I can’t remember what I did. Was I really stupid enough to drink the tea? I guess I’m normal enough and lord knows my daughter is as healthy as a horse.

    Thanks for the vacuum recommendations. I miss my Kenmore canister vac (bought a Eureka upright to replace the Kenmore when I killed it during renovation, and I HATE it).

  • 29 Amy // Mar 14, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I’m with Dana…remembering using mercury thermometers as a child and being warned to be very careful, but it certainly not being the end of the world if one broke.

  • 30 Dave // Mar 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Nice. I bumped my head on one and it broke right over me and my two year old. I just grabbed him and ran out of the room, waited for a little, went back and vacuumed it up. I wish I would have know this before, also wish we would have showered right away. He didn’t have anything visible on him. I only worry about him.

    I took a ball of mercury to my first grade show and tell. I passed it around in a coffee can. I told everyone not to touch it, but some kid did. Funny thing though, no one ever said a word b/c it wasn’t really feared then. I wouldn’t be happy if that was my kids class!

  • 31 Laura // Mar 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve been reading on this subject and I’m now sufficiently freaked about CF bulbs and proper disposal. I don’t feel good about buying something that needs to be disposed of as hazardous waste. I did stumbled across the “EcoLEDs.” Have you heard anything about these? They are super efficient and mercury free. They are also SUPER pricey. Hopefully the price will drop in the near future. We can dream, right?

  • 32 Susan M // Mar 23, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for the story. My daughter hit a bulb with her basketball and brought the broken piece up to me. I just cleaned the rest up, not knowing anything about the mecury or potential hazards. Both my kids were in the immediate area and I did not have them leave. After all I have read, given she touched the debris, I will get her the blood or urine test for mecury contamination. Horrible trade off in order to use these bulbs. I did not dispose of it properly either, so I have contaminated others and the earth. Nothing was on the package about any of this. A friend sent me a news clips. Exposure was three weeks ago!

  • 33 Melanie // Mar 27, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Working in a lighting shop, where we deal with broken fluorescent bulbs every day, I’m a bit concerned about the accumulative effects.
    And while the amount of mercury in a bulb is less than that emitted from the power plant, I am not working under the plant, and certainly not directly exposed every day to the mercury. Caution to be used on something, that while it is a great idea, can be dangerous and mercury is linked to such things as autism, alzheimers and asthma. I still have CFL’s in every fitting in my house though.

  • 34 Checkerspot // Apr 9, 2008 at 8:36 am

    That must have been so scary! I’ve never thought about eco-friendly lightbulb mishaps before. Thanks for the information and I’m glad you’re alright!

  • 35 chandru // Apr 14, 2008 at 9:02 am

    What utter overreaction to a mundane experience…people have no sense of what’s dangerous and what’s not, and the EPA just make it worse by their vastly overblown instructions, no doubt written by a cadre of lawyers.

    See my complete rant on this issue at website.

  • 36 Dr. Kate // Jun 15, 2008 at 7:10 am

    “I don’t feel good about buying something that needs to be disposed of as hazardous waste.”

    Do you buy paint? Hairspray? Batteries? Ant/roach/rat poison/traps? Drive a car? Use a computer? Television? Cell phone?

    All of those things are supposed to be disposed of as hazardous wastes. How many people actually do it?

    And even when they do the “right” thing and send them in to be recycled…a lot of them end up getting shipped to Mexico or China, where underpaid workers get to strip the mercury, lead, arsenic, whatever right out of them. All day–with no ventilators, gloves, goggles…

    This problem is bigger than energy savings and a small inconvenience when a light bulb breaks.

    Get informed before you rant… :)

  • 37 Janyce // Jun 17, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    There is actually a company out there that do sale Mercury free light bulb and also reduce Electrode Magnetic Field (EMF). I been replacing them in my house and enjoy it very much. It much softer for my eye and don’t have that much of a headache. It a little pricing but it worth every penny. You can read about it at

  • 38 Bob // Aug 1, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I accidentally broke one of these over my head as well, while the damn thing was turned on no less and in the kitchen. I panicked at first cause “ZOMG CFLs HAVE MERCURY!!!11″ but not knowing what else to do I just picked up the glass pieces bare-handed, threw them in the trash and vacuumed up what was left. I threw the busted CFL in the trash too. I then wiped down all the surfaces that were under the bulb when it broke. Then I discover a HAZMAT-like procedure online for properly handling this AFTER I did it wrong.

    But after calling the maker of the bulb (TCPI) the woman assured me this: the glass part itself does not contain mercury, but rather the hard plastic base itself! She said it was very unlikely that any mercury would be released and if there was it would be less than the amount you find in 2 cans of tuna. She said clean up like you would any broken incandescent bulb.

  • 39 linky lurve « elle recherche // Aug 11, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    […] been wondering if it’s time to switch to cfl lights….this post gives me pause, however. i’m a colossal klutz and i’ve got a dog and a cat who both […]

  • 40 Sabrina Thorn // Jan 2, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I have a Miele Vacuum, Just wondering how that helps. Do I just have to change the filter after I vacuum. I just broke one of those bulbs.

  • 41 Lyndsey // Mar 5, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I found your site while googling what to do with a broken bulb – I just broke one, but fortunately it was still in the box so there wasn’t too much mess!

    I poked around your site a bit, and I love your mini baking! I will be back to explore more.

  • 42 Donut // Nov 19, 2009 at 9:57 am

    One of these broke in our home last night. In the dining room. I can’t clean it up, cause I’m 2 months pregnant – right at the stage the fetus is growing some of it’s most important organs! Gut reaction make me get my two younger children out of the area, they were sent to their rooms. I told my husband to open the windows, but since we couldn’t close the room off (no doors to close in the dining room), I opened as many windows in the general area as possible. Then I turn to check google for what to do and hear the vacuum running! Oh nice! Well, I pray and pray that my growing baby isn’t born with any side affects of me being exposed to this light bulb mercury. I couldn’t get my hubby to “wipe the area with a damp papertowel and check the hardwood floor cracks for more beads.” So I could only do what I could do myself, holding my breath (lol) I swiffered the area, best I could. Later checking on that brilliant idea, I realized I possibly spread it some more. UGH! But I did notice alot of dark brown liquid – that did not resemble dirt – on the swiffer. We bagged all up in plastic bags and sealed them shut and I put the vacuum outside, forever condemned from the house. Although I had 3 other adults in the house making fun of me for my “overly dramatic ways.” Apparently they are only thinking of themselves and not the risks to the children or the growing baby yet to be born. Again, I’m praying and praying all will be well and I’m begging my husband to check the floor again to be sure we got it all. What’s a pregnant woman to do?

  • 43 Brooke Klasner // Nov 22, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I broke one today in my bedroom by the bed. I didnt know what to do, so i had waited outside with my dog and my baby until my husband got home from work, then he cleaned it up with a plastic bag over his hand and then vaccummed it up. Is that enough? im a little worried about sleeping in the bed tonight!

  • 44 CFL vs. Incandescent: Who’s the winner? | Home Ec 101 // Mar 7, 2010 at 5:37 am

    […] if I’d need a hazmat team to come out and clean up every time I broke one. Fortunately, Not Martha learned how to deal with this because she’s apparently as graceful as I am.  She links to the EPA’s guidelines for […]

  • 45 Suzanne // May 9, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I feel that when you buy these bulbs, they should disclose this information! My friend dropped a bag of cfls while we were renovating and she cleaned up about 7 or 8 broken bulbs with a dust pan… while pregnant. No one told her or me for that matter about the danger of the bulbs!! She didn’t know she had exposed herself to mercury until she was getting her hair cut and her hair dresser told her about the mercury in the bulbs many months later. What’s up with that??? I use the bulbs but I am very scared one will break and I’ll have to evacuate my creative arts studio!! I’m tempted to replace them. Plus, the bulbs I bought only seem to last about 6 months. I thought they were supposed to last way longer than that! Anyway, update on my friend’s baby… she is very cute and healthy but was born with a birth defect. Who knows if the mercury caused it or not. Seems like they might want to add a warning of some sort to the package!

  • 46 aek // Jul 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I broke one a while ago (a week maybe?), just threw the pieces in the trash. I guess I missed a piece because today I stepped on a sliver of it in my bare feet, which is why I googled broken cfls and henceforth ended up here. It bled a lot for a minute or two and is now fine, but… Am I going to die? lol

  • 47 fan of // Aug 23, 2010 at 3:35 am

    first of all, it needs to be said, probably wanna NOT BUY CFL’s if you don’t like having toxins in or possibly exposed to you in your life. these aren’t tanning beds, where proper exposure in a controlled manner can actually be healthy, this is like inhaling lead, or ingesting aspartame, or drinking fluoridated water for that matter, mercury is toxic, like BPA in canned foods and plastics toxic.

    secondly, cfl’s also emit about 20,000 kHz of electro-magnetic radiation MORE THAN REGULAR bulbs. EMF and the multi-tasking your brain is trying to pull off, is what makes talking on a cell phone while driving more dangerous than driving drunk.

    if you are not already aware of the supreme risks of EMF, a wide spectrum of radiation which encapsulates the same frequencies as a microwave oven & cordless phone & hair dryer’s, etc. or with a cell phone EMF right next to your brain, visit and download their free condensed report which summarizes all the international studies on EMF dangers in the world, much of the wireless industry sponsored studies of course, turn out to not be very well constructed and biased: also, usually say that EMF health risks are non-conclusive.

    tonight I broke on, followed the epa instructions to do so, but you know what, next time I will simply grab a dust pan and trash bag, no paper towels, airing it out, because no more cfl’s, no BS. no toxicity increase.

  • 48 Urban Momma // Oct 5, 2010 at 8:07 am

    I have read on several sites that you should not use a vacuum to clean it up, due to the possible contamination of the vacuum and spreading the mercury vapors in the air (?). Other sites say to dispose of mercury contaminated items such as drapery, upholstery, clothing, etc. Course, I’m not exactly sure how one is supposed to dispose of a… couch per se, but it is disturbing there appears to be no warnings on the CFL bulb containers themselves. :( Perturbed… One site recommends cutting out the damaged carpeting, but again, how many people are going to want to cut into their carpeting (especially if they cannot afford new)? I took the CFL’s out of my lamps after reading up on them, and only have a couple in the garage and outside. Just not worth the risks to me. I broke one that was in a storage box under my sink, so that was enough for me…

  • 49 Betty Fink // Mar 2, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I and my cousin broke two of them in my hallway and cleaned them up with our bare hands and vacuum as I did not know they had mercury in them, why don’t they put a scull and crossbones on the boxes? I am changing all of my bulbs back to the regular kind.

  • 50 Bijesh // May 4, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Megan, I just broke a cfl in my son’s bed room yesterday, and am freaking out about the mercury. I opened the windows, picked up all visable parts and vaccuumed. My son is only 20 months so I’m worried about putting him back in the room. Did you have any issues with the 3 kids in your house after the cfl break? Thanks.

  • 51 Meghan // Jul 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I just did the same thing in my three year old’s bedroom. There is no warning on the case and the bulb broke in my hand while trying to put it into the lamp. I cleaned it up with a wet cloth and vacuumed the carpet. I went downstairs and googled the proper clean up methods and immediately realized I should have turned off the a.c. and opened the windows. I of course was inhaling the vapors the whole time. Luckily my daughter was out. I’m airing out the room but am slightly freaked out. If I just read the EPA’s website I don’t worry so much but when I start reading other people’s take on the matter it seems very disturbing. What should I do now in my daughter’s room?

  • 52 Clark // Aug 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hi, yesterday I screwed up and broke a CFL. I was in a very ventilated place (it broke because the wind was so strong outside that it blew open the blinds and knocked the lamp with the CFL down), but did a lot of stuff wrong. I cleaned up most of the glass with my hands immediatley and then soon after vacuumed the rest up (I knew their was mercury but it was so late that I wasn’t thinking clearly, I figured the HEPA filter could help).

    I didn’t do the right thing, but I am guessing that much of the mercury was still within the portions of the glass that was still intact so whatever I did vacuum was even further below the 4mg ceiling that most CFL’s contain.

    I was concerned but would suggest reading this to help with some of the fears and misinformation found around the web:

    Conclusion: Even if you do everything completely wrong in how you cleaned up your CFL (vacuumed with a brush bar, didn’t ventilate the area, and didn’t vacate the area for a while), you still are getting far more mercury from eating even a average weeks worth of fish (like Tuna).

    If you are still concerned get a simple blood test done on yourself or your kid. From what I understand it’s fairly easy to detect elevated levels this way. If it shows an elevated level there is a chance that you/them are being exposed, although the mercury from the CFL is not likely the source.

  • 53 bill // Oct 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Broken cfl’s are a common problem now that there are millions in use. The amount of mercury in a low wattage cfl is not concern for the local Hazardous Materials unit. Simply sweep, zip lock bag, wipe and possibley air out the area. The glass is more dangerous than the amount of mercury in the bulb. If you broke an brand new one open you couldn’t find the mercury if you wanted to. Check out for other cfl tips.

  • 54 Boba // Jan 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    My question is: is tracked/improperly cleaned mercury from a broken CFL ever going to just evaporate/wash out COMPLETELY and be aired out by itself (and if yes what would be the time frame) so there is ultimately ZERO mercury deposited on my floor, carpet, washing machine, or in the vacuum cleaner, or is this stuff once contaminated, contaminated forever!?!? (how the can this even be possible??), as some of these paranioa sites and unclear studies, comments and reports, would lead me to believe.

  • 55 Maria // Feb 4, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Just been through this: my husband was removing two spent CFLs from a light fitting in our lounge (wooden floor, large thick pile woollen carpet, upholstered sofas … ) when one snapped in his hand. I vaguely knew this was not good, but was not overly concerned. He took the broken CFL and the few glass shards to the bin outside, while I ventilated the room. He then vacuumed the carpet (Dyson stick hand held, with HEPA filter), and we thought all was OK. I was pre-occupied searching for something in the under-stairs storage space – during the process I used said vacuum cleaner in this poorly ventilated space, not even thinking about any potential hazard. Later that night (about 5 HOURS later) when we turned off the TV, I discovered that the broken CFL was sitting on the TV unit next to the TV, while the unbroken one was in the bin!! I thought it best to do a search to check the implications, and am now of course panicking, constantly checking my hands for pink fingertips and trembling! I share Boba’s question: what now? How will I know how much mercury is still in my house, and will it ever go away? Do I ditch the rug, the sofas, my vacuum cleaner, and all the stuff in the under-stairs storage?? I have even googled mercury vapour detection gadgets, but I am sure they are horribly expensive … The more I read, the more horrified I am at the lack of warnings on CFL packaging. I have long believed LEDs are the way of the future in terms of energy efficiency, and have been specifying it for clients. I will now make sure my clients understand that they are safer too.

  • 56 T-town girl // Feb 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    This is wrong. You should NEVER vacuum a broken CFL because you will contaminate you vacuum with mercury(a heavy metal). Please visit for complete instructions.

  • 57 kellie // Mar 5, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    cool to find this info here. so annoying that i need it tho! i’m sitting in the next room hoping my drafty bedroom airs itself out through the plastic film over the drafty window! oy!

    CFL’s are good for the environment, and bad for our health. ok check. why aren’t we also talking about the HORRIBLE quality of light they emit? they’re brutal! I’m about to replace all the CFLs in my new apt with old school bulbs. I’ve always hated these things, and now, even more so!!!

  • 58 John // Apr 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    How is it not illegal to not put warnings on the packages (Canada) if they are this dangerous. Toothpaste has a freakin’ warning on it.

  • 59 Matt // May 6, 2013 at 11:28 am

    CFL’s are a dangerous thing, the state of Maine has done extensive testing on cleaning up these neurobombs…. Also for your info, and backed by the EPA, mercury vapor getting into your lungsis much worse than swallowing liquid mercury.

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