Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb

Julie Weber Is This A Poison

Toxicity:  No toxicity or adverse health effects anticipated from exposure to the small amount of mercury vapor inside the glass tubing of a CFL.

Expected symptoms:  No symptoms expected when prompt clean-up procedure is done.

What to do:  Be familiar with the clean-up procedure for a broken CFL to minimize exposure to the mercury vapor.

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount (4 to 6 mg) of mercury inside a glass tubing. In contrast, a thermometer contains about 500 mg of mercury.  No mercury is released into the environment when the bulb is in use, it is only released when the glass tubing is cracked or broken. If this happens, do not panic.  The first action is to have people and pets leave the room.  Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outside, and shut off the central forced air heating or cooling system if it is in use.

For further detailed instructions, please click on this EPA link: 

Tips to prevent broken CFL’s

  • Allow a CFL bulb to cool before handling
  • Screw or unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing.
  • Screw in the CFL until snug, do not over-tighten.
  • Never forcefully twist the glass tubing.

If you have questions about mercury vapors from a broken CFL, or questions about clean-up of a broken CFL, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222.  The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions

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