Recommendations for When a CFL or Other Mercury-Containing Bulb Breaks
- Have people and pets leave the room.
- Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
- Shut off the central forced-air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
- Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
- stiff paper or cardboard;
- sticky tape;
- damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
- a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
- DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
- Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag. See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
- Place cleanup materials in a sealable container
- Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
- Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) to be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
- If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
Which Bulbs Contain Mercury?
You should follow the recommendations on this page if you’ve broken either a CFL or another type of mercury-containing light bulb, such as:
- Fluorescent bulbs:
- Linear, U-tube, and circline fluorescent tubes
- Bug zappers
- Tanning bulbs
- Black lights
- Germicidal bulbs
- High output bulbs, and
- Cold-cathode fluorescent bulbs.
- High-intensity discharge bulbs:
- Metal halide
- Ceramic metal halide
- High-pressure sodium, and mercury vapor.
- Mercury short-arc bulbs; and
- Neon bulbs.
Why is It Important to Clean Up a Broken CFL Properly?
CFLs and the other light bulbs listed above contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury may be released as mercury vapor. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described on this page.
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