Tonight I was so excited to clean out my walk-in closet. I was getting rid of old clothes and years of stuff that I’ve never done anything with. I dusted to clean out the shelves and noticed the lightbulb. I wanted to take it out to dust it off, and while I unscrewed it the darn thing fell out of my hand and shattered on the carpet. Seriously. How does something shatter on carpet?!
I FREAKED out. I had just read a post from Lori at Groovy Green Livin’ about cleaning up a CLF lightbulb. And thank goodness that I did otherwise I would have vacuumed it up and let my kids in to play while I continue to clean.
Did you know that’s the wrong thing to do?
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined guidelines on how to properly clean up and dispose of CLF lightbulbs.
- 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) 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.
Oh geez, let me say when I read all this I had a mini-freak out. I mean, the EPA? Mercury exposure? Wear protective gear? Um, these lightbulbs don’t sound so safe to me.
I immediately evacuated everyone out of the room – which just happened to be bath time for my kids. I opened the windows and turned on the fan. And set out the haz-mat-like clean-up. And you can’t just throw it away in the trash, you need to take it to a hazardous waste facility, check your state’s guidelines on disposing of CFL lightbulbs.
After 2 hours of ventilating the room, I’m still paranoid. Can my kids go back into the room? I’m making myself a little crazy reading about the possibility of mercury still lingering in my carpet.
In fact, I’m kind of at the point of considering whether CFL lightbulbs are right for us. And I’m not alone – even the state of Maine recommends considering not using CLF lightbulbs in rooms where kids play. Yeah, that’s pretty much my whole house. Maybe it’s time to check out LED lights.
And adding to my freak out is a study featured in Environmental Engineering Science in 2011 that showed if not disposed properly the mercury from a CLF lightbulb could remain up to 43 days after initial exposure.
I do know I cleaned up and disposed of my broken light properly, but just as an extra precaution I’m keeping my kids out of the room as much as possible and will keep the windows open for the next few weeks – which my husband will not be happy about now that it’s getting cold.
The challenge is that I used to have a Pack ‘N Play in the closet so my little guy can sleep during the day without a lot of light in the room. Yeah, not happening anymore. That portacrib is out of there, and I can’t imagine the little guy sleeping in there anytime soon.
Tell me about your experience with CLF lightbulbs. Do you love them or hate them?
Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net