It’s a zombie legend that simply won’t remain down: Compact Fluorescent Lamps contain toxic mercury. Over there is about as much reality to the statement together there is mercury in CFLS — which is to say, map amounts. CFLs execute contain mercury, however in quantities so tiny that breaking one exposes you, in many cases, to less mercury than eating tuna fish (see below). We consulted the EPA and contacted a lighting specialist from general Electric, i beg your pardon sponsors this newspaper , in bespeak to take on the issue of mercury in CFLs.

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How does mercury help produce irradiate in CFLs?

CFLs space glass tube that room filled with argon gas and also mercury vapor. Once an electric present passes v the tube, the mercury emits ultraviolet light the excites a phosphor coating on the tube. The coating then emits light.

Are us talking about high levels of mercury?

No. And also the quantity of mercury in CFLs has actually dropped steadily since they very first made inroads into the industry 15-20 years ago. As newly as 2007, CFLs contained about 5 milligrams, sufficient to cover a ballpoint pen tip. Since then, regulation in the european Union, which have additionally been embraced in California and also other areas, have actually mandated the the amount of mercury in CFLs be minimal to 3.5 mg by 2012 and also 2.5 mg by 2013.

GE spiral CFLs use an also smaller amount: 0.8-0.9 mg of mercury. Sándor Lukács, the CFL systems manager for GE Appliance & Lighting, stated the firm decided to rapidly reduced the mercury contents of that CFLS in the 1990s. “To placed it in perspective,” Lukács said, “when ns was a little child, I had actually a thermometer that had 1,000 times much more mercury than the current CFLs.”

Is over there a replacement for mercury?

Scientists both inside and also outside GE have actually used amalgams, an alloy containing mercury and one or much more metals that deserve to release mercury because that discharge (amalgams have likewise been used in fillings). Lukács stated GE researchers found that lamps there is no mercury had less efficacy, a measure of just how well a lamp produces visible light, however some CFLs use amalgams together an alternative.

How do you dispose a CFL?

It’s against the regulation in several says – including California, brand-new York and also Connecticut – to throw CFLs in the garbage and also it’s a bad idea everywhere. In the U.S., more than 1,700 Lowe’s stores take offered CFLs and also other recycling facilities have the right to be discovered on In the european Union requires, the price of recycling is developed into the purchase price and retailers have to collect them indigenous consumers

What happens to the mercury once the bulbs are disposed?

Mercury is in two forms in the lamp, solid and vapor. During the life of the bulb, the glass in the lamp consumes several of the mercury – approximately 0.4 mg relying on the age of the lamp, Lukács said. Both the solid mercury and the consumed mercury can be recovered and processed because that reuse in recycling facilities.

How perform you clean up a damaged CFL?

There’s no need to contact the hazmat team. Still, the D.E.P. recommends leave the room and ventilating it because that 5-10 minutes. Then sweep up the damaged glass and put it in a glass jar or a sealable plastic bag. The EPA advises against vacuuming broken bulbs because it have the right to spread mercury vapor.

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How much mercury are you exposed to once a CFL breaks versus, say, eat a tuna fish sandwich?

You may have missed this one, but an essay in the respectable 2009 issue (PDF) of LD+A, the newspaper of the Illuminating Engineering culture of America, said that people are exposed to far greater amounts of mercury by eating tuna fish. A typical 6 oz. Fish sandwich consists of 48 micrograms of mercury (that’s 0.048 mg), follow to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you knock over a lamp and also a CFL breaks, it will generally results in a sheep of 0.07 micrograms (that’s 0.0007 mg) that mercury, according to scenarios assessed by the Maine department of environmental Protection. Follow to the authors, this numbers show that the problem of danger mercury in CFLs is “One big Fish Story.”

Editor’s Note: This story concerns us as a cross article courtesy of Txchnologist. Author credit goes come Matthew van Dusen.