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Green Living: How to clean up after a compact fluorescent bulb breaks

Those “twisty” compact fluorescent light bulbs are great for saving energy, but you should never forget they contain a small amount of mercury and need to be handled with care. When one burns out, it should be brought to a store like Home Depot or Lowe’s (check with your local one first) or to an Eco-Depot collection event.

Here are 5 steps to take should any fluorescent bulb break in your home.

Vacate the area: Have all people and pets leave the room where the break occurred, and let the area air out for 10 minutes by opening any windows or doors from that room to the outdoor environment.

Shut the air off: You don’t want the mercury to circulate into the air and travel to other rooms of the house. After you’ve vacated the area, shut off any fans or central forced air heating or air-conditioning systems (if you have them).

Collect materials: To safely clean up the break after the 10 minutes have passed, you’ll need to collect stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels (for hard surfaces like wood, linoleum, or tile), and a glass jar with a lid or a sealable plastic bag.

Pick up: Scoop up as many glass fragments and as much powder as you can using stiff paper or cardboard, and then use sticky tape or damp paper towels to pick up what remains. Place all cleanup materials into the jar or bag, and seal. Never vacuum! If a spill occurs on absorbent material like carpet or upholstery, cut out the affected part and disposed of as outlined below.

Dispose: Immediately place the bag in an outdoor trash can. Remember that once the bulb breaks and the mercury vapors dissipate, you no longer need to handle the pieces as household hazardous waste (i.e. you don’t need to bring the sealed container to an Eco-Depot event).

REF: Providence Journal

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