EPA recommends special handling for CFL bulbs

Ruben Perez, Reporter

Compact Fluorescent Lamp light bulbs are being pushed by our government onto consumers for their ability to save more energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Fox News and CNN have raised some concerns about the fact that these light bulbs contain the element mercury and emit ultraviolet radiation.

Although the CFLs do contain mercury, it is about four or five milligrams whereas old thermometers contained about 500 milligrams of mercury. Though the bulbs do not pose a serious threat, special care needs to be taken when the bulbs go out or break.

When the bulb does go out, the Environmental Protection Agency says that it should be recycled. This prevents the bulb from being broken down and left to sit in a landfill where the mercury could sit and accumulate. In addition to keeping the chemicals out of landfills, parts of the bulbs can be recycled.

In Bakersfield, you can recycle these bulbs at the Metro Kern County Special Waste Facility or at your nearest Home Depot or Lowe’s Home Improvement store. The website Earth911.com can help you find the nearest recycling center to you.

The EPA suggests that if the CFL does break, special precautions need to be taken. When it first breaks, they suggest that you air out the room for 5-10 minutes to the outside environment and shut off any central air system you might have on so that it does not contaminate your house.

The EPA stressed that you should not vacuum the broken light bulb as it could spread the mercury into the air and to the rest of your house. They recommend picking up the broken pieces with sticky tape to keep your fingers safe and to put the broken pieces into a sealable container.

After the cleanup, you should place the container outside until they can be taken to the proper facility.  The EPA suggests that after cleanup you continue to let the room air out for several hours.

The other important issue pertains to the UV radiation from these bulbs. The Food and Drug Administration has taken precautions to make sure that the levels of radiation within these bulbs are at safe levels. If CFLs do exceed these levels, they are either not sold or sold with a warning. The Health Protection Agency, an independent organization in the United Kingdom, did a study on the UV radiation emitted and found that they can exceed safe levels if you are within 30 centimeters of the bulb for an hour or more.