Handle With Caution: CFL Bulb Investigation Part II - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


Handle With Caution: CFL Bulb Investigation Part II

Monday night, we told you how in five years, Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs could have a serious affect on the environment when all these bulbs start burning out and people throw them away. During our investigation, we found there is not a place to recycle these bulbs in Lubbock. But, the city is working to start a recycling program by next February.

Our focus in part two of this investigation is to show you how to clean up a broken bulb inside your home and why kids and pets shouldn't be around while you do it.

A trace of dust can be seen as a CFL bulb shatters. That dust contains mercury. Toxicologist Dr. Mike Hooper says mercury is a toxic metal that should not be inhaled by children, pregnant women, and even pets.

"Mercury is a neurotoxicant and we try to avoid it because it is one of those compounds that can accumulate in tissues. Because it's a neurotoxicant and it can have its worst affects on children, generally the exposure routes are through eating food," he said.

Dr. Hooper says each CFL bulb contains a small amount of mercury, equivalent to the tip of a ball point pen. But still, the Environmental Protection Agency feels it is still important to let you know to take precautions before handling a broken bulb.

"We looked on the EPS's website for guidance on the best way to cleanup a broken bulb," said Dr. Hooper.

When the bulb breaks:

  1. The EPA recommends opening a window to let the room air out for 15 minutes. Make sure children and pets are away from the area.
  2. The EPA recommends you wear rubber gloves.  A pair of dishwashing gloves will do.
  3. Use a piece of cardboard to gather all the pieces of the glass into a central area.  Carefully scoop the broken pieces onto a piece of paper and put it in a zip lock baggie.
  4. Use a wet paper towel to wipe up any remaining debris on the floor.

The EPA says to put the towel and the paper in the baggie and seal it. Then place that bag in another sealed bag.  Dr. Hooper used a trash bag to get rid of the cardboard and placed the baggie in there too. 

"If it is on a rug, once you get the larger pieces picked up, then you take perhaps a piece of duct tape or a loop of duct tape and use the sticky side to collect it up," he said.

Once you're finished cleaning, place everything in the bag and then double bag it using another garbage bag.  We used masking tape to seal the garbage bag.

 "The most important part is once you've got this material all double bagged; don't put it in your garbage bag inside your home. Take it out to the dumpster behind your house or take it to the dumpster at your apartment so that it's outside so anything that might break thru the plastic bag isn't going to be in your household," said Dr. Hooper.  

Our intention from this investigation is not to keep you from buying CFL bulbs.  Rather, we just think you need to know about the risks.

The following links provide information about CFL bulbs and the EPA's recommendation on how to clean up a broken bulb.  

Here are some useful links with some important information:

Recycling company for CFLs - tech contractor - also for Wal-Mart and home depot

Story on CFLs and mercury

EPA's mercury page with link to cleanup of broken CFLs http://epa.gov/mercury/ TCEQ regulation on CFL disposal

City of Lubbock recommendation for disposal of CFLs  

City's recycling plant:

1631 84th Street

M-F    8-5:30 PM

Lunch 12-1

Sat     8-2 PM

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