Monday, July 26, 2010

Potential Exposure of Mercury Due to Broken Fluorescent Lamps In the Workplace

Like many products, fluorescent lamps—which are used in many workplaces due to their significant energy savings—contain hazardous mercury. Estimates of the amount of mercury released when the lamps are broken—which typically occurs when used lights are discarded—have varied widely.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection published a study dealing with the potential exposure of mercury due to broken bulbs in the workplace in the "Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association." Based on a new method used to measure mercury released from broken lamps, it was found that 17% to 40% of the mercury in broken low-mercury fluorescent lamps is released to the air during the two-week period immediately following breakage, with higher temperatures contributing to higher release rates. One-third of the mercury release occurs during the first 8 hours after breakage.

These findings indicate that airborne levels of mercury in the vicinity of recently broken bulbs could exceed occupational exposure limits, as defined by state and federal authorities. A better method of containment is required to protect consumers and transporters against the release of mercury in case of breakage and to satisfy both OSHA and Universal Waste regulations.

A recently patented packaging system including a zip-closure plastic-foil laminate bag layered between two cardboard boxes has been proven to effectively contain mercury vapor.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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