Thursday, November 11, 2010

Which Packaging Configuration Effectively Contains Mercury Vapor?

To avoid both health and environmental risks associated with mercury vapor emissions from broken fluorescent lamps, they should be packaged, stored and transported to recycling facilities in a configuration that is specifically designed to contain mercury vapor—and proven to be effective.

The University of Minnesota study measured the performance of three different categories of packaging configurations that are used to store and transport used fluorescent lamps: single layer cardboard boxes, single layer cardboard boxes with a plastic bag, and double-layer cardboard boxes with a bag between the two layers. In ten replicate experiments, each box was filled with 40 used low-mercury T4 fluorescent lamps, dropped and shaken in a test chamber until the lamps were broken. During the next six hours, the level of mercury vapor inside the test chamber was measured and recorded. (1)

1. Single Layer Cardboard Box: Similar to the package in which fluorescent lamps are usually sold in, this packaging configuration was the least effective. It resulted in airborne mercury vapor levels in the test chamber exceeding all workplace exposure levels, as defined by state and federal authorities.
2. Single Layer Cardboard Box with a Plastic Bag: This contained the mercury better than the first box, but still emitted some mercury vapor.
3. Double-Layer Cardboard Boxes with a Bag Between the Two Layers: Out of all of the configurations, only this package design kept mercury vapor levels in the test chamber below all workplace exposure regulations and guidelines.

1. Glenz, Tracy T., Lisa M. Brosseau, and Richard W. Hoffbeck. "Preventing Mercury Vapor Release from Broken Fluorescent Lamps during Shipping." Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 59 (2009): 266-72. Print.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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