Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One Broken Bulb: The Health and Safety Risks

One broken four-foot fluorescent lamp in a small room or vehicle can release enough mercury vapor to exceed the OSHA mercury exposure eight-hour limit—posing significant health and safety risks to handlers and consumers. Plus, mercury vapor can be emitted for weeks after a single bulb is broken, continually polluting the air in consumers’ homes. When carelessly handled or improperly disposed of, mercury can get into drinking water, lakes, rivers and streams, posing a critical threat to human health, as well as the environment. Recent studies have linked mercury exposure to increased risk of heart attack in men, to mental retardation and neurological disorders in children, and dangerous levels of mercury in the blood of women of childbearing age.

Despite these health concerns, the EPA estimates that approximately 75 to 80 percent of fluorescent lamps are not recycled and are usually placed in dumpsters or trash containers, presenting a considerable risk. One study found that mercury is "strongly and persistently" emitted from dumpsters that contain broken fluorescent lamps.(1) Broken fluorescent lamps need to be properly recycled to prevent the release of mercury vapor. Learn how to clean up a broken bulb or how to safely package and recycle fluorescent lamps by reading our Layers of protection: Packaging used fluorescent lamps post.

1. Lindberg, S.E.; Owens, J. PaMSWaD (Pathways of Mercury in Solid Waste Disposal); Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation (LMER). 1999. 6.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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