One of the most common questions I come across is that regarding the safe disposal of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), otherwise known as energy saving light. This is because compact fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury which is extremely toxic and thus can be dangerous to health if left exposed. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has strict guidelines regarding the handling and disposal of mercury.
The safe disposal of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs is of particular importance to some US states because it is against the law to dispose of mercury light bulbs as normal trash. In the states of California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin you will be prosecuted for this. This might seem like an extreme measure but if you look at the statistics, one will understand why such measures have to be taken.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if all the 270 million compact fluorescent light bulbs sold in the US in 2007 were disposed of in landfill sites, that this would represent 0.1% of all mercury emissions for that year. This may not seem a lot but it adds up over the years and seeps into the rivers, water supplies and air. Mercury also bio-accumulates in fish and these are then eaten by humans.
So what is the best way to dispose of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs in the United States? One of the easiest ways is connected to The Home Depot, the American retailer of home improvement and construction products and services. The Home Depot announced in 2008 that it would take back old compact fluorescent light bulbs in all 1,973 of its stores and then safely dispose of them according to national guidelines. The same is possible with the nation’s largest retailer Wal-Mart although it’s uncertain whether this is the case with all of their outlets.
If your Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb is broken by accident, it is advisable to leave the room after opening a window or two. When the room has been well ventilated for an hour, then return and with gloves, place the remains of the Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb in either a sealed glass jar (Maine DEP advice) or as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests, in two plastic bags (one inside the other) securely tied. The same measures can be taken if the bulb has come to the end of its life and you are not in a location where suitable and safe disposal of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs is possible.
Finally, the thought of buying Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs after reading all this might seem daunting and rather unsavoury. The Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb is very safe however and the levels of mercury in such bulbs are much lower than in regular thermometers for example. Even when the bulb is broken, as long as the room is ventilated and you wear gloves, then safe disposal is assured.