Sunday, October 26, 2008

You'll Need A Respirator, blue Nitrile gloves,

...a Tyvek suit, Silver-Shield overgloves, disposable overbooties and a roll of duct tape: disposing of broken CFLs, tiny bit of mercury and all. Some "authorities" even advocate the removal of carpet upon which the pernicious devices, er, Gaia-saving wonderments have broken.  Sheesh!

     Look, here's what you do: clean it up as you would any other broken light bulb.  Mind the sharp edges!  The plentiful whitish stuff on the inside is a phosphor compound and it's not good for you. In an old lamp, it has taken up most of mercury.  The combination is really not good for you, so don't lick your fingers.  Refrain from the temption to lick the floor, too.  And don't forget to put on your bicycle helmet!

     Geez-o-pete, it's a fluorescent lamp.  We've had 'em for all your life.  They got smaller.  Can I go back the Planet of the Grown-ups now?


Anonymous said... understanding is that mercury is kind of hard to ingest.

Accidentally, I mean!! (Don't try this at home, kids!!)

Roberta X said...

As far as I know -- and I am not a chemical engineer or health-science expert -- the phosphorous compound is a lot more dangerous; among other things, there's more of it.

As for mercury, mercuric oxides are easier for the body to take up than the pure metal (it's like lead that way); while I would not panic over very small amounts of heavy metals, they should not be treated casually, either. (A few interesting stories of home bullet casting were told at the blogmeet -- it's really something one ought not do without some research into how first).

My suspicion is that breaking a hot lamp is more of a mercury risk than breaking a cold one; you'd have more mercury present in the vapor and it would float up. If you drop one, it's probably less risk if you open a window and wait a half-hour -- assuming you can keep kids and critters out of it in the meantime.

Karl Keller said...

Mercury spill cleanup can be a pain. My previous cal lab was shut down for a day until we could get a hazmat crew to deal with it, but that was for a spill (of liquid mercury) in an FDA regulated manufacturing facility for Class II medical devices.

Roberta X said...

I would not be surprised if like a lot of things hazmat, it's at least as much a pain because of the steps required by law-makers and regulators as it is due to the procedures that actually minimize risk and mitigate the hazard.

I may be too cynical, having gone through training for Level C in order to work in the area of a suspected PCB spill, and then put it to use. PCBs are a case where the headliner is not the major risk -- it's the combustion products, and even then, it takes a hot enough fire; but those are so risky that the safest bet is to assume the worst until proven otherwise.

Zendo Deb said...

So don't worry about the mercury in your home. Don't worry about the mercury in land fills. Don't worry be happy.

Before the lobbyists at GE convinced the DC-powers-that-be to eliminate regular light bulbs it was less of an issue.

Oh, and never mind the fact that fluorescent bulbs tend to give those of us subject to migraines a problem.

And really never mind that the government should not be legislating things like this anyway. It is just a power trip for them. In the long run, using CFLs in the home will not reduce the amount of electricity generated in any meaningful way. (Generators are on-line for the peak load of the day, and by-and-large are not shut down at night.) But then who ever expected Washington to make sense?