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Fluorescent lights are long lasting and when recycled properly, most of the glass, metal and mercury in them can be reused. However, because fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, when a fluorescent bulb breaks, it should be handled as hazardous waste.
Broken florescent bulbs can be a health hazard if not cleaned up properly.
Which bulbs are hazardous & why are they a safety concern?
Fluorescent light bulbs are either linear fluorescent (long skinny tubes) or compact fluorescent (small and sometimes spiraled). Linear fluorescent lights are common in workplaces and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are more common in households. Regardless of the type of fluorescent bulb, it contains mercury and must be treated like hazardous waste if it breaks.
Safe clean up instructions
Be thorough when collecting broken glass and visible powder and keep the mess contained. Clean the area where a fluorescent breaks without vacuuming or sweeping to avoid spreading mercury containing powder and mercury vapor. Do not use cleaning products, as they may react with the mercury.
Whether at home or at work, cleaning up a broken fluorescent bulb is the same.
What you need
Sticky tape captures small fragments and powder.
Bulb fragments and cleanup materials should be placed in a sealed plastic bag or glass jar, and taken to a hazardous waste facility.
Quick links and additional information
Guest post written by Mia Reback, Sustainability at Work intern.