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How Do you Like your Lightbulbs, Toxic or Illegal?

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Tomorrow, January 1, 2014, the US Federal Government will finish its ban of traditional light bulbs, in favor of toxic mercury-containing bulbs. You know, for the environment.


Anyhow, now that we are being forced by government employees to buy poisonous light bulbs from the Chinese, we should know how to clean up if one breaks. Below is a slimmed down version of the EPA procedure.

Step 1:


Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.


Step 2: Ventilate


Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.

Shut off the central heating/air conditioning. (Totally practical in Louisiana in July, or Montana in January)


Step 3: Decontaminate


Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb:

o    Stiff paper or cardboard

o    Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape)

o    Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)

o    Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag.

Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag from the home after cleanup.

Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.


Step 4: Don’t Vacuum!


It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor. If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:

o    Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;  

o    Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available.

o    Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.


Step 5: Separate


Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. 


Step 6: Call the authorities!


Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.


Step 7: Sanitize


Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.

Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the HVAC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.


Step 8: Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rugs (this is the best part)


The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the HVAC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.

After vacuuming is completed, keep the HVAC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.


If that doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy, I don't know what will!

Post-Script: There is, in fact, a loophole in the new ban for "rough service" bulbs, which allows the manufacture of a specific variety of old-style incandescent bulbs (needless to say, mercury-free). You can get them here: http://www.newcandescent.com/store/customer/

Richard is an engineer by day, and a political activist by night, fighting would-be totalitarians and government busybodies everywhere.