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Author Topic: WARNING: Carefully clean up broken CFL (fluorescent) lightbulbs if you have any  (Read 4751 times)

IainB

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Posted across from CNET as a warning and for information/use of other DC denizens - especially relevant if they, like me, have young children.
I thought CNET's advice (copied below) was a tad excessive, but not after I did some fact-checking on this. I actually had not realised that these bulbs had that much mercury in them. Mercury is highly toxic and accumulates in the body. Whilst it is presumed to be safe (trapped) in mercury amalgam tooth fillings, having free mercury or its compounds in the environment is quite a different matter. I am all for low-energy lightbulbs for reasons of energy conservation and minimising overall power consumption costs. I have them all over the house, and when they have been broken, I would just sweep the bits up and throw them in the trash without a second's thought. I'm kicking myself now.
The advice at the end of the CNET post seems pretty sensible. (However, I now feel like I've been conned  by the lightbulb manufacturers.)

Having had some close calls with toxic environments myself, I apologise that I did not draw attention before to the risks, but I had completely overlooked them as I thought they were probably alarmist when I was posting an item in the Basement which included this:
From an interview with Prof Les Woodcock in the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Quote
...He adds: “Light bulbs are a good example of the contradiction with the green movement. Europe has outlawed the tungsten lightbulb. Tungsten is a harmless metal, like gold, it does not react with anything and yet now, in the name of conserving energy, we have low energy light bulbs full of toxic chemicals, including mercury vapour, which is poisonous. If you smash a low energy lightbulb, the advice from the Department for the Environment is to vacate the room for 15 minutes.

The Environment Agency website has this to say on low energy lightbulbs: “Energy saving light bulbs and fluorescent light tubes contain small amounts of mercury... mercury is a hazardous substance, these lightbulbs should be disposed of in accordance with hazardous waste regulations.”...

Here's the CNET post:
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
Quote
How to clean up a broken CFL bulb
If a fluorescent light comes crashing down onto your kitchen floor, releasing the mercury trapped within, you don't need to panic. Just follow these steps to safely get things cleaned up.

    by Ry Crist   @rycrist    24 June 2014, 8:23 AM AEST

Fluorescent lights get their glow from the mercury trapped inside, and the compact fluorescents (CFLs) used for energy efficient household lighting are no different. So what do you do when one of these bulbs breaks, releasing that toxic mercury into your home?

First things first, you don't need to panic. While mercury is nothing to play around with, the amount contained inside a standard CFL is only about 1 percent of the amount that you'll find inside an old-fashioned mercury thermometer. Still, to be safe, you'll want to be sure that you clean the mess up correctly -- here's how to do just that, per EPA standards.

broken-cfl-2.jpg Colin West McDonald/CNET

Step one: Air out the area
As soon as that bulb breaks, you'll want to let the room air out for about 15 minutes. Get everyone out (especially pets, who might be inclined to investigate the mess), then open the windows and shut the doors. You'll also want to be sure and turn off your central air -- the last thing you want is to circulate that mercury throughout your home.

Step two: Find a sealable container
While you're avoiding the area in question, go ahead and take a moment to find something capable of containing that broken bulb. A glass jar with a metal lid is ideal, but if you don't have one handy, a plastic food container or even a sealable plastic bag will do the trick.

Step three: Pick up the pieces
You'll be tempted to sweep everything up with a broom -- but don't. Anything that rifles through the broken bits of your bulb is going to risk mercury contamination. You'll also want to be sure not to use your vacuum, as doing so will risk kicking mercury back up into the air.

The best bet is to carefully scoop up the larger bits of glass with a piece of paper or cardboard, something you can easily dispose of along with the broken bulb. Once the big pieces are up, try using a piece of duct tape to easily lift the tinier bits, along with any white powder that you see. You could also use a piece of bread -- just don't eat it afterwards.

img3724.jpg
Seal the broken bulb and everything you used to pick it up. A glass jar is best, but a plastic container like this one will work, too. Ry Crist/CNET

Step four: Wipe the floor clean
Once you've gotten the glass up off of the floor, you'll need to wipe things down with a damp paper towel. You'll want to go over the area fairly liberally, making sure not to leave any of that white powder from the bulb behind.

Once you're done, add that used paper towel to the container with the paper, the tape, and the broken glass. Go ahead and seal it up, then take it outside. Now would also be a good time to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

Step five: Let the room air out for another few hours
You've gotten the floor spic and span, but there still might be trace amounts of mercury vapor left in the air. If you're able to, leave the windows open and the air conditioning off for another couple of hours. Better safe than sorry, right?

capture.jpg
Your local government's website should have info on where you can take your broken bulbs. LouisvilleKY.gov

Step six: Dispose of the broken bulb
Depending on your local regulations, you might not be required to take the broken bulb to a recycling center. It's a good idea nonetheless, as you don't want that mercury sent off to a landfill, where it might slowly leech into the ground. The waste management section of your local government's website should have info on which facilities will take hazardous household materials off of your hands.

Here in Louisville, Ky., there's only one place for residents to take broken CFLs -- and it's only open two days a week. If you're in a situation like this, it's fine to hang on to that sealed up wreckage for a few days -- just be sure to keep it outside.

cfl.jpg Ry Crist/CNET

If this all sounds too high maintenance for your tastes, then know that you have other options. LEDs offer better energy efficiency, longer lifespans, and zero mercury inside the bulbs. If the higher price tag is a deal breaker, then consider halogens. The gas each one uses to prolong the bulb's lifespan is totally harmless. A broken CFL might be an annoying chore to deal with, but it's also an opportunity to upgrade to a bulb that's a better fit for your home.

SeraphimLabs

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Known about this for many years- that all Flourescent type lamps contain a measurable amount of mercury.

The article is a little bit off though.

In that type of lamp, electric current flowing through the mercury vapor and filler gas creates almost entirely UV light. That UV light then strikes the white powder which lines the tube. The powder used to be a phosphorous, likely safer alternatives have been found and put in widespread use. But that powder then converts the UV light emitted by the mercury vapor into visible light at the bulb's rated color temperature.

Both mercury and powder are hazardous, and most people handle this type of lamp blissfully unaware of how hazardous they actually are.

It all comes down to just one more way the quest for green technology has actually created an even bigger problem than the one it solved because it was forced into mainstream before it was mature.

LED technology is shaping up nicely though. I think the only remaining snag with it is getting the manufacturing costs down- and making it so manufacturing them isn't so hazardous. Of the LED based fixtures I have deployed in the past 5 years, I have been consistently impressed with the reliable and efficient output. Its just a question of does their durability meet expectations- which so far is yes.

tomos

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I knew they were dodgy but not to that extent.
Thanks for the info!
Tom

Edvard

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Quote
Light bulbs are a good example of the contradiction with the green movement. Europe has outlawed the tungsten lightbulb. Tungsten is a harmless metal, like gold, it does not react with anything and yet now, in the name of conserving energy, we have low energy light bulbs full of toxic chemicals, including mercury vapour, which is poisonous.

This one sentence right here has absolutely mystified me since CFL bulbs were first on the market.  The only argument I have heard that kinda/sorta makes sense, but is beyond my ability to research is, the energy saved by CFLs balances out the environmental damage of the materials used.
... and I still don't get it.

Thanks for the tips, IainB.  I regularly "recycle" my dead CFLs by harvesting the electronic parts inside for my own nefarious purposes.  Taking great care not to break the bulb, of course.
... and I still haven't seen the bulb life promised on the package, BTW...

IainB

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@Edvard:
Quote
...The only argument I have heard that kinda/sorta makes sense, but is beyond my ability to research is, the energy saved by CFLs balances out the environmental damage of the materials used...
Well, as I have said, this is a new issue to for me to consider, but as a concerned environmentalist I have to say that the argument you refer to is an unconscionable one that I have not come across before. I mean, for a start it presumes that deliberately increasing levels of health risks to humans and other animals in the environment can somehow be accepted as an "offset" if it helps to reduce power consumption, because that is in some way a form of net benefit to the environment.
So you probably don't need to research it, because it simply doesn't make sense, and it probably never could. As it stands, it's crawling with logical fallacy and unproven statement. It is meaningless BS.

However, if you asked the question "Under what circumstances would it make sense?", then you could perhaps say that:
If you produced new-type high-priced and ostensibly longer-lived and energy-saving lightbulbs, and
if you compelled their use by abolishing any of the old-type alternatives, and
if the new-type bulbs were made containing highly toxic and/or cumulative poisons/substances (including mercury), and
if the new-type bulbs were designed to be fragile so that, when broken, like little gas bombs they rapidly released their payload of cumulative toxins into the family home environment, then:
  • The manufacturers will make an absolute pile of money for many years.
  • It will be good for the economy (increased GDP).
  • Population would gradually drop from the number of increased deaths and stillborn or fatally deformed babies or sterility, or whatever, brought about by mercury poisoning.
  • The use of the new-type bulbs would contribute to a marginal and progressive reduction in the overall demand for electricity.
  • The fall in population would contribute to an even greater progressive reduction in the overall demand for electricity.
  • Progressively less fossil fuels and other resources would thus be consumed in the production of electricity.
  • Malthusian catastrophe theory would be taught as gospel in elementary schools.

Of course, such a thing could never happen...Oh wait, do you mean to imply with that argument that it has happened...?
« Last Edit: June 28, 2014, 08:20:10 AM by IainB, Reason: Minor corrections for clarity. »

Renegade

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It all comes down to just one more way the quest for green technology has actually created an even bigger problem than the one it solved because it was forced into mainstream before it was mature.


Yes.

However, we also need to remember that it was GE and others lobbying to have incandescent bulbs phased out for CFLs.

http://freedomlightb...obbying-for-ban.html

http://washingtonexa...y-jobs/article/36662

Quote
“Government did us in,” says Dwayne Madigan, whose job will terminate when General Electric closes its factory next July.
 
Madigan makes a product that will soon be illegal to sell in the U.S. - a regular incandescent bulb. Two years ago, his employer, GE, lobbied in favor of the law that will outlaw the bulbs.
 
Madigan’s colleagues, waiting for their evening shift to begin, all know that GE is replacing the incandescents for now with compact fluorescents bulbs, which GE manufactures in China.
 
Last month, GE announced it will close the Winchester Bulb Plant 80 miles west of D.C. As a result, 200 men and women will lose their jobs. GE is also shuttering incandescent factories in Ohio and Kentucky, axing another 200 jobs.
 
GE blamed environmental regulations for the closing.

REGULATIONS THAT GE LOBBIED FOR!!!

http://homerepair.ab...t-Lighting-Ban_2.htm

http://homerepair.ab...crony-capitalism.htm

Quote
Shining A Light on Crony Capitalism

http://jolt.richmond...ight-bulb-phase-out/

etc. etc. etc.

This has NOTHING to do with "green" at the roots. This is entirely about milking you for more money.

The industry has a proven history of this kind of predatory behaviour.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy




LED technology is shaping up nicely though. I think the only remaining snag with it is getting the manufacturing costs down- and making it so manufacturing them isn't so hazardous. Of the LED based fixtures I have deployed in the past 5 years, I have been consistently impressed with the reliable and efficient output. Its just a question of does their durability meet expectations- which so far is yes.

LED is a far better option over CFLs. Still... the costs for them are very high.

Part of the LED push is that consumers have basically rejected CFLs in large enough numbers.

HOWEVER...

LEDS ARE VERY, VERY DANGEROUS!!! THEY ARE SEMI-CONDUCTORS!!! HELLO!?!

I went over this in another thread. Nobody was interested. But, I'll try again...

On the other side of the LED issue...

I do a fair amount of work in the semi-conductor industry, and LED lighting is a good part of that.

Going forward, what you need to be aware of is that LEDs ARE SEMI-CONDUCTORS. This is important.

The capabilities of lighting devices will expand well beyond "lighting" in the future. Any number of different sensors can be included with them.

Expect LED lighting to include more sensors, and to have the capability to spy on you. It will happen. Just keep your eye on the added "benefits" that they tout in their marketing.

I'm well aware that a good number of people here think that I'm a paranoid conspiracy theorist. You wouldn't if you saw what I saw. I get to look at internal documents that aren't public. As an example, I recently had a document come across my desk from a large semi-conductor manufacturer talking about how they were near ready to distribute tracking chips designed to be embedded in people. This is almost not-news at all. It has been reported for many years, and the technology is near ready for large scale deployments.

LED lighting has huge potential. It can recreate what looks like sunlight. The range of light that it can replicate is astounding. The development kits for lighting device manufacturers are becoming more and more robust with lighting being able to be upgraded through simple engine replacements rather than through complete redesigns.

But... it's a Trojan horse. Make sure your horse is empty before you let it through the gates.



Semi-conductors can be controlled. That means that someone can turn your lights on or off. They could even be turned into listening devices or surveillance devices.

Given what we already know is going on, ask yourself if I'm stretching things. I think you'll see that I'm not stretching in the least. Maybe not tomorrow, but it is coming.

LEDs are a Trojan horse. They will be abused.

Look at the steps taken:

  • Outlaw incandescent bulbs
  • Offer up toxic CFLs
  • Get outrage over CFLs
  • Solve problems with LEDs

That's the Hegelian dialectic in action -- Problem - Reaction - Solution. Twice! One to use the "green" agenda to outlaw incandescents, then again to bring out semi-conductor lighting.

Of course, such a thing could never happen...Oh wait, do you mean to imply with that argument that it has happened...?

You can probably guess where I stand on all that. ;)

Malthus was an ignorant, unimaginative asshole.

Take farm production numbers:

http://farmdocdaily....ts-given-prices.html

They're looking at under $1,000 per acre per year.

There's a farmer in Illinois doing $200,000 per acre per year. And it's no big secret. But it's a threat to Big Agra, so you will never hear about it in the news. Ever. People are using the same technique all over the world. In their backyards. In commercial operations. In North America, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America.

Greater than 200x times higher? Than modern agricultural methods? Yeah... That's why Malthus was premature in what he had to say. He didn't even see modern agricultural methods coming, much less the new techniques that are still in their infancy.

But, the freaks in power will still use Malthusian nonsense for fear-mongering amongst the populace. Just like how GE used the green agenda as we've seen above. There's always an agenda, and it's never in your favour.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Stoic Joker

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Offer up toxic CFLs

I think you mean panic people by totally blowing the "danger" out of proportion. They have what, about a 3 hour cleanup routine there? And that is assuming of course that you don't have carpeting...

Who the hell is going to shut down and evacuate entire office for 3 hours because the maintenance guy broke a bulb? Please tell me nobody is that stupid.. Or have they managed to concoct a "study" of all of the CFL related deaths over the past 50+ years ... Really where are those numbers?

This is just more hyper reactive over sanitizing to give the lawyers more ammunition for bullshit lawsuits. Sally didn't get into Harvard because somebody broke a light bulb down the hall back in third grade and I'm gonna sue!

There are enough things out there that really will get people killed without falling for yet another bullshit Ganja Madness campaign.

IainB

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^^ Mmmm...Ganja Madness...far out,man...
That Malthus guy knew SFA about hydroponics...a frend of mine get $10,000pa out of a 6' x 3½' bathroom...

Renegade

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On what I've been saying and LEDs:



Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Stoic Joker

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^What a classically lamed assed defense at the end of the video: Isn't that rather Orwellian? Why yes...but think of the children..

We. Are. So. Screwed..!

Renegade

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^What a classically lamed assed defense at the end of the video: Isn't that rather Orwellian? Why yes...but think of the children..

We. Are. So. Screwed..!

Yup.

I do a fair amount of work in the semi-conductor industry, so here's a quick overview about how things will go...

1) Get lighting SDK & development boards for prototyping, etc.

http://www.microchip...-communications.html

Quote
The Lighting Communications Development Platform provides a universal lighting development platform for the creation of communications enabled lighting applications. The platform consists of a main board and various communications interface adapters to support in the development of DALI, DMX512A, as well as future protocols (eg. RF).

To utilize the communications platform, a minimum of (2) main or (2) prototyping boards and (2) adapters are required – connected via appropriate cabling (eg. RJ45 patch cable, DMX512A 5-pin barrel cable, or DALI 2-wire). The communication platform is compatible with commercially available DALI/DMX512A products and can be integrated into existing lighting networks during development or utlized with multiple communication platforms to simulate large lighting networks.

2) Develop prototype for Orwellian nightmare.

3) Develop specs for mass production/surveillance.

4) Profit!

5) Stick little finger in corner of mouth & laugh maniacally!

I'd encourage people to have a browse around for different kinds of sensors and to imagine what they could do with them. The barrier to entry is fairly low now. You can do this at home.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

IainB

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Relevant to lighting generally. Might be useful. Very informative notes here from Michael Herf - the guy who I gather is the author of f.lux (which I have used for a while now) and the original author of Picasa: - notes on Full Spectrum lighting.

Renegade

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^^ That f.lux is fantastic! Thanks for pointing that out! :D  :Thmbsup:
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

IainB

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On what I've been saying and LEDs:

I hadn't seen that video before now. Pretty impressive.
I already knew about the functionality that could be (or was being) designed into LEDs, and I have been keenly awaiting the day when, for example, my lightbulbs will be able to transmit/receive my wifi router signals. I was keen on the idea ever since seeing it demonstrated on (I think it was) a TED talk.
Certainly, the future looks very bright for smart LEDs...
But then there's this, of course:
This NSA business had left me with the nagging feeling that I had seen it in a movie.
Tonight I was cataloguing one of my portable drives (all movies) using BooZet's Visual CD Version 4.0 and found the answer amongst a collection of short films. It's from YouTube: PLURALITY



Stoic Joker

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Okay, so if we mash those last two posts together we see the already budding infrastructure of "The Grid" in the form of the local power company's existing PowerLine network. And by that I mean the new digital meters they rolled out a few years ago, about the same time that the horde of manual meter reader staff suddenly disappeared. Funny how that presumably rather large cost savings was never passed on to the consumer..

So now they use a variation on PowerLine networking to remotely monitor and collect each houses power usage to calculate their bill. Which - regarding the other post - then begs the question how hard would it realistically be for them to "contact" the LED lights within a house from this system which is directly attached to it?