Essential, Safe-Handling Tips For Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Whether you have fluorescent light bulbs at home or are required to work with these products on the job, it’s important to know the correct, safe handling practices for recycling, crushing, or replacing them. Compact fluorescent lights are currently being used in many commercial, residential, and industrial locations due to their overall efficiency. When compared to incandescent bulbs, these products are a very reliable, energy-saving alternative. It’s important to note, however; that they contain considerable amounts of mercury, and therefore require diligence and care, especially when they’re broken or otherwise compromised.

What You Need To Know About Mercury

Even in very small quantities, mercury is incredibly toxic to humans. Due to the absorptive nature of the skin, it’s unnecessary for people to actually ingest mercury in order to experience negative health effects. Although fluorescent bulbs do not pose any risk to people when in a solid, unbroken state, they can be incredibly dangerous if punctured, cracked, or otherwise compromised. Another important thing to note is that the mercury that these units contain is not visible when broken. Thus, lack of visual evidence of this toxic substance does not mean that the exposed parties are free and clear of danger. Moreover, not only is mercury capable of leaking out of the bulbs themselves, but this toxic substance can additionally coat various parts of the lighting fixture, including the fluorescent bulb socket, the fixture cover, and any surrounding, supportive components.

Mercury Vapor

When properly contained within light bulbs, mercury remains in a fixed, liquid state. Once a bulb has been broken, however, this substance will likely convert to a vapor within a short amount of time. This is due to temperature changes that occur after the mercury has been introduced into the outside environment. The special design of these bulbs helps keep the mercury cool so that it’s never vaporized unless breakage occurs.

How To Deal With A Broken Fluorescent Bulb

All workers and property owners who are responsible for changing or crushing damaged bulbs should be wearing the proper, protective gear. If they are not, the resulting exposure can lead to severe and potentially long-lasting side effects. These include problems affecting the skin, the kidneys and the nervous system. Among some of the early side effects of mercury exposure are coughing, respiratory distress, diarrhea, chest pains, muscle wasting, and vision issues. The best protective gear for working with these bulbs includes special, respiratory protection equipment, gloves, and protective eyewear. It is additionally important to isolate areas in which people are crushing bulbs for disposal. This way, those who are not directly involved in this process are not at risk of exposure. In environments in which numerous fluorescent lights are present, employers should also monitor air quality on a routine basis in order to determine whether mercury is present in dangerous amounts.