What to do when an energy saving light bulb or fluorescent tube breaks.
Used energy saving light bulbs and fluorescent tubes must always be delivered to the local recycling centre as hazardous waste according to local regulations. This is because they contain a small amount of mercury, which is dangerous for the environment. Part of the mercury is vapour phased and this, in combination with the remaining mercury, represents a potential health risk in the event of this type of light bulb breaking (shattering or cracking). Children and pregnant women are extra sensitive to the damaging effects of mercury. It is possible for small traces of mercury to vaporise at floor level if all traces of the light bulb are not completely removed.
In the event of an energy saving light bulb or a fluorescent tube breaking one must do the following:
• Open the window before you start to clean and leave the window open whilst cleaning and for an additional 15 minutes after cleaning.
• If it is an energy saving light bulb or fluorescent tube that has broken, leave the room and ventilate for about 30 minutes before cleaning. Close the door and leave the room while it is being aired.
• Children and pregnant women should leave the room if possible and let someone else clean it.
• Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom to collect remnants. This can spread the mercury in the room and contaminate the vacuum cleaner or broom.
• Protect your hands if possible. Use plastic or rubber gloves or, if possible, a plastic bag to protect your hands while collecting pieces of broken glass and mercury.
• Start by removing all of the large pieces. These must be collected and put in an airtight container, e.g. a jam jar. The remnants can be alternatively be collected by using a newspaper that must subsequently be placed in an airtight bag (e.g. a freezer bag).
• Small particles from the light bulb can be collected by using small pieces of cardboard (e.g. a postcard) or by using tape for removing small pieces lying in the cracks of the floor. Dry the area afterwards with wet kitchen towels/toilet paper.
• In some instances it will be necessary to use a vacuum cleaner to remove the final pieces once all of the visible remnants have been removed and the area is dry. Change the vacuum cleaner bag afterwards and if possible, clean the vacuum cleaner.
• All remnants, paper, used tape, gloves and bags must be put in a sealed, airtight container/freezer bag. Any vacuum cleaner bags must also be placed in a sealed plastic bag.
• The sealed container/bag must be placed outside and taken to the recycling centre as soon as possible.
• The container must be delivered to the recycling centre as electronic waste together with any other used energy saving light bulbs.
• Remember to air the room well for the following 14 days.
• If there are remnants from the energy saving light bulb on carpets or furniture, they should be taken out of the house if possible and aired/cleaned thoroughly.
• If it is not possible to remove all remnants, children and animals must be kept as far away as possible for the following 14 days.
It is recommended that the lamp is designed so that it protects the light bulb in places where there is a risk of a blow to the lamp, for example, where children play with pillows, balls, etc.
Halogen or LED bulbs/lamps do not contain mercury.