Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount of
mercury equivalent in size to the tip of a ball
point pen. Although small in volume, this is still enough to pose
an exposure risk and requires special handling. When bulbs are
intact or in use no mercury is released. It is only if they are
broken that there is a risk of vapor exposure. When they break it is like a small
explosion and results in many tiny glass particles and powders
which tend to spread out over a wide area. The US Environmental
Protection Agency recommends specific clean-up and disposal
Disposing of a Broken Fluorescent Light Bulb
1. Open a window and leave the room for at least 15
minutes. Close any doors leading into the room. Do not
allow anyone else or any pets to enter the room during this
2. Remove all materials that you can, but DO NOT USE A
- Do not use your bare hands. Wear disposable
rubber gloves, if available.
- Scoop up the glass fragments and powder very carefully with a
piece of cardboard or stiff paper.
- Wipe the entire area with disposable wet wipes or moistened
- You can also use sticky tape, like duct tape, to pick up small
pieces of glass and powder.
3. Put all fragments and all clean-up materials in a plastic bag
and seal it.
- Each state has its own regulations regarding the disposal of
hazardous substances.If your state permits you to put used or
broken fluorescent bulbs in the garbage, seal everything in
two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash
bin (if no other disposal or recycling options are
- Wash your hands after disposing of the
4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken,
remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) once done
cleaning the area and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as
the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor
trash or in a protected outdoor location for normal disposal.
5. If your state does not allow you to dispose of fluorescent
bulbs in your household trash, you will need to contact your trash
collection agency or city or state health department for
information regarding hazardous waste disposal.
For more information about the use of compact fluorescent bulbs,
For more information about mercury, visit http://www.epa.gov/mercury.