Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:55 PM
You may have answered this before, but how are we supposed to safely dispose of the new energy-efficient light bulbs? It says on the bulb to destroy according to local safety standards.
The energy-efficient bulbs, called compact fluorescent lamps, require special handling because they contain the toxic metal mercury — an element that’s essential to all fluorescent lighting.
When current passes into the bulb via electrodes, electrons mingle with the mercury-infused inert gas inside. The electrons interact with the mercury vapor, producing ultraviolet light, which strikes the white coating on the bulb and gives off visible light.
When The Informer first wrote about CFLs, in May 2007, no local mercury-disposal program existed. Today, Lake Charles residents can dispose of their fluorescent lamps at one of three city-run locations:
Green Station No. 1, 4331 East Broad St.
Green Station No. 2, on Alma Lane at the Nelson Ball Field.
Mercury Recycling Center, 1132 West 18th St.
“Only Fluorescent Lamps are accepted at Green Station No. 1 & Green Station No. 2,” reads the city’s website.
“All other items containing mercury such as: thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent lights, old alkaline batteries, chemistry sets, and vials or jars of mercury, should be brought to the Mercury Recycling Center at the Wastewater Division.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the small amount of mercury in CFLs — 5 mg or so — poses little risk to most people. But it recommends that consumers be careful when cleaning up broken bulbs.
What to do:
Open a window or door to air out the room; turn off the air conditioning or heating system.
Keep animals and people out of the room for 15 minutes.
Don disposable rubber gloves and remove as much material as you can, scooping the glass with stiff paper or cardboard or using sticky tape.
Don’t use a vacuum cleaner unless the above removal efforts fail.
Wipe down the area with a damp paper towel; put all cleanup materials in a sealable glass jar or zip-top plastic bag and put the container in the trash.
Put the glass pieces in a sealable jar or zip-top bag; take the container to a disposal site or deposit it with your household trash.
Wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Two important points noted in an EPA fact sheet:
• “Vacuuming could spread mercury containing powder or mercury vapor.”
• “Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.”
The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email firstname.lastname@example.org