Cleaning Up Broken Fluorescent Lamps
Fluorescent and other mercury containing bulbs are gas-discharge lamps that use electricity to excite mercury vapor. The excited mercury atoms produce short-wave ultraviolet light that the causes a phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light. When a fluorescent bulb or any other mercury containing bulb breaks, it will immediately release mercury vapor into the air.
Phosphor powder can emit mercury and other toxic metals into the air if the powder is stirred up. Some mercury also adheres to the glass surface. Since the amount of mercury in a single lamp is very miniscule is not a serious health concern. Since the risks associated with the bioaccumulative affects of mercury are well documented, special care and precautions should be taken in large scale bulb replacement projects.
As long proper care is taken when cleaning up these materials there are no major risks associated with clean-up.
If a Fluorescent Bulb Breaks
Never use a vacuum cleaner to directly clean up broken bulb. The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
Assemble cleanup supplies using the following items:
• Rubber, nitrile, or vinyl gloves.
• Safety glasses.
• Broom, cardboard or playing cards
• Duct tape or other heavy duty tape.
• Wet wipes, paper towel, or a damp cloth
• Plastic container with lid or heavy duty zip-lock bags.
Ventilate the area by closing interior doors and opening exterior doors or windows for at least 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes has passed, carefully remove all materials you can:
1. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available. Carefully sweep/scoop up the fragments and the phosphorus (white) powder with broom/stiff paper or cardboard.
2. Use wide tape (duct tape) to pick up additional small glass pieces and white powder.
3. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
4. Place all parts of the broken fluorescent bulb, towels and tape in a clear plastic bag -
double-bag if necessary. Seal the bag.
5. Wash your hands afterwards.
If the bulb has broken on a carpet or rug, complete the above steps and then
1. Take rug outside, shake and air for as long as possible.
2. The first time the area is vacuumed, ventilate (as above) and remove the vacuum bag/contents immediately and seal in a plastic bag. If the vacuum is a canister vacuum, wipe the vacuum with wet wipe and seal with a plastic bag.
3. After vacuuming, keep the exterior window/door open for at least an hour.