Are Energy Efficient Bulbs Unsafe?



A couple of months ago a friend of mine posted something on Facebook that shocked me. It was an article about how those energy efficient bulbs (that most of us are transitioning to) can be harmful if broken.

According to, “Once broken, a compact fluorescent light bulb [CFL] continuously releases mercury vapor into the air for weeks to months, and the total amount can exceed safe human exposure levels in a poorly ventilated room.”


According to this study, the mercury vapor levels when the CFL is broken is lower than the amount allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, it’s the lingering effect of the vapor over time that is of concern.

Safe Handling of Broken Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

The EPA recommends the following steps when cleaning up broken compact fluorescent bulbs:

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Ventilate the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outside.  
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system.
  • Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.  Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder–DO NOT VACUUM unless there are small fragments left after the cleanup process because vacuuming can spread the mercury-containing powder.
  • Place the used tape and fragments in a glass jar with a lid or a sealable plastic bag.
  • Place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.  Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors. 

What do you think? Does this change your mind about buying these types of light bulbs?

About Author

Jacqueline Wilson is Ella's mom and a homeschooler. She loves cooking and creating with her daughter. She is the co-author of 50 Shades of Frayed: Three Moms Talk About What Happens When "I Do" Becomes "Not Tonight". You can follow her on her personal Twitter account, WritRams and on Facebook as WritRams and Little Cooks Reading Books.

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