High Efficiency Lights

While the intentions are good I have to wonder whether or not these high efficiency bulbs are more trouble than their worth? I’m far from environmentally friendly so my statements will sound like a typically guy who thinks I’ve done my part by not burning those old tires. A couple weeks ago while at the local market I thought picking up a pack of high-efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs was a step in the right direction to becoming eco conscious. As traditional incandescent bulbs burn out I replace them with the newer “friendly” type. But are these bulbs really better for the environment? After reading the following list of steps needed to properly dispose of broken bulbs I think the short term benefits might not be worth the long term repercussions.


High Efficiency Lights - Northville Michigan Home Inspector - 1000340ze7

The EPA recommends the following steps to clean up a broken fluorescent bulb:

  • Open a window and leave the room for at least 15 minutes. This will allow the mercury vapor to dissipate and reduce the risk of inhaling dangerous fumes.
  • Using a stiff piece of paper and wearing disposable rubber gloves, scoop up the glass fragments and place them in a sealed plastic bag. Wipe the area clean with paper towels or disposable wet wipes and put them in the plastic bag. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
  • Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag and take it to a recycling center or place it in an outdoor trash can.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after disposing of the bag.
  • If the bulb breaks on a rug or carpet, use the same method mentioned above to scoop up the glass fragments. Use sticky tape to pick up the smaller pieces and powder.
  • If vacuuming is still required, wait several hours and then sweep the area. Immediately remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), then place the bag and cleanup materials into two sealed plastic bags.

I’ve also read you should throw away clothes that have come in contact with debris to prevent contamination. I’m not sure about you but the idea of throwing away my pants sounds pretty extreme and quite frankly not worth trouble of dealing with these high-efficiency bulbs. Like I said before I’m certainly not the most environmentally friendly guy so to be honest I can’t see myself taking my bag of broken bulbs to the local hardware store for proper disposal and I would bet most people wouldn’t. So what we will most likely have are environmentally friendly bulbs in our landfills with their minimal amounts of mercury adding up to a substantial amount of mercury polluting our waterways. When I use up the last two bulbs I will switch back to the traditional incandescent bulbs and ironically be the one protecting the environment.

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