And the MSDS sheet sure can put the fear into you if you don’t understand dosing quantities, air volumes and circulation, and exposure.
So we were pleased to find that OSHA has actually published a quick card to protect workers and companies from bad advice and give authoritative guidance on reducing the risks from broken mercury containing fluorescent bulbs and tubes.
Safe Cleanup of Broken Fluorescent Bulbs
Notify workers and tell them to stay away from the area.
Open any windows and doors to air out the room.
Do not use a broom or vacuum cleaner unless the vacuum cleaner is specifically designed to collect mercury.
Use a commercial mercury spill kit if available, or scoop up pieces of glass and powder with stiff paper or cardboard to avoid contact with the broken glass.
Use sticky tape to pick up any remaining pieces of glass.
Wipe down hard floors with a damp paper towel.
Place all pieces of glass and cleanup materials in a sealable plastic bag or a glass jar with a lid.
Wash your hands thoroughly after cleanup.
Myself, I’d put the debris collected in a metal paint can type of container. Why put the hazardous debris in a plastic bag which will not contain the mercury vapors? Why put it in another easily breakable glass jar? Metal can is safer.
Fluorescent light bulbs save energy by producing more light for less wattage, requiring less energy and therefore less fuel burned.
However, the downside of this is the fact that these bulbs contain mercury, making disposal problematic. (When the mercury atoms are energized, they emit UV rays which cause the phosphors in the tube to glow (fluoresce)- producing visible light.)
Exposures to mercury can affect the human nervous system and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.
The point is to minimize release of vapor that may contain Mercury. Here are 5 steps for handling fluorescent ‘s under Universal Waste rules:
Used lamps should be collected and packaged so as to minimize damage;
Employees should be trained on the hazards and procedures involving these type of “universal waste;”
Used lamps may be collected and stored on site for up to one year for recycling- Check your local regulations- they may be more stringent.
Shipments must be sent to a handler of universal waste or final recycling facility;
Businesses may not otherwise dispose of, mix with other waste or ‘treat’ mercury containing lamps.
Break one- here is what the EPA says you need to do for both CFL’s and Fluorescent tubes: