When the Light Goes Out, It’s Toxic

by Deborah Z Mark



Have you or your employees ever broken a CFL or other fluorescent light bulb?

Did you know that broken fluorescent bulbs are highly toxic?

I had no idea.

Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury.  And new bulbs release more mercury when broken than spent bulbs.

Here are a few tips to safely handle fluorescent bulbs:

  • Put a drop cloth down before installing or removing bulbs to prevent mercury contamination of carpets
  • If a bulb breaks, open windows and make sure everyone leaves the area.  Wait 15 minutes before returning to clean up, and allow ventilation for several hours after that.
  • Wear rubber gloves during cleanup
  • Have a sealable container on hand to hold all broken glass and cleanup materials.  This will prevent additional release of toxic mercury vapors.
  • Use duct tape or packing tape to pat down the area and pick up small particles, then go over the area with a damp paper towel
  • After the container is full and sealed, label it “Universal Waste – broken lamp”
  • Put the container in an appropriate storage area for universal waste and make sure it is disposed of correctly
  • Wash your gloves, then remove and discard
  • Wash your hands and face


Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up broken fluorescent bulbs!  Vacuuming spreads mercury vapor and dust and also contaminates the vacuum cleaner.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for reasons not to vacuum.

Now that you know the above tips, you can prevent toxic mercury exposure at home and in the workplace.

And you’re no longer in the dark.

Have questions regarding workplace safety?  Call managestaff.  We’ll help.

image: winnond/freedigitalphotos.net