Broken CFL’s: Safe Clean-up

Broken Compact Fluorescent Bulbs: What to do?

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) save energy and in turn reduce outdoor air pollution.

However, all fluorescent bulbs by their nature contain a small amount of mercury. Exposure to mercury should be minimized where possible to protect both your health and the health of the environment. (Click here for more information about mercury exposure and health.)

When a CFL breaks in your home, do the following to reduce exposure to mercury.

1.Remove people and pets from room

2.Open windows, avoid vacuuming, and turn off any fans, air conditioners or heating systems

3.Leave room for 15 minutes to allow any released mercury vapor to air out.

4.Get the following items:

a. Disposable gloves

b. Flashlight

c. Cardboard or stiff paper

d. Duct tape or other sticky tape

e. Damp paper towels or wet wipes

f. Heavy plastic bag (freezer bag), plastic container with sealing lid (Tupperware or Rubbermaid) or a large glass jar with screw top (canning or pickle jar)

5.Use gloves to protect hands from broken glass pick up pieces of bulb and place in a plastic bag or glass jar.

6.Use flashlight to see debris

7.Use stiff paper or cardboard to scoop up broken materials into container

8.Use duct tape to pick up small pieces of glass and powder. Continue until no visible pieces, dirt, or powder remain on surface or tape.

9.Once visibly clean, wipe with wet wipes or damp paper towels

10.Place all waste and gloves in plastic bag or glass jar and seal

11.Wash your hands with soap and water

12.Take sealed waste to proper recycling center. See:

Call center first to see if they will take the waste. If not, store sealed waste until a hazardous waste clean-out day is advertised in your area.

13.If the breakage occurred on a carpet, when all visible material is removed, you may vacuum. Leave windows open while vacuuming and remove the vacuum cleaner bag or empty/wipe container and dispose of in normal trash following vacuuming of area.

Taking these steps will help lower any mercury exposure. No adverse health effects are expected from exposure to a broken fluorescent tube when following this guidance.

What to do with an intact CFL that no longer works:

The mercury content requires that non-working bulbs be recycled.

If you have an intact CFL that no longer works, take it to your nearest participating retail outlet for recycling. (Example: Aubuchon, Home Depot, True-Value, Lowes, Reny’s, Wal-Mart) See: for over 200 locations that will take non-working intact CFLs.

Additional Resources

Efficiency Maine

Energy Star – US Department of Energy and US Environmental Protection Agency

Maine Department of Environmental Protection

US Environmental Protection Agency

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry