Dangers of compact fluos I

Precautions to take when with a damaged energy saving light bulb

If an energy saving light bulb breaks, it is necessary to open all windows and use neither a vacuum cleaner nor a broom, following the recommendations of the Institut national de santé publique du Québec in an announcement publicly released yesterday.

These light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, about a hundred times less than a mercury thermometer, but they are still toxic for the nervous system, the kidneys and the liver. Children are especially vulnerable.

When these light bulbs break, a part of the mercury immediately mixes with the ambient air. The other part can spread gradually. Even if the amount of mercury is small, breaking a light bulb leads to mercury concentrations that "largely exceed the limits of exposure allowed in the work place" in the first hour that follows the breakage.

Therefore, the first thing to do is to ventilate the room for 15 minutes and to especially avoid using a vacuum cleaner, which would only spread the contamination as well as contaminating the vacuum itself. The same principle applies for a broom. 

The debris must rather be picked up by hand (preferably with rubber gloves) and the smaller debris picked up with tape. A wet paper towel will help to remove the powder. Afterwards, put everything in a container or an airtight bag.

If the breakage occurred on a carpet, windows will have to be opened "during the subsequent cleanings with the vacuum cleaner". In all cases, it is best to "continue to aerate the room for several hours".