The majority of parents of young children will not likely wait for scientific data to be evaluated, they will simply replace CFLs in the home with LED lighting.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced new guidelines for cleaning up mercury from broken compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in the home. These guidelines are stricter than earlier cleanup procedures recommended by the EPA for broken CFLs.
The new guidelines recommend evacuating all persons and pets from the room immediately; shutting off the central air conditioner system; and then opening windows or an outside door. After allowing the room to air out for up to ten minutes through cleaning can begin. The reason for the new guidelines is EPA’s concern for mercury’s toxic effects. If mercury is not cleaned up properly, exposure can impact the body’s central nervous system.
The EPA is now recommending that CFLs not be used in lamps that can be easily knocked over such as those in play areas. Some public health officials are even recommending not using CFL’s in rooms where young children may eat, sleep or remain for extended periods of time.
Procedures recommended for cleanup are somewhat confusing and contradictive. Homeowners are advised to, “Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose.” At the same time, EPA warns, “It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury containing powder or mercury vapor.”
After a CFL has been broken over a rug or carpet, the EPA recommends shutting the AC system off for the next several times it is vacuumed, and to keep a window or door to the outside open for several hours. Homeowners are further advised to change vacuum bags after each use and to promptly place used vacuum bags, broken glass and all cleanup materials in a trash container for disposal, and to check with local or state officials about disposal requirements. Material contaminated with mercury from cleaning up a broken CFL may need to be taken to a recycling center.
Exposure to mercury from broken CFLs is not expected to be a health threat for health adults. However, the health threat for young children is another story. A report released by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) concluded; “Health risk for adults due to CFL breakage is unlikely.” In the same report the SCHER reported, “Regarding risk for children, possible exposures from oral intake of dust and hand-to-mouth contact cannot be evaluated due to lack of scientific data; therefore, no conclusions on potential risk are possible.” The majority of parents of young children will not likely be willing to wait for scientific data to be evaluated, they will simply replace CFLs in the home with another low energy alternative such as LED lighting.
A copy of the new guidance from the EPA for cleaning up broken CFL’s and a copy of the SCHER report (Opinion on Mercury in Certain Energy-saving Light Bulbs) is available for downloading at: http://lepcnews.squarespace.com/cfl-cleanup/ .
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