The only time a consumer may be exposed to mercury is if the glass of the lamp is cracked or broken. If this happens, the following rules help to minimize the exposure:
- Don't panic! Remember that a fluorescent lamp contains only a very small amount of mercury.
- If the lamp was broken in a luminaire, make sure to disconnect the power to avoid the risk of electric shock.
- Since mercury distributes at ground level, children should leave the room.
- Open the windows and leave the room for at least 15 minutes. If possible, allow an air draft through the room.
- To protect yourself from cuts with glass shards, gloves should be used whenever available.
- After ventilation, gather large glass pieces in a sealed container and close it tightly.
- You should bring the container with the bulb remains to the next collection point for waste lamps. If you have to store them in the meantime, please do so outdoors, if possible.
If the lamp was broken on an even surface (tiles, parquet, linoleum, PVC, laminate):
- Collect smaller glass pieces, for example with a stiff cardboard.
- Thoroughly wipe the surface at least two times with disposable household towels.
If the breakage happened on carpet:
- It is recommended to vacuum the carpet for at least 5 minutes with open windows. Afterwards, ventilate the room for 15 minutes and repeat procedure at least two times.
- If possible, clean and air carpet outdoors (at least one day).
- Diligently wipe nozzle and immediately remove bag or thoroughly clean dust container. Leave vacuum cleaner running outdoors for at least 15 minutes.
- All used materials (gloves, pieces of cardboard, household towels, vacuum cleaner bag and dust from bagless vacuum cleaner) can be disposed of as household waste, but should immediately be taken out of the living area.
- The room should be ventilated after all lamp remains have been removed.
Remembering the following points will allow you to make an informed decision for yourself:
- Breathing in mercury vapor is the main avenue of entry into the human body.
- At room temperature, mercury is a liquid which evaporates slowly. This evaporation quickens in higher ambient temperatures. If a lamp is broken while burning, most of the mercury is already in vapor form.
- With a broken lamp, most of the mercury will cling to the fragments, and evaporate over time. Disposing of these fragments in a trash bin outside quickly keeps the mercury out of your home, while leaving them in a trash can in your kitchen is counterproductive. Equally, mercury on lamp fragments in your vacuum bag will slowly evaporate wherever the vacuum cleaner is kept and used.
- Ventilating the affected area considerably reduces measurable mercury vapor levels.
- Use quality compact fluorescent lamps by OSRAM - here you can be sure that the mercury content is well below statutory limits.
In order to ensure that our clean-up instructions are correct, OSRAM chose a scientific approach to this topic. The Environment, Health and Safety department conducted an intensive study measuring the mercury contamination in a room in which a fluorescent lamp was broken and several alternatives for cleaning up were analyzed.
A note on the methods for CFL disposals: A wide variety of guidelines can be found on the internet published by distinguished institutions, some at odds with each other. It was this confusion that led us to conduct the study mentioned above. The results of the scientific study confirmed the above described rules, which are a slightly amended version of the Energy Star Guidelines. Nevertheless, you can read these and other guidelines yourself: