Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And these are SAFE?

If you're like us, you've replaced at least some of your regular lightbulbs with Compact Fluorescents -- those little curlicue bulbs are great for porch lights. We have them on our porch and in all our outside lights, because we tend to leave them on most of the time. However, I really hate fluorescent lights...they don't have the right color balance, they are never as bright, they flicker more, and they can take ages to actually give off enough light. I know they are more energy efficient, but I think I'd prefer to save energy by religiously turning off the lights when I leave a room.

But what surprised me is that CFLs are considered a "green" option for lighting (less energy use!) even though they seem to be a hazardous and toxic product. They contain small amounts of mercury (less then an old-fashioned thermometer), but with the millions being made and, eventually, much safer is it to dump thousands of these things intoa landfill?

At any rate, I never gave much thought to it until the latest Consumer Reports magazine talking about lightbulbs. In a large "SafetyWise" sidebar, they outline the procedure that you need to take should one of these bulbs break:
  • Open the windows and leave the room for at least 15 minutes.

  • For hard floors, don't vacuum or sweep the mess. Instead, wear disposable rubber gloves and use cardboard or stiff paper to scoop up the debris. Then clean the area with a damp paper towel.

  • For rugs, use sticky tape to pick up any compact fluorescent bulb fragments and powder. Then vacuum the area if necessary.

  • Place the debris and cleanup materials into a plastic bag and seal it. Put that bag into another plastic bag and seal it.

  • If your area allows it and no other disposal or recycling options exist, place compact fluorescent bulbs in the trash outside. Wash your hands.

  • After vacuuming the area for the first time, remove bag or empty and wipe bin. Put bag or debris into a plastic bag and seal it. Then put that bag into another plastic bag and seal it. Place in the trash outside. Wash your hands.
Well, that sounds like a simple and safe procedure to discard what amounts to hazardous waste! Double plastic bags, rubber gloves, much hand washing.

I have to wonder if this is simply overkill for our overly-frightened modern sensibilities, or if this is actually dangerous enough to warrant a Superfund Cleanup-type instruction set. If so, I'm glad I live upwind from the landfill site in Erie.

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