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|Mary Richwine Evans
American Capital Corporation
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Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
What You Should Know
We've all heard that using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) is one very simple thing we can do to have a big impact on the amount of energy we use. In fact, if every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.
While we at YOU Magazine support the use of energy-efficient light bulbs, we want to make sure you know some facts about them – specifically how to dispose of them once they have burned out or if they happen to break.
Most CFLs contain some elemental mercury. It is a necessary component of energy efficient light bulbs, allowing them to use up to 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs. The amount of mercury used depends on a few factors, but the average is between 3.5 and 15 milligrams. Compare that to older fever thermometers, which contain about 500 milligrams, and you see it's a relatively small amount.
No mercury is released as long as the bulbs remain intact – exposure is only possible when one has been broken. Still, there are definite precautions you should exercise when using CFLs, particularly with their disposal.
Disposing of Burned-Out Bulbs
To locate a hazardous waste collection and recycling center in your area visit the EPA's bulb recycling page or Earth911.org. Your local electric company may also have recycling information on its website.
Cleaning Up Broken Bulbs
Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room
Clean-Up for Hard Surfaces
Clean-up for Carpeting or a Rug
Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials
Disposal of Clean-up Materials
Future Cleaning of Carpeting or a Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming
Additionally, you may read about what never to do with a mercury spill on the EPA's website.
Health Effects of Mercury Exposure
Something as easy as replacing your light bulbs can make a significant difference in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by power plants, not to mention the savings you'll see on your electric bill. Just make sure you're taking the necessary steps to ensure your safety – and the environment's.
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