The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) mandates the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs, and favors energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.
Sounds good—until you realize that CFL bulbs contain mercury, and mercury poses a significant cancer risk. A new study shows that CFL bulbs also emit high levels of ultraviolet radiation—specifically, UVC and UVA rays. In fact, the UV rays are so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells. Experts say the radiation could initiate cell death and cause skin cancer in its deadliest form—melanoma.
In every bulb the researchers tested, they found that the protective phosphor coating of the light bulb was cracked, allowing dangerous UV rays to escape. Healthy skin cells exposed to CFLs showed a decrease in their proliferation rate, an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, and a decrease in ability to contract collagen.
On top of that, it’s a sad fact of life that light bulbs break. How do you clean up the mercury after a bulb breaks? The EPA recommends everyone leave the room and air out the house for 10 minutes, just to get started. Don't vacuum as it will spread the mercury. Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag. Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
The Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation measured the release of mercury vapor from broken bulbs. They recorded concentrations near the bulb of up to 800 mcg/m3, which is eight times the average eight-hour occupational exposure limit allowed by OSHA (100 mcg/m3).
Even more shocking, the recommended limit for children is a mere 0.2 mcg/m3. A child exposed to a broken CFL bulb will receive eight thousand times the recommended amount of mercury vapor!
Here is a shocking video of the amount of mercury CFL bulbs release; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYmxhPlAE2o
I recommend replacing all CFL bulbs with LCD bulbs as they are much safer and can last a long time.
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Nick Jewett is the owner of Pro-Tech Home Inspection LLC and is Wisconsin State licensed and Nationally certified. Pro-Tech offers quality inspection services in the Milwaukee area.