I broke a CFL bulb today and just learned that I didn’t clean it up properly so now our house is contaminated and we’re all going to die. Or something like that. If you freak out about the dangers of mercury exposure, just look away. When I was a kid I had a dime-sized blob of mercury that I kept in a baby food jar and played with. For years. And look how normal I am!
I cleaned up my broken CFL bulb just like I would any other broken bulb…I handed my daughter the large pieces and she carried them to the trash can in her bare hands. Then I vacuumed up the rest. Later, I remembered the whole mercury issue with the bulbs so I Googled it and discovered that I did pretty much everything wrong.
From what I understand, here is the procedure for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb:
1. Open all your doors and windows then move your family and your pets out of the house for about a month. And for the love of God, whatever you do, DON’T use a broom, vacuum cleaner or your hands to clean up the broken bulb!
2. Without using your hands, collect the large broken pieces and place them in an air-tight lead container.
3. Without using your hands, collect the small shards with pieces of duct tape, or a slice of bread that you must remember not to eat later. Then, also without using your hands, wipe up the area with a damp paper towel to collect any white powder that came out of the bulb.
4. Without using your hands, place the small shards, the duct tape, the bread and the paper towels inside the air-tight lead container. If you accidentally touched anything with your hands, go ahead and seal up your hands in the container as well.
5. If by some miracle you managed to not touch anything, then you should thoroughly scrub your hands a la Karen Silkwood.
6. There’s probably still mercury vapor in the air so just go ahead and put your house up for sale. Or better yet, lease it out. I have the perfect property manager for you. Call me.
7. Now call the EPA to come out and pick up your air-tight lead container full of hazardous waste which might include your hands. Make sure you wear a hazmat suit when you make that call in case there are mercury vapors hiding inside your phone.
Now sit back, relax, and be satisfied with how energy efficient you are now that you’re required to use these awesome, expensive, toxic, difficult to dispose of bulbs. Yay us!
Many thanks to c|net for cluing me in.