Mercury Poisoning (cont.)
In this Article
- Mercury introduction
- General information about mercury and mercury exposure
- What are the health effects and symptoms of mercury exposure or poisoning?
- What about mercury in batteries?
- What about mercury in dental amalgam?
- What about mercury in fish?
- What about mercury in fluorescent light bulbs?
- What about thimerosal in vaccines?
- What about mercury in thermometers for fever?
- What about mercury in recycling and waste disposal?
- How are mercury spills cleaned up?
- What are more mercury-containing products?
- How can I find out about mercury exposure where I live?
What about mercury in fluorescent light bulbs
A fluorescent light bulb (also referred to as a "lamp") is a gas-discharge bulb that uses electricity to excite mercury vapor. The excited mercury atoms produce short-wave ultraviolet light that causes a phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light. Mercury is an essential component of all fluorescent light bulbs, and allows these bulbs to be energy-efficient light sources.
Types of Fluorescent Bulbs
Tube: The standard straight "linear" tube comes in a variety of diameters and lengths. For example:
- The T-4 is ½ inch in diameter and often used under kitchen cabinets.
- The T-8 is 1 inch in diameter and the T-12 is 1½ inches in diameter.
- Variations include the "U-tube" bent in half to form a U-shape, and the "circline" tube bent into a circle.
- The larger-diameter tube fluorescents are used in ceiling light fixtures.
Compact fluorescent light (CFL): This is a short bulb made of a tube about the diameter of a pencil that has been either folded or twisted, resulting in an overall size that rivals a standard incandescent light bulb. Since the CFL fits into a standard light socket, the bulb and fixture design possibilities are vastly increased over that of a fluorescent tube. CFLs are now available in a variety of shapes, including spiral (twisted), short tube (folded over) and globe. A globe CFL is either round or A-shaped glass that contains within it a spiral or folded tube.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
EPA encourages Americans to use compact fluorescent lights in order to save energy. Switching from traditional incandescent bulbs to CFLs is an effective, simple change everyone can make right now to help use less electricity at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change.
Learn about CFLs – General information on Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), where to use CFLs in a home, and how to choose the right type of CFL bulb.
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (not broken) or in use, but CFLs can break and release mercury vapor if dropped or roughly handled. EPA encourages consumers to handle and use CFLs safely. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it, or replacing it. More information is provided in the Energy Star fact sheet: CFLs and Mercury (PDF).
If a CFL breaks in your home, please follow EPA's recommended steps to carefully clean up and dispose of broken bulbs. These recommendations will help to minimize any exposure to released mercury vapor.
EPA encourages the recycling of burned out fluorescent bulbs rather than disposing of them in regular household trash. Recycling of burned out CFLs is one of the best ways to help prevent the release of mercury to the environment by keeping mercury out of landfills and incinerators. Recycling of these bulbs also allows the reuse of the glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights.
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