Saturday, June 02, 2007


Philips Compact Fluorescent Lamp safety FAQs (bold as in original, my highlights):
Q: Are CFLs safe?

A: The small amount of mercury sealed in a CFL does not pose a hazard to users. However, mercury is a toxic metal and every product containing mercury must be handled with care. We must dispose of used CFLs properly and clean up any broken CFL safely.

Q: How do I safely dispose of a used CFL?

A: Recycling is the best way to dispose of used CFLs. While businesses, hospitals and schools often pay a recycling company to collect spent CFLs and fluorescent tubes, many communities now have hazardous waste collection schemes to enable residents to deposit batteries, paint, motor oil, CFLs and so on. For recycling , check with your local council or government for advice.

If no recycler is able to take your CFLs, we suggest you store them in a safe place until a recycling programme is implemented in your area. Remember that the average Philips CFL lasts for around 6,000 hours, which translate to approximately three years of five and half-hours-a-day usage.

As a last resort, burnt-out CFLs could be placed inside a plastic bag, firmly sealed, and then put into your household rubbish.

Q: How do I safely clean up a broken CFL?

A: If a CFL breaks, you should open nearby windows and doors to ventilate the room. Carefully sweep up the pieces, and then use a paper towel to wipe up any remaining glass fragments.

Do not use your hands - we recommend wearing disposable plastic gloves.
Do not use a vacuum cleaner, which can trap or spread the mercury in the house.

Seal the pieces, plastic gloves and paper towel in a plastic bag for safe disposal.
Philips claims CFLs reduce mercury pollution:
  • Most mercury in the air comes from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.
  • CFLs use 80% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb, reducing the need for electricity production.
  • CFLs thus help to reduce mercury emissions, as well as carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.
I'd buy the reduced pollution claim if CFLs lasted the claimed 6,000 hours; in my experience CFLs aren't good for anywhere near 1,000 hours when used in locations where they are frequently turned on and off. The high-priced, brand name CFL spotlights in my kitchen are lasting for maybe 500 hours, at the most. This tempts me to stock up on incandescent spotlights.


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