Break a Compact Flourescent Bulb and Spend $2,000
No, really. Here is a really, really good reason NOT to buy compact flourescent bulbs (CFLs).
On that Tuesday, Bridges was installing one of the spiral-shaped light bulbs in her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Suddenly, the bulb plummeted to the floor, breaking on the shag carpet.
Bridges, who was wary of the dangers of cleaning up a fluorescent bulb, called The Home Depot where she purchased them. She was told that the bulbs had mercury in them and that she should not vacuum the area where the bulb had broken. Bridges was directed to call the Poison Control hotline.
Upon reaching the DEP the next day, the agency offered to send a specialist out to Bridges’ house to test the air levels. The specialist arrived soon after the phone conversation and began testing the downstairs, where he found safe levels of mercury — below the state’s limit of 300 ng/m3 (nanograms per cubic meter).
In the daughter’s bedroom, the levels remained well below the 300 mark, except for near the carpet where the bulb broke. There the mercury levels spiked to 1,939 ng/m3. On a bag of toys that bulb fragments had landed on, the levels of mercury were 556 ng/m3.
Bridges was told by the specialist not to clean up the bulb and mercury powder by herself. He recommended the Clean Harbors Environmental Services branch in Hampden.
Clean Harbors gave Bridges a low-ball estimate of $2,000, based on what she described, to clean up the room properly. The work entailed removing anything with levels greater than 300 ng/m3, including the carpeting.
One month later, Bridges’ daughter’s bedroom remains sealed off with plastic “to avoid any dust blowing around” and to keep the family’s pets from going in and out of the room.
So much for saving money on her energy bill. Whatever she was going to save she has spent several times over. Not only has she spent quite a bit out of pocket, but also in lost time as well,
One month later, Bridges is still searching for answers. She has contacted staff members from the offices of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to tell them about her situation but has received no response.
She has talked with representatives from the CDC and DEP and spent roughly two to three hours a day over the past several weeks, talking on the phone and in person and contacting local papers to get the word out on what she believes are dangerous light bulbs.
Let me see, if we assume it is 2 hours a day Monday through Friday for four weeks that is 40 hours or one entire work week wasted. Assuming say $15/hour that is $600 wasted in dealing with one borken CFL.
Of course, in actuality it is all a big steaming pile of Barvo Sierra.
State Toxicologist Andrew Smith said it would be unlikely that a person could contract mercury poisoning from the levels of mercury found in Bridges’ daughter’s room.
“In this situation, my understanding, was this 1,900 was the sign reading right at the spot of the floor where the bulb broke,” said Smith. “While 1,900 was certainly considered an elevated reading of mercury vapor, it was a very localized level that I would not expect to result in any sign of mercury exposure.”
Smith said mercury is only dangerous with long-term exposure and in this case the person would have to stay right at the spot of the 1,900 reading or there would have to be elevated levels of mercury vapor in the breathing zone — about 3 feet — above the spill. Mercury also dissipates over time.
The air in the bedroom at the 3-foot level measured between 31 to 49 ng/m3 of mercury, depending on the location.
Smith said a CFL light bulb breaking is not in the same category as when a mercury thermometer breaks.
Yay for the Nanny State!
Cleaning up a broken CFL bulb is actually pretty simple. Wear disposable coveralls (or old clothes that can be disposed of), protective eyewear, cloves and a dust mask, and make sure the room is well ventilated. Place the broken glass in a closed container and clean the dust with either two pieces of stiff paper, a disposable broom and dust-pan or a commerical mercury cleaning kit. Dispose of the dust, the glass and cleaning implements as “universal waste” (like a computer and flourescent blubls).
Of course it sounds like the lady in the story, Brandy Bridges, got ripped off and the Department of Environmental Protection was in large part to blame. After all, when somebody shows up from the government with a special device and tells you to get the help of a professional cleaning company that will carry lots of weight with many people.
Part of the blame, in my view, also can be placed on the environmentalists. For years the mantra has been “Mercury bad. Mercury bad. Mercury bad. Mercury bad. Mercury bad.” Now, when there is a minute amount of mercury in something that breaks in the house, get the Hazmat team in there on the double! Afterall mercury causes all sorts of horrible things and even a miniscule amount can do untold damage (not really).
Link coutesy of Debunkers.