Are you properly cleaning up broken lamps

By: Justin Scace

Publication: Environmental Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 11/02/2021

Bulb breakage blues: Are you properly cleaning up broken lamps?

Universal waste lamps, including fluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), can release mercury vapor into the air when they are broken. Even so-called “green-end cap bulbs” should be approached with caution in the event of breakage, despite the fact that they contain lower amounts of mercury. Remember, any waste lamps should be treated as hazardous unless proven otherwise.

Once a lamp breaks, it is no longer considered a universal waste and must be cleaned up safely and disposed of separately as a hazardous waste in accordance with federal and state regulations. In the event of breakage, take the following steps:

  1. Have personnel leave the room and steer clear of the breakage.
  2. Shut down the central forced air HVAC system to the area, allow fresh air into the room, and air out the area for 5 to 10 minutes. When proceeding with cleanup, it is best to wear respiratory protection.
  3. Use stiff paper or cardboard to collect large glass fragments and powder, then use sticky tape to collect any remaining small debris.
  4. Wipe the area with damp paper towels or disposable wipes and place all debris and cleanup materials in a sealable plastic bag or a glass jar with a metal lid.
  5. Vacuuming may actually spread mercury powder or vapor, so do not vacuum up a broken bulb unless glass fragments remain after all other cleanup steps have been taken. If you must vacuum, remove the bag or remove the debris from the canister and seal in a plastic bag.
  6. Dispose of all cleanup materials and debris in an outdoor container or other hazardous waste area, and ensure you follow all the requirements for your hazardous waste generator category during disposal.
  7. Continue to air out the room and keep the HVAC system shut off for several hours after cleanup, and wash hands with soap and water after handling bulb debris and cleanup materials.

About the author
Justin Scace

Justin researches, writes, and edits content on a wide variety of topics concerning environmental compliance and best practices, from regulatory developments to waste management to sustainability.

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