ENERGY STAR®, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
program, helps us all save money and protect our environment
through energy efficient products and practices. For more
information, visit www.energystar.gov.
                                 Frequently Asked Questions
           Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury
                                           April 2008

Why should people use CFLs?
Switching from traditional light bulbs to CFLs is an effective, accessible change every American
can make right now to reduce energy use at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that
contribute to global climate change. Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average
home's electric bill. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than
incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, cost little up front, and provide a quick return
on investment.

If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR
qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and
prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 800,000 cars.

Do CFLs contain mercury?
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - an average of 5
milligrams - about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older
thermometers contain  about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that

Mercury currently is an essential component of CFLs and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient
light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use. Many manufacturers
have taken significant steps to reduce mercury used  in their fluorescent lighting products. In fact,
the average amount of mercury in a CFL is anticipated to drop by the end of 2007 thanks to
technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers

What precautions should I take when using  CFLs in my home?
CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing
the bulb from its packaging, installing  it, or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the lamp by its
base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket. If a CFL breaks in your
home, follow the clean-up recommendations below. Used CFLs should be disposed of properly
(see below).

What should  I do with a CFL when it burns out?
EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact
fluorescent light bulbs. EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to
expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste
agency directly, or go to www.epa.qov/bulbrecyclinq or www.earth911 .orq to identify local
recycling options.

If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs  in the garbage, seal the bulb in two plastic
bags and put it into the outside trash,  or other protected outside location, for the next normal trash
collection. CFLs should not be disposed of in an incinerator.
ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs have a warranty. If the bulb has failed within the warranty period,
look at the CFL base to find the manufacturer's name. Visit the manufacturer's web site to find the
customer service contact information to inquire about a refund or replacement.

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, EPA recommends the following clean-up and
disposal guidelines:

1. Before Clean-up: Ventilate the Room

    •    Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage
        area on their way out.
    •    Open a window and leave the  room for 15 minutes or more.
    •    Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

    •    Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them
        in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
    •    Use sticky tape, such as  duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and
    •    Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the
        glass jar or plastic bag.
    •    Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:

    •    Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a
        canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
    •    Use sticky tape, such as  duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and
    •    If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the
        bulb was broken.
    •    Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and  put the bag or vacuum debris
        in a sealed plastic bag.

4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing,  Bedding, etc.:

    •    If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass  or mercury-containing
        powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be
        discarded.  Do not wash  such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing
        may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
    •    You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury
        vapor from a broken CFL, such as the  clothing you happened to be wearing when you
        cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the
        materials from the broken bulb.
    •    If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the
        bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or
        wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials

    •    Immediately place all cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or  protected area for the
        next normal trash pickup.
    •    Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or  plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
    •    Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area.
        Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken  mercury-
        containing bulbs  be taken to a local recycling center.

6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

    •   The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning
       system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
    •   Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15
       minutes after vacuuming is completed.

What is mercury?
Mercury is an element (Hg on the periodic table) found naturally in the environment. Mercury
emissions in the air can come from both natural and man-made sources. Coal-fired power plants
are the largest man-made source because mercury that naturally exists in coal is released into
the air when coal is burned to make electricity. Coal-fired power generation accounts for roughly
40 percent of the mercury emissions in the U.S.
EPA is implementing policies to reduce airborne mercury emissions. Under regulations EPA
issued in 2005,  mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants will drop by nearly 70 percent by

The use of CFLs reduces power demand, which helps reduce mercury emissions from power

For more information on all sources of mercury, visit http://www.epa.gov/mercury
For more information about compact fluorescent bulbs, visit http://www.energystar.gov/cfls
                  EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for
                  CFLs to ensure that the Agency presents the most up-to-date information for
                  consumers and businesses.