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Fluorescent light bulbs

What is a Fluorescent light bulb?

Fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent lights light bulbs because of the way it produces light. incandescent light bulbs create light by heating filament inside the bulb. It takes a lot of energy to heat a filament inside of a light bulb. A fluorescent light bulb uses gas that produces an invisible ultraviolet light that hits the white coating inside the fluorescent light bulb and changes it into light you can see. Because fluorescent light bulbs do not use heat to create light, they are more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs. The efficiency of fluorescent lighting owes much to low-pressure mercury photon discharges

Fluorescent light bulbs and toxic materials

Fluorescent light bulbs are filled with a gas containing low-pressure mercury vapor and argon. Sometimes fluorescent light bulbs contain krypton (Superman beware!). The inner surface of the light bulb is coated with a fluorescent coating made of varying blends of metallic and rare earth phosphor salts. Fluorescent light bulbs also contain items such as fluorine, neon, and lead powder as well as mercury.

Mercury is a heavy, silvery transition metal most commonly found in thermometers, barometers, and other scientific apparatus. Mercury is used in the electrical industry and in laboratory and medical instruments. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Elevated levels of mercury in blood can cause retardation and deformities in children. Chest pains, dyspnea, coughing, hemoptysis, interstitial pneumonitis, and in severe cases, death may follow acute inhalation exposure to mercury vapor.

In America, 1 in 6 children born every year have been exposed to mercury levels so high that they are potentially at risk for learning disabilities, motor skill impairment and short-term memory loss.

Disposing of Fluorescent light bulbs

If your community has a household hazardous waste-drop off center, or offers hazardous waste collection events, check to see if fluorescent light bulbs will be accepted. Contact your local government agency to find these locations or ask questions about recycling fluorescent light bulbs.

Many hardware stores like True Value Hardware will recycle your fluorescent light bulbs for free. Some companies will charge you a fee to get rid of your fluorescent light bulbs. The fee is usually somewhere between a quarter and seventy-five cents. You can find companies like this in the yellow pages.

What to do if a Fluorescent light bulb breaks

If your fluorescent light bulb breaks or shatters, do not use a vacuum to clean it up. Use a broom to sweep it, just be careful and wear rubber gloves so you won't cut yourself. Use the plastic gloves to collect the bigger pieces and place them in a sealed plastic bag. Use a damp towel to collect the smaller fragments, then put the towel in a sealed plastic bag. Let the room air out for a fear minutes to let the remaining mercury in the air disappear.

If your fluorescent bulb breaks on the carpet, use rubber gloves to carefully pick up the glass fragments and place them in a glass jar or in a sealed plastic bag. If you need to vacuum the remaining pieces, vacuum the area were the light broke and immediately remove the vacuum bag and put debris in a sealed plastic bag.

If your clothing comes in direct contact with broken glass containing mercury from a fluorescent light bulb, throw the clothes away immediately. Do not wash your clothes because mercury fragments may still be there and may contaminate your washing machine and sewage.

Alternatives to mercury-containing fluorescent lights

One of the most eco-friendly alternatives to mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs are LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs do not contain mercury and they are 300% more energy efficient than fluorescent lights and about 1000% more efficient than incandescent lights.

Conventional LEDs are made from a variety of inorganic semiconductor materials. They don't generate RF wavelengths that cause radio interference, or emit ultraviolet (UV) light. LEDs will not readily attract bugs and other insects

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