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from the New Zealand National Poison Centre


What Are These Light Bulbs Made Of?

What is the risk from mercury contained in these new compact fluorescent light bulbs (energy saving light bulbs)? How should these light bulbs be properly cleaned up and disposed of?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are filled with neon or argon gas, a very small amount of mercury and coated with a fluorescent or phosphorescent powder. When activated by electricity, the gas combines with the powder to produce light visible to the human eye.

Can I Be Poisoned By The Mercury?

The amount of mercury in these bulbs is very small; about 1 to 5 mg, compared to 4 g contained in most mercury thermometers. Mercury thermometer spills require a very specific and correct clean up to prevent toxicity, which can be accessed here. The risk of poisoning from the mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs is considered much lower than mercury thermometers.

…Mercury vapor is ingestible through the lungs, it is more like uranium than ‘thermometer’ mercury.

What If The Bulb Blows Or Breaks?

If the bulb stops working (“blows”) the mercury is contained within the bulb and poses no risk to health. If the bulb breaks altogether, the greatest risk is likely to be cuts from the glass or breathing difficulties from inhaling the powder. Even if inhaled or on the skin, this amount of mercury is not expected to cause poisoning in a one-off situation.

…So how many is bad? Or too often?

How Do I Clean Up A Broken Bulb?

I’ve Cleaned It Up, Now Where Do I Dispose Of It?

You should dispose of the residue in accordance with your local council regulations.

Transition Towns Kapiti and KCDC recommendation – Any broken lightbulbs are to be taken to council or to Paraparaumu Library where they will be collected and boxed up and sent to a Lightbulb recycler in Australia. (http://ttk.org.nz/?p=78)

Letter to the Observer … ignored…

Cellphone towers … Are they as bad as CFL light bulbs?

We would like to draw your attention to this report, ignoring the ‘political’ side of this article, we think you need to research the possible/potential dangers to your children if/when a CFL light bulb breaks in your child’s bedroom/environment. The advice the government and KCDC are giving out is that if a bulb breaks in your home you are to ventilate the room for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken class, keeping CHILDREN and ‘pregnantees’ away. Well the first 15 minute ventilation will only clear (and that is questionable) the air originally ‘contaminated’ as the glass and mercury fell through it to the floor. BUT the glass and the area it landed on (your child’s bed?) is still contaminated with microscopic mercury vapor/dust, every time this area or the glass is disturbed it recontaminates the air. KCDC and the governments advice is to “place the contaminated glass in a box or bag and take it to the library or council office”. The only safe way to transport a broken bulb is in a hermetically sealed container.
Unbelievably they also recommend vacuuming up the dust, which contaminates your vacuum cleaner and spews more mercury vapor around your house for the life of the cleaner.
Mercury is accumulative and the more you ingest the more you will have in your body.
Your car will also be contaminated, as the transported broken bulb will continue emitting mercury vapor, into the closed environment you and your children are sitting in. Who can’t work that out?
This should be a concern to parents, more so than a cellphone tower that is for sure (we agree towers should not be in residential areas). Every time a broken light bulb container/bag is moved it contaminates the air, for example, then carrying it into the council office, picture the Charley Brown cartoon character Pig Pen with his cloud of dust. We are ecstatic that the council office is being contaminated, and encourage as many broken light bulbs as possible should be delivered to the fools – as they have advised us to.


We are sad you have been given incorrect information by the Government and KCDC and that you and your children are being placed in harms way.
A govt report is due out in August, yet KCDC is mad keen on getting as many of these toxic bombs as they can above the heads of our children. It is kind of like saying keep taking the thalidomide, until the report comes out in 6 months time.

NB – Gerry Brownlee has taken our advice and stopped the banning of the old bulbs. As proposed by labour and the green party.

Some snips from the American report that has ‘stimulated’ this government to take a closer look.

«Well, it was about three months after the bulb actually broke, and we had plastic down on the floor and had ventilated with windows open up there, and had moved my daughter to a different room in the house, and when almost three months later when they came back and removed the carpet, the bag where they had placed the carpet into still had readings higher than the state’s danger level.
But I just believe what the science tells me and it tells me in every piece of literature and every statistic that I’ve read that mercury is not a good thing. The mercury contained in the bulbs is completely different from the mercury our parents used to experiment with at school. That was a liquid form of mercury that has to be ingested before it really harms you, but this powder mercury is inhaled. It goes into the air and vaporizes like a gas, and you inhale it and then it’s absorbed into your lungs. It’s an accumulative metal, it just keeps building and building in your bloodstream, so the more you are exposed to it the sicker you become.»

Robert Atack
Transition Towns Peka Peka
0274 301 574

Also note insurance companies will not pay to decontaminate your house.