How To Clean Up Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps Or Tubes

The Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency recommends the following procedure for dealing with broken compact fluorescent lamps, tubes and other mercury-containing lamps.

Whilst the Department states that short term nature of the potential exposure (particularly after effective clean-up of broken CFL material) does not constitute a significant health risk to exposed adults (including pregnant women) or children, following these simple and straightforward clean up and disposal instructions as a cautionary approach will further reduce risk:

  • Open nearby windows and doors to allow the room to ventilate for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken lamp. Do not leave on any air conditioning or heating equipment which could recirculate mercury vapours back into the room.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom on hard surfaces because this can spread the contents of the lamp and contaminate the cleaner. Instead scoop up broken material (e.g. using stiff paper or cardboard), if possible into a glass container which can be sealed with a metal lid.
  • Use disposable rubber gloves rather than bare hands.
  • Use a disposable brush to carefully sweep up the pieces.
  • Use sticky tape and/or a damp cloth to wipe up any remaining glass fragments and/or powders.
  • On carpets or fabrics, carefully remove as much glass and/or powdered material using a scoop and sticky tape; if vacuuming of the surface is needed to remove residual material, ensure that the vacuum bag is discarded or the canister is wiped thoroughly clean.
  • Dispose of cleanup equipment (i.e. gloves, brush, damp paper) and sealed containers containing pieces of the broken lamp in your outside rubbish bin – never in your recycling bin.
  • While not all of the recommended cleanup and disposal equipment described above may be available (particularly a suitably sealed glass container), it is important to emphasise that the transfer of the broken CFL and clean-up materials to an outside rubbish bin (preferably sealed) as soon as possible is the most effective way of reducing potential contamination of the indoor environment.

More information about CFLs and mercury is available in Department’s Fluorescent lamps, mercury and end-of-life management fact sheet.

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