Mercury in low energy ...
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Mercury in low energy lamps and fluorescent lamps


Compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent lamps contain mercury. A cold, new lamp contains mercury in the form either of tiny drops of mercury, solid amalgam or mercury/iron pellets. A compact fluorescent lamp can contain up to 5 mg of mercury, while a fluorescent lamp can contain up to 10 mg.

When a lamp is lit, the temperature rises and mercury is vapourised and the lamp will finally be filled with vapour. When the lamp gets cold after use, the vapour is transformed to tiny drops and to some extent possibly also to amalgam.

If a cold lamp is broken, mercury in the form of drops is spread in the room. The drops will reasonably rapidly fall to the floor together with the broken lamp parts, for example broken glass. If a warm lamp is broken, gaseous, metallic mercury (Hg0) is spread to the air of the room.

Uptake and effects of mercury

Dermal uptake arising from drops of liquid from cold lamps is not assumed to take place to any significant extent. Exposure through the mouth may arise by polluted hands, but in this case, too, the uptake is very limited. Drops of mercury could slowly evaporate and in that way lead to certain exposure by inhalation if the very small drops are not taken care of.

No health effects are expected to arise at single exposure to mercury. But since gaseous mercury is readily taken up by inhalation and accumulated in the body, exposure to gaseous mercury should be avoided for precautionary reasons. Effects that could arise from long-term exposure to low concentrations can occur in the nervous system and the brain.

The acceptable concentration of inorganic mercury in the Swedish work environment has been decided to 30 µg/m3 for long-term exposure (8 hours per day for a long time), in accordance with the regulations (AFS 2005:17) of the Work Environment Authority. On comparison, a compact fluorescent lamp or a fluorescent lamp could contain 5,000-10,000 µg of mercury.

Recommendations when a cold lamp is broken

Collect the lamp scrap, for example using a stiff piece of paper or cardboard, and put it in a glass jar with a lid. Then dry the floor with a (small) damp cloth. Put the cloth in the glass jar, seal it and label it, for example with the text "may contain mercury from a low energy lamp". Hand in the jar to a recycling facility intended for environmentally hazardous waste.

Do not use a vacuum cleaner. There is a risk of the vacuum cleaner further vapourising the mercury drops and spreading them in the air. This will increase the inhalation risk.

Recommendations when a warm lamp is broken

Close the doors to the room where a warm lamp has broken. Ventilate the room (open windows) and leave the room. The European Lamp Companies Federation (ELC) is recommending to leave the room for 20-30 minutes. Collect the lamp scrap later, for example using a stiff piece of paper or cardboard, and clean the floor and other surfaces near the broken lamp with a (small) damp cloth. Put the lamp scrap and the cloth in a glass jar, seal it and label it for example with the text "may contain mercury from a low energy lamp". Hand in the jar to a recycling facility intended for environmentally hazardous waste.

Do not use a vacuum cleaner. There is a risk of the vacuum cleaner further vapourising the mercury drops and spreading them in the air. This will increase the inhalation risk.

Created
2011-09-02

Mercury in low energy lamps and fluorescent lamps


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