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Light Bulbs

With the decline of mercury used in batteries, mercury-containing lamps (MCLs) and devices (MCDs) are quickly becoming the largest sources of mercury in Florida's municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. Mercury is used in many everyday products like fluorescent lamps, thermometers, thermostats, blood pressure manometers and pleasure boat bilge pump float switches. Some of these products have an environmental benefit. For example, fluorescent lamps use less energy than traditional incandescent lamps. Unless they are recycled or otherwise disposed of properly, however, the mercury from these discarded products can contaminate the air, surface water and ground water. Mercury contamination in Florida is most evident from the fish consumption advisories due to high mercury levels in certain fish in a number of Florida lakes and in the Everglades. The Florida DEP has responded to this mercury contamination with research to better understand the problem and its causes and with environmental controls to reduce the potential for mercury to enter the environment.


image of a globe compact fluorescent lamp

Compact fluorescent lamps reduce energy consumption and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. Since these lamps contain a small amount of mercury that is necessary to produce fluorescent light, the lamps should be recycled at your county's household hazardous waste program. If a compact fluorescent lamp should accidentally break in your home, follow the cleanup guidelines listed below.

image of a spiral compact fluorescent lamp

» Press release on compact fluorescent lamps
» Guidelines for Cleaning up Broken Fluorescent Lamps
» Remediation of Indoor Airborne Mercury Released from Broken Fluorescent Lamps (June 2007).  This peer-reviewed paper models the dynamics of airborne mercury potentially released from a compact fluorescent lamp and a four foot straight fluorescent lamp in the event of breakage in a typical room in a home. When the broken lamp is cleaned up using DEP's Guidelines for Cleaning up Broken Fluorescent Lamps and a fan is used to increase ventilation through an open window, the room should have the same concentration of mercury as outdoor air and be ready for re-occupancy and normal use within 30 minutes for a broken compact fluorescent and 45 minutes for a broken four foot straight fluorescent lamp.
» Airborne Mercury in a Room from a Broken Fluorescent Lamp - An Interactive Model.  This spreadsheet model was constructed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and used to estimate the amount of time it would take for the mercury vapors from a fluorescent lamp broken in a home to clear from a typical room. See the Department's paper Remediation of Indoor Airborne Mercury Released from Broken Fluorescent Lamps (June 2007). This interactive model allows you to vary the model inputs, e.g., volume of the room, ambient air mercury concentration, fan flow rate, to evaluate different scenarios than those selected by the Department.

Last updated: November 04, 2016

Permitting and Compliance Assistance Program #850-245-8705 MS #4565


Division of Waste Management #850-245-8705 MS #4500
2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400

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