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Disposal of Energy Saving Bulbs may Pose Health, Environmental Risks

by VR Sreeraman on  January 7, 2008 at 2:43 PM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
Disposal of Energy Saving Bulbs may Pose Health, Environmental Risks
The next time you dispose a low-energy light bulb, be more careful because it might pose health and environmental risks.

The UK's Environment Agency has revealed that the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and has therefore said more information about safe recycling is needed.
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It has suggested that health warnings and information on how to clear up smashed bulbs in the home should be printed on packaging.

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However, a toxicologist has dismissed the risks insisting that several bulbs would have to be smashed at once to pose a danger.

"Mercury accumulates in the body - especially the brain. The biggest danger is repeated exposure - a one off exposure is not as potentially dangerous compared to working in a light bulb factory," BBC quoted Dr David Spurgeon, Environmental scientist, from the University of Nottingham, as saying.

"If you smash one bulb then that is not too much of a hazard. However, if you broke five bulbs in a small unventilated room then you might be in short term danger," he added.

Ray said that about 6-8mg of mercury is present in a typical low-energy bulb, which he described as a 'pretty small amount'.

"Because these light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury they could cause a problem if they are disposed of in a normal waste-bin," BBC quoted Dr David Spurgeon, Environmental scientist, from the University of Nottingham, as saying.

"It is possible that the mercury they contain could be released either into the air or from land-fill when they are released into the wider environment.

That's a concern, because mercury is a well known toxic substance," he added.

Adrian Harding from Environment Agency said: "More information does need to be made available by retailers, local authorities and the government to alert people to the best way of dealing with these products when they become waste."

Department of the Environment has given an official advice that if a low-energy bulb is smashed, the room needs to be vacated for at least 15 minutes.

It has suggested that a vacuum cleaner should not be used to clear up the debris, and one should not inhale the dust. Instead, rubber gloves should be used, and the broken bulb put into a sealed plastic bag - which should be taken to the local council for disposal.

Bulbs that are not broken can be taken back to the retailer if the owner is a member of the Distributor Takeback Scheme.

Or else, many local waste disposal sites now have the facilities to safely collect and dispose of old bulbs. However, this advice is not printed on the packaging that low-energy bulbs are sold in.

Source: ANI
LIN/P
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