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From the Fall 2012 Conservationist for Kids

Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Mercury

By Gina Jack

Standard fluorescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) each contain a tiny amount of mercury, about enough to fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen. As long as the bulb isn't broken, the mercury is contained. These bulbs are very energy efficient. When you consider the amount of mercury added to the atmosphere by power plants making electricity to light a CFL over its lifetime, and the amount of mercury in the bulb itself, a CFL actually uses less mercury than an incandescent bulb.

Be sure to recycle fluorescent bulbs when they stop working, or take them to a household hazardous waste collection.

If you accidently break a fluorescent bulb, leave the room and let an adult know immediately so they can clean up the spill. DO NOT try to clean it up yourself. Instructions for adults are available from DEC's CFL information page and from the New York State Department of Health's CFL handling page.

Keeping You Safe

Many government agencies work together to keep us safe from mercury, including DEC, the New York State Department of Health, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. They limit how much mercury factories and power plants are permitted to release into the environment, and work to reduce the amount of mercury added to the environment.