Tests conducted by the State of Maine (see FAQ and Clean-Up Instructions) confirm earlier states findings suggesting that under certain conditions mercury vapor released from a broken compact fluorescent lamp can pose a health risk. As a precaution, states like Vermont and Massachusetts are now suggesting removal of carpeting where breakage has occurred where there are infants and pregnant women present. A report MPP released today recommends that sensitive populations should take extra precautions to reduce risks associated with breakage, but says that CFLs generally can and should still be used in everyone’s homes until a nontoxic light bulb becomes available. The report also recommends the adoption of more comprehensive environmental and human health guidelines by decision makers that, in addition to energy-efficiency, address other concerns, including:
- Reduced toxicity while maintaining performance;
- Improved breakage resistance and longer lamp life (which can reduce manufacturing, transportation and disposal impacts);
- Sustainable manufacturing processes (such as the use of encapsulated mercury-dosing technologies);
- Responsible end-of-life management (particularly through producer responsibility in funding lamp collection and retailer collection programs)
- Innovative technologies such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that use less- or non-toxic materials, that have significantly longer life, are much more efficient for certain applications, and/or that offer other measurable environmental benefits.
However, according to MPP Director Bender, the EPA advice could be readily improved through following new state guidance which 1) recommends against vacuuming and 2) instead favors cleaning up the debris with cardboard and sticky tape and quickly removing it from the home, so as to 3) minimize vaporization of mercury.