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  • How Many Hazmat Suits Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

    Lest anyone tell you that the phase-out of (non-toxic) incandescent light bulbs will be hassle-free (other than hugely expensive), herewith is the directive from the Environmental Protection Agency for ridding your home of toxic vapor in the event you or a loved one (or relative) breaks the mercury-laden compact fluorescent (CFL) pushed by the government as superior:

    • Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.
    • Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.
    • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system (H&AC), if you have one.
    • Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb: 1) Stiff paper or cardboard; 2) Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape); 3)Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); 4) Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s)
    • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)
    • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
    • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
    • Vacuuming of hard surfaces during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. (NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury containing powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.) If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind: 1) Keep a window or door to the outdoors open; 2) Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available; and 3) Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.
    • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.
    • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.
    • Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.
    • The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.
    • After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.

    To avoid breaking a bulb, follow these general practices:

    • Always switch off and allow a working CFL bulb to cool before handling.
    • Always handle CFL bulbs carefully to avoid breakage: 1) If possible, screw/unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing; 2) Gently screw in the CFL until snug. Do not over-tighten; 3)Never forcefully twist the glass tubing.
    • Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.
    • Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.
    • Use CFL bulbs that have a glass or plastic cover over the spiral or folded glass tube, if available. These types of bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs and may be more durable if dropped.
    • Consider using a drop cloth (e.g., plastic sheet or beach towel) when changing a fluorescent light bulb in case a breakage should occur. The drop cloth will help prevent mercury contamination of nearby surfaces and can be bundled with the bulb debris for disposal.

    There’s a much simpler remedy, of course: Repeal the phase-out of Thomas Edison’s gift to mankind.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    32 Responses to How Many Hazmat Suits Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

    1. Chris, N. Virginia says:

      I especially note the admonition to not use CFLs in children's playspaces, where one presumes the bulbs might risk being broken.

      So….our Nanny State Bureaucrats' solution to the lighting situation is….????

      * Individual night vision devices provided (nay, required!) for each child (group discounts available from authorized U.S. military surplus vendors, I'm sure).

      * A second option is supplying infrared vision devices for each child, per the above guidelines

      * Spray paint all surfaces, furniture, and the kiddos themselves with glow-in-the-dark paint

      * Government mandate that henceforth the only legal children's playspaces shall be those that are adequately lit by plenty of windows or otherwise illuminated by the aforementioned options

      * Ultimately, eliminate all non-government-building children's placespaces, requiring that all children's play shall only occur in CFL-lit government facilities under certified government supervision — all for the good of the children, of course (dim bulbs under dim bulbs trying to raise another generation of dim bulbs)

      Ah yes, I can see it all now (well, I could if I still had Underground Black Market access to incandescent bulbs!).

    2. LibertyAtStake, Alex says:

      Just consider the limitless possibilities for the trial law profession.

      "Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive"

    3. George (Oldguy), Wes says:

      Where is the constitutional authority for mandating use of these hazardous bulbs?

      They also recommend not using them where they can be easily broken. What is the alternative? They are banning incandescent bulbs!

    4. George (Oldguy), Wes says:

      OOPS! Correct my previous feed to 'cannot be easily broken.!

    5. CB Lapp, Michigan says:

      Regarding the suggestion: "Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces." what type of bulb do they suggest, since incandescents will no longer be available? Indoor LED lights are few and far between where I live, and the outdoor bulbs cost around $30 each. Halogens won't work in these lamps and throw enough heat to raise my AC bill. I'm running out of bulb types quickly. Any ideas, EPA?

    6. Rob CA says:

      Can you even imagine the chaos in the aftermath of an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane etc. – especially in a home or any business that stocks and sells these government mandated, environmentally dangerous bulbs.

    7. Rob CA says:

      Imagine the chaos after an earthquake etc. in a home or business that stocks & sells these government mandated, environmentally dangerous bulbs.

    8. George Colgrove, VA says:

      This is classic federal government. It is bad enough they are plagued by their own inefficiencies and ineptitude, but they now want to impose that on the rest of us. Since these are regulations, what happens when a household fails to do any of the steps mentioned – can the feds come after you?

    9. Leslie, MI says:

      This is one of the first things Republicans should undo – this banning of the CHEAP, SAFE incandescent bulb.

    10. Ace Sez Bishop, Cali says:

      This article sure points up the ineptitude of the elected officials over-reaching their Constitutional bounderies–is their anything that politicians can do right?

      They keep making the case that Osambo's regime is the worst ever in our history–so far there isn't one positive thing that Osambo has done for the good of the American lifestyle.

      The Nation is on a very slippery slope !!

    11. Cheryl Veazey, Linwo says:


    12. Phil, Pearland, Texa says:

      Maybe we should all just take a deep breath and go find camping lanterns and coal oil.

    13. De Vine Richland, WA says:

      I've been complaining about this to friends…some day the Gov't will decide the hazard of mercury in the bulbs out-weighs the "benefits". NOBODY LISTENS. I'll keep my 'old-fashioned' ones as long as possible.

      Any one out there get the idea Gov't is reaching TOO FAR into our private lives and choices?

    14. Tim AZ says:

      I suppose people could mail there old CFL's to Capitol Hill just like they did tea bags years ago in protest.

    15. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      The whole Shadow Government is all about Make Work, fake work and massive waste. Ask me, shut down the Administration and its Dictatorial Agencies? We would all be so much better off! Imagine how life is going to be with hundreds of thousands of crazy wasteful Regulations like this, with teeth in them? (You think they don't prosecute? They will. There are billions contemplated in Fine money!) Have you noticed all those million dollar penalties! Consumers are going to pay for them all! That means poor working people will pay more for everything! Real Americans are suffering right now from really crazy, stupid stuff!

      There is a pattern here. Remember all those "shovel ready" highway jobs? Mostly it was six or seven men with signs, doing things like directing traffic that never needed directing before. In Durango we have Five Bridges to Nowhere! Count 'em, Five! And it was hilarious! The Stimulus 'value added' was a ten thousand dollar sign they put up lying, "Your Stimulus Dollars At Work!" Absolute waste! But that is what these Progressive Programs are all about. Even Head Start doesn't work anymore. It turns out it is better for the Children to spend that time with their Parents! Who could imagine! Such heartfelt waste, so popular (after we waste millions on Saturation Advertising!) and so devastating!

    16. Rob says:

      Or you can buy the newer LED lights, which have no hazmat issues, and are more efficient. The 60 Watt-equivalent bulbs are rolling out now to major home improvement chains, and do offer a reasonable cost savings over time, when factoring in the cost of the bulb and cost of energy used. As with most items, the price will continue to drop as more people buy them.

      Why the phase-out of the standard incandescent bulb? Perhaps because most of the electricity put into the bulb is converted to heat, not light. This is how Easy-Bake Ovens work. Replacing incandescent bulbs with something more efficient uses the Walmart model — many little changes (purchases) produce a large result (profit).

      One more thing — aren't the cleanup rules for CFLs similar to standard fluorescent bulbs used in offices?

    17. Dan Meahl, Hudson Fl says:

      What if I carefully packed a CFL bulb in a USPS priority mailer and sent it to the EPA in Washington, DC and at the destination office it was opened and found the bulb to be broken, would I be arrested, tried, found guilty and sent to prison for sending a hazaradous material to a government agency???

    18. DS, LA says:

      Seriously? Everyone here is up in arms about this? CFL's are not your only choice for alternative bulbs, they are simply whats available NOW in stores. As outlets follow suit on this legislation that freakin reduces the amount of power we are consuming as a nation, stressing our own power plants, they will bring in an array of new alternatives, so no more griping about "Well they dont carry LED's locally here" or all that other jazz.

      But right, who wants government mandating things like the national use of energy, or even how we get from town to town! they need to fud off you all say

      Wake up this afternoon and read, states were doing it before the feds, the rest of the freaggin world was doing it before our national government

    19. Carol Boston says:

      Another example of government run amuck! I – for one – will stock pile incandescent bulbs until this MORONIC legislation is repealed…..anyone with doubts about the urgency and need to repeal the healthcare bill…just reread the govenments 15 point clean up plan, ridiculous suggestions regarding light bulbs and now think of what they have done to healthcare. FRIGHTENING!

    20. Wildcat from Dallast says:

      Other than repealing this dumb-ass phase out of good old reliable working technology I do agree that we should mail the old (as well as old and broken) CFL bulbs to Capitol Hill [let's include the White House], as Tim AZ wrote, but include simple to understand instructions where they should insert them!

      Following that, how about having a "claw back" out of GE's business for all the money they got from producing and selling these apathetic excuses for safe incandescent bulbs like the court is doing with the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme to repay those duped investors.

      After all that, how about incentivizing developing, producing and selling LED light bulbs to replace the idiotic CFL ones in those cases where an LED light will work. Of course we would have to exclude GE from participating in this venture as they already are the beneficiary of our tax dollars without returning the benefit to the American people.

    21. Bobbie says:

      Wonder how much man-made global warming was caused in the making of hazmat gear? Obvious of authority to mandate a poisonous light bulb for their profit yet no concern regarding the safety or hazards. We will not put my family in death's way. We'll have to go without.

    22. Mike from Colorado says:

      I don't think people need to be worried very much about the amount of mercury in the florescent bulbs. It seems that use of more efferent bulbs may actually reduce the amount of mercury in the air, especially for those of us who live near coal fired power plants.

      Information from energy star seems to back this up: http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/

      They DO seem to have the same cleanup requirements… in the document.

      Incandescent bulbs would probably go away due to economic consideration eventually. I don't know why it needs to be regulated.

    23. Michael, Morgantown, says:

      First… the fluorescent tubes you have over your sink or in your basement have up to twenty times more mercury in them.

      Second… assuming your electricity is generated by coal, you can break every single CFL when it burns out, and you'll STILL end up putting less mercury into the atmosphere than you would using traditional incandescent bulbs. – http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/reviews/news

      Stop whining about progress.

    24. Spiritof76, NH says:

      What you left out is that EACH CFL bulb contains 3mg. of mercury. That is 20 times the maximum allowed by the FDA in a can of tuna for consumption. Imagine that an average house contains at least 20 bulbs. There is enough mercury there to declare the area a pollution site and a housing development could become a toxic superfund site! This insanity is an exmple of command and control government. In USSR, they used command and control on every item of daily living with the same effciency that they would have overabundance of shoes while shelves are bare of bread. We need to rid of our bloated government. Let us defund all the agencies, Dept. of Energy and the Department of Education and cut the deficit at the same time.

    25. Wes in cincy says:

      These type of light bulbs are highly overrated. They burn out too quickly.

      We replaced the chandeleers in our church and put in 90 of these new bulbs.

      They were supposed to be 5 year bulbs. That was 2 years ago and we have already replaced 10 and we only use the bulbs 2 days a week. Now they are admitting that there is a problem with the bulbs burning out too quickly.

      So now we are stuck with the situation that if our church should be vandalized

      and a lot of these bulbs get broken, the EPA would would shut us down for

      months and make us spend a fortune cleaning the place up. Can anyone see

      a huge black market for light bulbs in our future. Of course we could maybe

      apply for a waiver from all these regulations and ideas coming out of D.C.

    26. Jack Frost says:

      It's funny. There is about 5 milligrams of mercury in 1 CFL. U.S. coal fired power plants released 50.7 metric tons of mercury into the atmosphere in 2006 alone, or the equivalent of 10,140,000,000 CFLs.

      What are we supposed to be concerned about again?

    27. Bobbie says:

      Jack Frost- Poor lighting and the fact of a waste you have to have the light on for a period of time before it's worth. That is impractical when you might only need the light on for a second. Keep them where they're practical. Business, schools, where energy is needed at a consistent period of time. It's impractical in every light socket of a residence, What else to complain about? The cost and the quality. Finding out more and more products contain mercury, builds concern. A flourescent light bulb breaking will scatter the mercury so chances of getting it all will call in the government run hazmat team. Don't force a light bulb on us.

    28. Robert Paul says:

      Don't be fooled by the advertising. After six years of using CFL's, I'm sure of at least one thing: their lifespan, regardless of the manufacturer, is about three years, not six or nine. In fact, I have some incandescents in the same fixtures that have outlived the CFL's.

    29. Angel says:

      So how exactly are we supposed to dispose of these light bulbs when they burn out?

      Scenario: I put it into my trash bag then out for the trash man, they pick up the trash and put it into the back of their garbage truck. The garbage truck back closes and compacts all the trash. Then it is dumped into a landfill. Are we to assume that they do not get broken in this process.

    30. Amy says:

      My recommendation is definitely to go for LED's. They are harmless, give off brighter light, turn on instantly (instead of taking 10 minutes to reach full lighting capacity – *cough* CFL's *cough), and reportedly last as much as ten times as long as CFL's. Yes, they are significantly more expensive initially, but pay themselves off in their lack of energy consumption and maintenance fees.

    31. Dan in Maine says:

      So, the EPA wants to ban the incandescent light bulb, and they give us this set of instructions, which at the end they tell us not to use CFLs in areas where they are more likely to be broken. question 1: Exactly what kind of bulb is the average homeowner supposed to use in these situations? answer: incandescent.

      question 2: Is my neighbors dog smarter than the EPA? answer: you betcha.

      Seriously, I've been using CFLs in part of my home for over a year, and experience shows that the available light output declines as the CFL gets older, they take a while to warm up to max brighness when cold, and they can cause electromagnetic interference with some of my electronics. Aside form the fact that they supposedly use less electricity I see absolutely no reason to get rid of my Edison relics and have no intention of doing so. Government ban or not.

    32. Bill, Reality says:

      @Jack Frost:

      Wow, failure of reasoning there. Which would you be more concerned about: an ounce of strychnine in your coffee, or an ounce in the ocean? All of mankind's atmospheric mercury contribution comes in and just under half of the total atmospheric mercury content. Yes, Virginia there was Hg in the air before man. Regarding immediate exposure: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3575038 is but the first case reported and confirmed – and it dates back to the 80's.

      Mercury is incredibly harmful, so much so the EPA has forced it *out* of everywhere they can, at the behest of self-proclaimed environmentalists (not saying that's always a bad thing -mercury is incredibly dangerous). In some cases this is a bad thing as it was the better option for some uses. Yet because CFLs suit the control agenda, Mercury is to be praised and *mandated* to be used in the home.

      Aside from the sheer lunacy of the government picking winners and losers in technology, the mandate to put mercury and worse, Mercury vapor into the home is insanity. You can bet the EPA would have banned any incandescent bulb that had mercury in it over the last 30 years.

      As far as CLF being "better". Uhh no. The test done to indicate that are in tightly controlled conditions. These conditions do not reflect Reality. Power supply fluctuations kill CFLs far faster than incandescent. Short on durations likewise. I've run tests over a decade on CFLs, FLs, and incandescents. The result?

      Incandescents in various usage patterns consistently outperform CFLs and FLs. Older FLs always outperform CFLs or new FLs. I've had old FLs last for over a decade, and have yet to have a new one or a CFL last more than a year. Meanwhile most of my incandescents last at least a year, some several. The places I have incandescents die quickly are places CFLs die even quicker.

      The most significant piece IMO is usage patterns and the fact that the newer FL bulbs do not last like the older ones. With the mercury content being lower, the obvious first choice culprit would be that mercury provides a stabilizing factor. Thus it is a reasonable hypothesis that if we continue to decrease Hg content, we will see even shorter lifespan.

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