I learned in trade school a while back that if a fluorescent tube shattered to stand back and let the 'gas' dissipate and not to breathe it in. Can anybody shed some 'light' on this(pun intended)? Is inhaling the gas of a shattered fluorscent tube that dangerous?
[This message has been edited by Sandro (edited 11-28-2002).]
IMHO, the dangerous item in a fluorescent bulb, is the MERCURY. You do not want to inhale or touch that. The phosphorus powder also cannot be a good thing to sniff, but I am not certain of the severity of inhaling it. Getting a cut from the glass has resulted in a nasty infection a few times also. BTW, here in NJ, we have to recycle fluorescent tubes, in any quantity over 30 bulbs. It's not strictly enforced, but it's "on the books". Puting them in the trash is not a good thing. John
The phosphor, or powder inside the fluorescent lamp, is not toxic. The question of toxicity in the phosphors used in fluorescent lamps was eliminated over 50 years ago when the industry moved to nontoxic rare earth and halo phosphors in all fluorescent lamps.
Fluorescent lamps contain mercury. Mercury at atmospheric pressure is a silver colored liquid that tends to form balls. Mercury is a hazardous substance. When one lamp is broken, the best thing to do is to wear chemical resistant glove to clean it up. The gloves can be vinyl, rubber, PVC, or neoprene. The gloves you buy in the supermarket for household cleaning are sufficient. The gloves protect your skin from absorbing mercury and from getting cut by the glass. The remains of one lamp can be disposed as normal waste since the amount of mercury small. However, for future reference, when large quantities of lamps are being disposed you must follow your state and the federal regulation for disposing of mercury containing lamps.
However, if you are disposing many fluorescent lamps you should know that because they contain mercury they are classified as hazardous waste unless 1) you, as the end user, generate less than 100kg of hazardous waste per month (approx. 360 4' T12 lamps) or 2) The lamps pass the EPA Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) Test. If the lamps meet these criteria and the state's regulation on TCLP is not stricter than the EPA's regulation, the lamps can be disposed in the same way as normal waste. However, if the lamps do not meet the criteria to be classified as normal waste, they will need to be either recycled by a lamp recycler or disposed under the hazardous waste guidelines of your state.
Any commercial or industrial user in Maine must recycle tubes which are known as Universal waste. All(the ones I know anyway) electricians have taken and been certified in a class given by Fluorescent tube distributers. Stores, Banks, offices etc. have to have a storage area for used tubes that is locked and only accessible by certified personnel. State DEP has been around doing spot checks. All Tube changers have to have a mercury spill kit for possible broken tubes, I keep one in my truck at all times. Broken tubes have caused mercury contamination in schools to the point of evacuation!!!!. Right now the cost for me to recycle is around 12 cents a foot, which of course I mark up and charge back to customer. My shop is full of the GD things right now, must get to WESCO. Also Metal Halide, Mercury vapor and other high pressure bulbs are included in Universal waste and must be recycled.
The kicker in Maine is all residential folks can just throw tubes into the waste