Light bulbs are an integral part of our everyday lives. No matter where you live or what kind of job you do, you need light bulbs in your home. There are alternatives such as candles, of course, but in the long run, they aren’t as practical as light bulbs. These bulbs do require electricity to work but once you turn them ON, you don’t have to worry about them. They are also relatively safer as they don’t have the same fire risks as candles. But are light bulbs completely safe? Like everything else, they do have small risks to using them and one of them is the presence of mercury.
Do light bulbs have mercury in them? Yes, they do but only certain types of light bulbs have mercury in them. The types of light bulbs that have mercury in them are fluorescent bulbs, high-intensity discharge bulbs and neon/argon lamps.
Before you buy any bulbs, it is important to know the benefits and risks that come with them. Here we will be exploring the fascinating world of light bulbs so that you can take a more informed decision when it comes to purchasing them.
Do Light Bulbs Have Mercury in Them?
Some of the light bulbs contain mercury and can have harmful consequences. Before we get into the different types of bulbs that have mercury in them, it is important to note that the connection between mercury and bulbs is more important. In the United States, coal is still used for a wide variety of purposes. Whenever coal is burned, it releases a certain amount of mercury into the environment.
Incandescent bulbs consume a lot more electricity and so just by using CFL bulbs, you are reducing the consumption of electricity, which in turn leads to less coal being burned. The lesser the amount of coal being burned, the lesser the amount of mercury emitted through the burning of coal.
Do note that even though incandescent bulbs don’t contain mercury but they leave a larger mercury footprint.
CFL bulbs do contain small amounts of mercury in them and so when they break, the mercury gets released into the environment. This is why you must dispose of old CFL bulbs properly.
There is a misconception that CFL bulbs have a lot of mercury in them but this is untrue. In most CFL bulbs, only 4 milligrams of mercury are present inside the glass tubing. Thermometers contain 500 milligrams of mercury and so a single thermometer contains the same amount of mercury contained in 100 CFL bulbs.
Moreover, most manufacturers are trying to reduce the amount of mercury with every new CFL bulb model that they offer.
In a worst-case scenario, there can be harmful consequences when a bulb containing mercury breaks as it gets released into the air. There have been cases where harmful concentrations of mercury were found in places where they broke accidentally. Does this mean that these bulbs are dangerous and unfit for use? Yes and no is the correct answer to this question.
On one hand, mercury is dangerous but on the other hand, it becomes dangerous only if the room has poor ventilation. So if a bulb with mercury breaks inside your home, there is no need to panic. All you have to do is ensure that children don’t go near the area until it is cleaned properly. Open the window, clean up the glass pieces and let the airflow for a few hours.
What Are Some of the Harmful Effects of Mercury?
Before we get into the harmful consequences of prolonged exposure to mercury, do note that there is no danger if a single bulb breaks in your home. The dangerous consequences mostly exist only in scenarios that require you to be in constant exposure to places where these bulbs are broken or crushed such as a recycling plant. Here are some of the harmful consequences of prolonged exposure to mercury:
- Harmful to unborn children
- Mild tremors and mood swings
- Skin irritation and allergy
- Coughing and difficulty in breathing
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
If you work with bulbs that have mercury in them and have any of the above symptoms, see your doctor immediately and get a checkup done. The best thing to do of course is prevention. Ensure that you only work in a place where you will be provided with proper gear and expected to take basic precautions.
Reducing Mercury Exposure
If several bulbs containing mercury are broken accidentally or on purpose at your workplace, then there is a right way and a wrong way of cleaning them up. The most important thing is ventilation. Make sure that all windows in the room are opened.
Never use a broom to clean the mess up as it may spread mercury around instead of getting rid of it. Instead, use a vacuum cleaner that is specifically designed to handle mercury. Normal vacuum cleaners can not only increase the circulation of mercury in the air but can also contaminate it.
Since not everyone might have the right type of vacuum cleaner, you can use a rag to wipe the area clean but do remember to wear gloves and a mask. Dispose of the rag after use. After cleaning, you must let air flow through the room for a few hours to ensure that no traces are left behind.
How to Prevent Mercury Exposure in Your Home from Light Bulbs?
The best way to prevent exposure to mercury in your home is to get LED bulbs instead of CFL bulbs. LED bulbs do not contain mercury and consume far less electricity. At the same time, they can also match the same output as far as illumination is concerned. This doesn’t mean that LED bulbs are completely safe.
Certain studies have found a high presence of lead in red LEDs, which is very dangerous. The same study also discovered that white LEDs had the least presence of lead. So even if your LED bulbs break, you must still exercise caution and wear a mask and gloves when cleaning the debris. Similar to any other types of bulbs, you should never inhale fumes from a broken bulb as it may lead to very dangerous consequences.
There is a risk to almost everything we use in our lives and it is impossible to get rid of everything. When it comes to light bulbs, the least dangerous ones are LED bulbs. They are also better in terms of energy consumption and have the least environmental impact. With technology growing at a rapid pace, we may get an even safer way to illuminate our homes but until that day comes, LED bulbs are the best option we have.