Manufacturer investments in technology over the last two decades have reduced the amount of mercury used in lamps by nearly 95%. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (nema.org) has established a maximum of 5 mgs of Mercury per light bulb, but many of the latest modern have as little as 1.23 milligrams. According to the EPA, a 13 watt CFL over 8,000 hours of use could result in 1.8 mg of Mercury emissions versus 5.8 mgs for an incandescent. The CFL results inalmost three times less mercury emitted to the environment. “CFLs result in less mercury in the environment compared to traditional light bulbs“ (5) EPA adds: “Because CFLs also help to reduce greenhouse gasses, other pollutants associated with electricity production, and landfill waste (because the bulbs last longer), they are clearly the environmental winner when compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs.”
2. Dealing with broken CFLs.
If a CFL containing the maximum allowable, 5 mg of mercury, breaks in the average bedroom with a volume of about 25 cubic meters, assuming all the mercury vaporizes immediately (an unlikely occurrence), would result in an airborne mercury concentration of 0.2 mg/m3. This concentration will decrease with time, as air in the room leaves and is replaced by air from outside or from a different room, likely approaching zero after about an hour or so. This level and duration of mercury exposure is not likely to be dangerous, as it is lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard of 0.05 mg/m3 of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours. (3)