MARKETED AND SOLD AS A WAY to be more environmentally conscious, in addition to saving money on monthly bills, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) seem to be a panacea of environmental stewardship.
There's just one pesky problem: mercury. The neurotoxin is found in the twisty bulbs and is key to their efficiency but is also causing major health concerns.
Those concerns are for real and have led retail behemoth Wal-Mart, which has a much-publicized plan to sell 100 million CFLs by 2008, to force several CFL manufacturers to re-design their bulbs to contain less mercury than the national standard. The national standard, set by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, allows for 5mg of mercury content per bulb.
When the bulbs are spent and need to be thrown away, CFLs require special treatment. An intact bulb that no longer works should not be thrown in the trash but should be recycled, the EPA says. Check www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling for links to local recycling hot spots.
If a bulb breaks, whether it has any life left or not, you will have to take some special precautions to dispose of it. Despite reports on the Internet that such situations require calling in hazardous materials specialists, the problem can be handled without outside assistance.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO DEAL WITH AND DISPOSE OF BROKEN CFLS, GO TO: WWW.ENERGYSTAR.GOV/IA/PARTNERS/PROMOTIONS/CHANGE_LIGHT/DOWNLOADS/FACT_SHEET_MERCURY.PDF.