A new study has found levels of toxic vapour around smashed eco-bulbs were up to twenty times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area and that they persisted at floor level for up to 5 hours. Not good news, especially if you have little people in the house.
The study for Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, tested two CFLs (compact flourescent lightbulbs, the most common form of bulb now), one containing 2 mg of mercury and the other 5 mg. Scientists at Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute found they released around 7 mcg per cubicmetre of air. The official guideline limit is 0.35 mcg.
Worryingly, the high mercury levels were found at floor level up to five hours after the bulbs broke.
The Health Protection Agency advises people to ventilate a room where a fluorescent light has smashed and evacuate it for 15 mins ( I would say for far longer especially in view of the 5 hour thing!). Householders should wear protective gloves while wiping the area of the break with a damp cloth. The cloth and glass fragments should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed.
Federal Environmental Agency president Jochen Flasbarth said “The presence of mercury is the downside to energy-saving lamps. We need a lamp technology that can prevent mercury pollution soon. The positive and necessary energy savings of up to 80% must go hand in hand with a safe product that poses no risk to health.” Well, we could have told him that before they were forced on us!
Medical charities also say fluorescent lights can trigger fits, migraines and rashes. They have called for an opt-out for vulnerable people. That’s all of us then….
UK Government advice is that CFLs pose no risk. My advice? Stock up on sealable bags, cloths and masks. What a joke!