Dangers With CFL Bulbs


Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) provide energy savings as well as light. According to the University of Florida website, compact fluorescents use a quarter of the energy of incandescents and can last up to 10 times longer. These benefits do not come without risks. CFL bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury, a deadly poison. Many of these bulbs have a spiral-tube construction, which means a larger surface area of glass that can break. Compact fluorescents also must be installed in ventilated (open) fixtures or they will quickly overheat.


  • The interior of a CFL is lined with trace amounts of mercury which is a deadly poison, but improves electrical conductivity. Even a trace amount of mercury in the home environment is dangerous, especially for pregnant women and small children. When a CFL bulb breaks, mercury can be released into the air as a fine dust that must be cleaned up with gloves and duct tape, while wearing a dust mask. Broken CFLs cannot be thrown into the regular trash or recycling bins. Place shards, gloves and cleaning tools into a glass jar seal it, and contact your local government for instructions on how to dispose of hazardous materials.

Overheating and Fire Danger

  • CFL bulbs run at a cooler temperature than incandescent lights, but can easily overheat and fail. They can't be used with dimmer switches, either. Use CFLs only in open-style fixtures, not in enclosed ceiling or globe fixtures. CFL bulbs also contain small electronics that can fail and start fires. Also, if a fire starts in your home for a different reason, bear in mind that you will have many burst bulbs containing mercury to clean up, in addition to everything else.

Environmental Dangers

  • Trace amounts of mercury add up over time. With millions of people using and eventually disposing of CFL bulbs, the mercury in the environment will increase. Even if you remove a broken CFL properly from your home, you cannot control what happens to it at a landfill, where it will most likely be crushed, leaching mercury into the soil and ground water.

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