Dangers of Broken Fluorescent Lights

Learn the truth about CFLs and mercury.
Learn the truth about CFLs and mercury. (Image: Compact fluorescent lightbulb image by K. Geijer from Fotolia.com)

Fluorescent bulbs of all types, including the compact fluorescent or CFL, contain mercury and other toxins (like lead). Chances are you've heard horror stories about broken fluorescent bulbs and mercury. While the truth is relatively mild, you still need to dispose of the broken bulb. Learn what to be afraid or, and what to do with the broken glass.

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A paramount danger of any type of broken light bulb, including fluorescent, is injury because of broken glass. Take care not to walk in bare feet and avoid touching broken light bulbs with your hands. Sweep the area, then go over it with a wet paper towel to pick up small shards.


Fluorescent bulbs contain the toxic chemical mercury. According to Ask the Treehugger, breaking a bulb in your house is unlikely to leech out enough mercury to harm you. However, you still want to clean up quickly.

Air Quality

Open the windows in your home if you break a light bulb. This prevents mercury vapors from remaining in your home, where you can inhale them. Leave the windows open for 30 minutes to one hour for peace of mind.


Fluorescent bulbs, even broken ones, constitute hazardous waste. Per the Environmental Protection Agency, place the shards of glass and the paper towel with glass shavings inside a sealable plastic bag. Take the bag to your nearest hazardous waste collection site.


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