Mercury Exposure Safety

Compact and tubular florescent bulbs contain the very hazardous metal mercury. Mercury is liquid at room temps but can be very easily changed from a liquid to a vapor. This vapor is odorless and colorless. Bulbs contain mostly mercury vapor but may also contain tiny amounts of liquid mercury.

Here’s some important information on mercury exposure safety.

Health Effects: The health effects of mercury mainly depend on exposure route, duration, and level of exposure. The nervous system and kidneys are the most exposed to mercury. It is also known to cause harm in unborn children. Signs of mercury poisoning include tremors, changes in mood, impaired memory, and or skin irritation and allergy. If exposed to high levels of mercury you can expect coughing, chest discomfort, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, sore gums, eye irritation, severe tremors, and changes in behavior.

Tips to prevent accidental breakage of fluorescent bulbs containing mercury: Handle bulbs carefully and store away from other workers, package bulbs in a sturdy container to prevent breakage, label containers of fluorescent bulbs.

What to do when a bulb does break?

  • Notify workers and tell them to steer clear of the area
  • Open any windows and doors to air out the room
  • Do not use broom or vacuum cleaner unless specifically designed to collect mercury
  • Use a commercial mercury spill kit if available, or scoop up pieces of glass and powder with stiff paper or cardboard to avoid contact with the broken glass
  • Wipe down floors with a damp towel
  • Place all glass pieces and cleanup material in a sealable bag
  • Wash hands thoroughly after cleanup

Disclaimer: The information and suggestions contained in these safety talks are believed to be reliable. However, the authors of the topics and the owners of this web site accept no legal responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency, or completeness of such information or suggestions contained within these topics. These guidelines do not supercede local, state, or federal regulations and must not be construed as a substitute for, or legal interpretation of, any OSHA regulations.