Friday, December 30, 2011

Dim Bulbs... a.k.a.: Fear and Loathing in DC (& AC)


How to change a broken light bulb, as envisioned by Thomas A. Edison:
  1. Turn off electricity to fixture housing broken bult to prevent an inadvertent flow of electrical current into your body,
  2. Firmly grasp base of bulb with one hand and begin turning said base counter-clockwise until bulb is removed from fixture while holding fixture 'neck' with your other hand,
  3. Remove bulb, wrap broken bulb in newspaper, carefully pick up, or sweep any glass  fragments from the floor, and deposit bulb and shards into nearest trash receptacle.
  4. To install new bulb, reverse the order and direction of Step 2 and reinsert new, unbroken bulb into fixture
  5. Enjoy modern electrical convenience of 'incandescent light' in your home for pennies a day
  6. Have an icy cold amber-colored beverage to celebrate your resourcefulness!

How to change a broken light bulb, as mandated by your Democratically-led Congress, as legislated in 2007, effective January 2012: 
(You'll want to keep this simple-to-follow set of guidelines handy for when you break your FIRST CFL light bulb!) 

SOURCE:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency January 25, 2011

What to Do if a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb or Fluorescent Tube Light Bulb Breaks in Your Home

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. The broken bulb can continue to release mercury vapor until it is cleaned up and removed from the residence.

To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described below. This cleanup guidance represents the minimum actions recommended to clean up a broken CFL, and will be updated as EPA identifies more effective cleanup practices.

Before Cleanup
  • Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.
  • Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5‐10 minutes.
  • Shut off the central forced‐air heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb:
  •     Stiff paper or cardboard
  •     Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape)
  •     Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
  •     Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s)


CLEANUP AND DISPOSAL OVERVIEW
The most important steps to reduce exposure to mercury vapor from a broken bulb are:

1. Before cleanup
  •     a. Have people and pets leave the room.
  •     b. Air out the room for 5‐10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  •     c. Shut off the central forced air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
  •     d. Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb.


2. During cleanup
  •     a. Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  •     b. Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.


3. After cleanup
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.


Cleanup Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag.(NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Vacuuming of hard surfaces during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. [NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury containing powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.]
  • If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;
  • Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available; and
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.
  • Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.

Cleanup Steps for Carpeting or Rugs
  • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Vacuuming of carpeting or rugs during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. [NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercurycontaining powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.]
  • If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;
  • Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available, and
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.  Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.  Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials. 
  • Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.
Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rugs:
(Assuming you continue to live in your Mercury-laden-HAZMAT-infested home...)
  • Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming
  • The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.
  • After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.

Actions You Can Take to Prevent Broken Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Fluorescent bulbs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. To avoid breaking a bulb, follow these general practices:
  • Always switch off and allow a working CFL bulb to cool before handling.
  • Always handle CFL bulbs carefully to avoid breakage.
  • If possible, screw/unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing.
  • Gently screw in the CFL until snug. Do not over‐tighten.
  • Never forcefully twist the glass tubing.
  • Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.
  • Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.
  • Use CFL bulbs that have a glass or plastic cover over the spiral or folded glass tube, if available. These types of bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs and may be more durable if dropped.
  • Consider using a drop cloth (e.g., plastic sheet or beach towel) when changing a fluorescent light bulb in case a breakage should occur. The drop cloth will help prevent mercury contamination of nearby surfaces and can be bundled with the bulb debris for disposal.
NOTE:  This document contains information designed to be useful to the general public. This document does not impose legally binding requirements, nor does it confer legal rights, impose legal obligations, or implement any statutory or regulatory provisions. This document does not change or substitute for any statutory or regulatory provisions. This document presents technical information based on EPA’s current understanding of the potential hazards posed by breakage of mercury‐containing fluorescent lamps (light bulbs) in a typical household setting.

Finally, this is a living document and may be revised periodically without public notice. EPA welcomes comments on this document at any time and will consider those comments in any future revisions of this document.

Yes, you read the above correctly, the EPA states that regarding CFL usage: 
  • Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.
  • Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.
Roughly translated:  "Yup, don't use 'em where they 'could ever' break, or anywhere near children, unless of course, you WANT to have some kind of third eye shootin' out of the kid's forehead later in life."

And in case you're wondering, I DID go to the NY State website to read the FAQs on CFLs and the disposal thereof. 

Why?  I'm a glutton for punishment.

The 'Glut' continues.  And as for you, you might want to have one of those amber-beverages right about now, but go ahead, leave the lights off while you do it...

Answers To Common CFL Questions (NY State)
1. How do I know if my lamps are hazardous?
Because of their mercury content, most fluorescent lamps in current use are considered hazardous wastes when taken out of service for disposal. Other lamps that are commonly classified as hazardous waste due to the presence of mercury or lead include high-intensity discharge (HID), neon, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps. If you want to know for sure, you can have them analyzed by a laboratory test called the "Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP)." Most major manufacturers are now producing a line of fluorescent lamps which they claim are non-hazardous low-mercury or "green end cap" lamps. When these bulbs are taken out of service, manufacturer's data may be used to help determine if they are a hazardous waste.


2. How do I handle low-mercury fluorescent lamps?
Under Chapter 145, Laws of 2004, "Mercury-Added Consumer Products Law," even low-mercury (green end cap) lamps are subject to certain management standards. Under this law, defined Small Businesses may discard of up to fifteen low-mercury lamps per calendar month. If the non-hazardous lamps are commingled with universal waste lamps, all of the waste is regulated as universal waste. The Department strongly encourages the recycling of any lamps containing mercury.


3. Now that the Universal Waste Rule is available for hazardous waste lamps, must I use it?
No, handlers of hazardous waste lamps may choose between traditional hazardous waste regulations and Universal Waste Rule standards. However, flip-flopping between the two sets to avoid meeting requirements of one or both regulations is not allowed. For example, both management scenarios include storage time limits. Flip-flopping between regulations will not extend storage time.


4. Do hazardous waste lamps count in determining my generator category? Must hazardous waste lamps be indicated on my annual hazardous waste report?
Under traditional hazardous waste regulations, hazardous waste lamps must be counted in determining whether you are a conditionally exempt small quantity generator, a small quantity generator or a large quantity generator; they must also be reported on the generator annual report if you are required to file an annual report. Lamps managed under the Universal Waste Rule are not counted for the purpose of determining generator category, and need not be reported on your hazardous waste report. However, they are counted for regulatory fee purposes.


5. Lamp crushers - I am considering the purchase of a lamp crusher to minimize my waste volume. How is crushing of hazardous waste lamps regulated?
Lamps being managed under the Universal Waste Rule may not be crushed. If you wish to crush your lamps, you will need to manage the lamps under the traditional hazardous waste regulations. This will require that you count the weight of the lamps toward determining hazardous waste generator category, and meet applicable generator, transporter and transfer facility standards. Crushing is considered a form of hazardous waste treatment, and under ordinary hazardous waste generator regulations, hazardous waste lamps may be crushed only if the process is exempt from hazardous waste treatment regulations (6 NYCRR 373-1.1(d)(1)).

Common exemptions that might apply to crushing lamps are: on-site treatment by a conditionally exempt small quantity generator; the first step of a recycling process, if the lamps will be directed to a mercury recycler, or treatment in the tank or container in which the lamps are stored. Generators wishing to use one of the latter two exemptions should seek specific guidance from the Waste Determination & Analysis Section.

The crushed lamps are usually considered hazardous waste for mercury, and sometimes for lead, and must be handled and disposed of in accordance with normal hazardous waste requirements.

Facilities that use in-house bulb crushers should be aware of possible personnel exposures to mercury vapor. EPA has published a study of Drum Top Crushers; the report is available on the right side of this page under "Links Leaving DEC's Website".


6. Transportation - Can I put my lamps in the trash dumpster?
Lamps handled under the Universal Waste Rule cannot be put in the trash dumpster because they would not be handled in a way to minimize breakage. Generators of universal waste lamps can self-transport up to 500 lbs of lamps per shipment to an authorized universal waste handler, or treatment or disposal facility under the provisions of 6 NYCRR Part 364. Conditionally exempt, small or large quantity hazardous waste generators cannot put hazardous waste lamps in the trash dumpster.


7. Under the Universal Waste Rule, do my lamps have to be directed to a recycler?No, lamps may be directed to a treatment or disposal facility if the receiving facility is authorized to accept hazardous waste lamps. However, NYSDEC strongly recommends recycling of hazardous waste lamps to reduce the accumulation of mercury in the environment. A list of fluorescent and HID lamp recyclers is available on this website at the link given at the bottom of this page.


8. How do I get rid of waste lamps from my household?Households are exempt from the ordinary hazardous waste regulations. Lamps discarded by households are also exempt from New York State's Mercury-Added Consumer Products Law. Lamps may legally be disposed as normal household trash if allowed by the municipality, the trash collector and the disposal facility. However, households are encouraged to contact the town or county solid waste management authority to determine whether there are any household hazardous waste collection facilities or events in their community at which hazardous waste lamps are collected, or to contact local lamp recyclers to see if they accept lamps from households.


9. What do I do if I break a compact fluorescent lamp/bulb (CFL) in my home?The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy provide guidance on how the general public can clean up a broken CFL. "FAQ - Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury" (70 Kb pdf) is available for download.


Sorry for the length of this post, but it was 'touched' by governmental legislation all-over-the-place.

As for me, I've been buying Mr. Edison's bulbs in bulk over the past two years.  I'm just hoping that you stocked up too...

Happy New Year's folks, you may want to visit your local hardware store between now and midnight tomorrow.

p.s.:  The last bit of irony about this story?  CFL Manufacturing is 100% done 'offshore' due to EPA manufacturing regulations in the U.S.! 

So while we have to under penalty of law USE them here, we can't MAKE them here.  More jobs, 'created and saved', just, somewhere else, of course...
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