Mercury & CFLs

What is mercury?

Mercury is an element found naturally in the environment. Mercury can be found in the air, soil, and water. It is found in many rocks, including coal. Mercury in the air settles into water.

Mercury cannot be created or destroyed. Mercury in its pure form is a liquid metal.

Is mercury in my home?

Mercury is contained in some products we use and in some fish we eat. Mercury is used in products because of its excellent conductivity. Most CFLs contain less than 5 mg of mercury. Fever thermometers can contain up to 1000 mg of mercury and old-style residential thermometers can contain up to 4,500 mg of mercury.

If a CFL breaks, follow these precautions for proper disposal:

What if a CFL breaks?

If a CFL bulb breaks, open a window and leave the room for at least 15 minutes, to be sure the dust has settled before you clean it up.

Use disposable gloves and gather pieces of the broken bulb with cardboard and damp paper towels. Drop the pieces into a plastic bag, seal, and place that bag into a second bag before disposing.

Do not use a broom or vacuum, which may cause further scattering. If the broken CFL fell onto a carpet or cloth, see for more detailed instructions.