Broken Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Special precautions must be used to cleanup a broken
When a fluorescent lamp is broken, the mercury released can contaminate
the air, surfaces, skin, and the environment. All broken fluorescent
bulbs must be collected as hazardous
waste per Vermont's Universal Waste Management Standard.
This includes fluorescent lamps (even the “green”
cap or low mercury type), compact fluorescent lamps, ultra-violet
lamps, black light tubes, neon lights and HID bulbs.
Broken bulbs can also cause a laceration due to the broken
glass tube. A hot broken bulb can present a burn
injury. An exposed
bulb filament can present a shock hazard if handled while power remains
applied to the fixture. If
lamps are broken, care must be taken to minimize exposure to the dust
and broken glass.
Proper Disposal at UVM
If a fluorescent light bulb breaks, do
not use a vacuum cleaner! Ventilate the area by closing
interior doors and opening exterior doors or windows for at least 15
After 15 minutes has passed, carefully remove all materials you can:
If the bulb has broken on a carpet or rug, complete the
above steps and then:
- Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available. Carefully
scoop up the fragments and the mercury (white) powder with stiff paper
- Use wide tape (duct tape) to pick up additional small glass
pieces and white powder.
- Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable
- Place all parts of the broken fluorescent bulb, towels and
tape in a clear plastic bag - Double-bag if necessary. Seal the
- Wash your hands afterwards.
Seal all debris, wipes and gloves in a bag and place the
bag outside of
the living area in an area inaccessible to children or animals.
Environmental Safety firstname.lastname@example.org
or off-campus, contact Chittenden Solid Waste District http://www.cswd.net to
dispose of the "bagged debris"
as well as boxed-up burned-out light bulbs from UVM residence halls and
- Take rug outside, shake and air for as long as
- If carpeted, contact Physical Plant (on campus only) to
removing that section of carpet (especially in areas frequented by
children, infants or pregnant women).
- The first time the area is vacuumed, ventilate (as above)
the vacuum bag/contents immediately and seal in a plastic bag. Wipe the
vacuum with wet wipe.
- After vacuuming, keep the exterior window/door open as long
For more information, the Vermont Departments of Health and
Environmental Conservation have published fact sheets at http://www.mercvt.org
or call the VT Department of Health at 1-800-439-8550. [*The above
guidance is taken from “Fact Sheet: Compact Fluorescent Light
Bulbs” by Vermont Departments of Health and Environmental
UVM sends broken fluorescent lightbulbs to Complete Recycling
Solutions, LLC in Fall River, MA. CRS offers a recycling
technology which separates mercury containing lamps into their main
components, recovers the mercury, and recycles 100 percent of the end
[Return to Recycling
& Waste Disposal Guide]