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Are CFL Light Bulbs Safe? The real story from ABC. May 21, 2010

Posted by Dr. Z Bulbs in compact fluorescent.
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Zoinks Here is a great article on the CFL’s and how to responsible use one of these little buggers! This article is taken from ABC byJohn Matarese.

https://www.zbulbs.com/

CFL Light Bulb Risks Last Update: 5/20 7:03 pm If you’re like most people, you now have at least one or two of those squiggly Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs in your home. And you may be buying more soon. Like it or not, the government is pushing us to purchase more and more CFL’s –compact fluorescent lights — because they save energy. But do they come with extra risks the stores and government don’t want us to know about? Some homeowners are wondering: Could be also be inviting a risk of explosions, fire, and even mercury poisoning? Bulb explodes without warning Tom and Nancy Heim were watching TV recently, when Tom decided to turn on the floor lamp next to his recliner chair. “I heard this loud pop…I saw what I thought was smoke, coming out o the top of the floor lamp,” says Tom. Nancy suddenly found glass in her lap. She says, “I did not see it. I just heard it, and I noticed i had glass on me.” Their concern. The bulb could have started a fire or exposed them to dangerous mercury vapor. Risk of explosion or fire So we checked with the U.S. EPA, and found found some reassuring news. The EPA says its records show the risk of a bulb exploding is extremely rare. And in most cases it has investigated, the bulb had been damaged at some point, such as having been dropped on the floor. According to the EPA, it’s almost impossible for a CFL bulb to start a fire, as all UL approved bulbs have a safety shutoff fuse in the base. If the glass breaks, the fuse cuts out, and there no more current goes into the bulb.

Is there a  risk of mercury poisoning?

But what about the mercury vapor they may have breathed?

Last year, we asked Dr. Kim Dietrich, an Environmental Engineering Professor, to break and test a CFL bulb for mercury. Research Assistant Professor Joo-Youp Lee shattered a bulb inside a sealed bag…then put the bag on a mercury vapor analyzer.

No question, he says, the bulb contained a measurable amount of mercury.

However, Dr. Dietrich says the amount found is minuscule compared to thermometers we used to put in our mouths.

According to Dr. Dietrich, “It would take 100 shattered CFL bulbs to equal the amount of mercury in an older thermometer.”

What if a bulb breaks?

Despite that reassuring news, the U.S. EPA has a list of steps you should take if you break a bulb.

  • The EPA says open a window and ventilate the room for 15 minutes.
  • Then use cardboard to sweep up the remains of the bulb
  • Wearing rubber gloves, use a wet paper towel to wipe the area.
  • Finally, seal it all in a plastic bag, and dispose.
  • The EPA says do not vacuum the room, or you could spread mercury dust around.

The EPA says the amount in one bulb is not enough to create a health hazard.

To prevent problems

To prevent problems, and extend bulb life, the EPA suggests you:

  • Do not use CFL bulbs in bathrooms, or anywhere they will be turned on and off all day.  Frequent powering up and down reduces their life.
  • Do not use standard CFL’s in dimmer switches. Low voltage reduces their life
  • Three-way lamps are fine, however, as the contacts on the base of CFL bulbs are different from three-way bulbs, and they will not turn on with the low voltage setting.

So while a bulb explosion may scare you, it’s unlikely it will cause a fire or any real damage.

And despite Internet rumors, a broken bulb will not turn your home into a Hazmat zone.

The government says it is safe to continue using them.  As always, don’t waste your money. Is there a  risk of mercury poisoning?

But what about the mercury vapor they may have breathed?

Last year, we asked Dr. Kim Dietrich, an Environmental Engineering Professor, to break and test a CFL bulb for mercury. Research Assistant Professor Joo-Youp Lee shattered a bulb inside a sealed bag…then put the bag on a mercury vapor analyzer.

No question, he says, the bulb contained a measurable amount of mercury.

However, Dr. Dietrich says the amount found is minuscule compared to thermometers we used to put in our mouths.

According to Dr. Dietrich, “It would take 100 shattered CFL bulbs to equal the amount of mercury in an older thermometer.”

What if a bulb breaks?

Despite that reassuring news, the U.S. EPA has a list of steps you should take if you break a bulb.

  • The EPA says open a window and ventilate the room for 15 minutes.
  • Then use cardboard to sweep up the remains of the bulb
  • Wearing rubber gloves, use a wet paper towel to wipe the area.
  • Finally, seal it all in a plastic bag, and dispose.
  • The EPA says do not vacuum the room, or you could spread mercury dust around.

The EPA says the amount in one bulb is not enough to create a health hazard.

To prevent problems

To prevent problems, and extend bulb life, the EPA suggests you:

  • Do not use CFL bulbs in bathrooms, or anywhere they will be turned on and off all day.  Frequent powering up and down reduces their life.
  • Do not use standard CFL’s in dimmer switches. Low voltage reduces their life
  • Three-way lamps are fine, however, as the contacts on the base of CFL bulbs are different from three-way bulbs, and they will not turn on with the low voltage setting.

So while a bulb explosion may scare you, it’s unlikely it will cause a fire or any real damage.

And despite Internet rumors, a broken bulb will not turn your home into a Hazmat zone.

The government says it is safe to continue using them.  As always, don’t waste your money.

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Comments»

1. Mrs. Wilson - May 22, 2010

My aunt had a Globe-brand CFL bulb shooting 4-inch flames out of an exposed fixture. The flames were coming from the base of the bulb. Do you have any knowledge of problems with this brand? I’m not sure whether they are UL-approved. They’re hopefully not Energy Star certified…

2. Julia Gunnells - August 6, 2010

I just received an email on the Globe brand CFL. I’m unable to find anything on the web about the Brand other than places it’s sold. The email also stated there was a 4 foot flame coming from the base of the bulb and the people were thankful they were home. They took it to their local Fire Dept and they said it could have caused a fire.

What do you know about this Brand?

3. Mrs Miller - September 14, 2010

I have a Globe bulb that the base melted and it burned around the base of the socket on the ceiling. The smell filled my house!! I had puppies in the room where the bulb burnt, will that effect the health of the pups?

4. Georgeann King - September 17, 2010

Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has introduced legislation to keep incandescent bulbs.

5. John_fla - October 29, 2010

I had a cfl bulb in the hood over my stove that one day popped and began to smoke. I turned it off and when cooled I found it had cracked and the base began to burn. It did not shatter. Apparently using the bulbs in the kitchen obove your stove is not a good idea. Although the bulb was there for about two years, I believe the steam from cooking damaged the bulb. I think using the cfl bulbs in the hood above the stove should be included in the warnings where not to use them.

6. Tim from ontario - November 28, 2010

We just had a similar instance with a Globe branded bulb. It literally blew up in our basement light fixture. I went down to the basement to find my floor covered in fine glass shards melting into the carpet. The bulb itself was burned and melted and it had scorched the ceiling right above the fixture.

7. Dale - January 25, 2011

The GLOBE bulbs are made in CHINA and of course sold at Wal-Mart.

8. CGordon - January 26, 2011

China has apparently NOT heard of, nor have concern for, consumer SAFETY. As a result, I do NOT trust any product from that country. First it was food (melamine in baby milk KILLED several infants), then lead-based paint in dishes, now exploding lightbulbs???

My response is that I do not knowingly buy ANY product from China which could endanger my health or safety. That means NO “Made in China” food, household items, personal care items (like skin cream or toothpaste) or parts for my Volvo car either.

9. Jeffrey Kane - January 29, 2011

They blow up & they burn things around it? Oh and give me mercury poison vapors! Think thats all I need to know!

10. blah blah - February 11, 2011
11. Wendy Turner - February 15th 2011 - February 15, 2011

It is very frightening when the bulbs explode in your home. No information regarding the hazards of low energy bulbs is ever publicised. We are all being forced to use these bulbs in place of tried and tested technology. Mercury vapours must have filled my room and I sat in it breathing in this harmful substance. Are governments really this unconcerned about public health! Lets have more research into this and less ostrich behaviour because it is politically correct.

12. SUSAN MARCH 1 '11 - March 2, 2011

LAST MONTH 2 CFL BULBS BLEW OUT AND MADE A STINK ONE DAY AFTER THE OTHER IN THE SAME DOUBLE BULB LAMP THAT I HAVE USED FOR 5 YEARS. NEITHER SHTTERED OR CAUSED FLAME BUT THEY BOTH HAD BURNT A BLACK HOLE ON THE BASE. I DON’T KNOW IF THEY WERE MADE IN USA. BUT, I WONDER IF OUR USA BRAND NAME CFL BULBS THAT ARE “MADE IN CHINA ARE SAFE. I HAVE SINCE READY MANY WARNINGS ON THE WEB THAT GLOBES CAUSE FIRE.

13. MF - March 2, 2011

You guys have to keep reading. Can’t believe everything you read in an email or website. You should only research from credible sources.

http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/household/cflbulb.asp

14. tyera kay - June 7, 2011

Tonight my son had brushed his teeth for bed, and forgot to turn out the light. We were getting the kids pjs on and i started noticing this really nasty smoke smell. I wasn’t sure where it was comming from until i heard the explosion of glass shattering coming from my bathroom. I opened the door to see flames comming out of the base of the bulb and glass smoking on the floor.. i wish i would have read the warning on clean up because i just used my vacuum. I am definetley going to report this, the bulb says GLOBE mini spiral 23 watt and starts with a FFC id. Does anyone know if it was recalled or reported before .. I have a major headache and so does my son and the smell is lingering even with the fans and windows airing it out. thanks I am removing all my CFL Globe lights tomarrow!

15. We The People - June 29, 2011

Forget the dnopes.com crap, that is exactly the kind of politically correct “Ostrich” behaviour that keeps the word from getting out.

And we are not people that have “Read it on the net, so it must be true” people !

We are peopel that HAVE HAD these things burst, burn and smoke-out on us you idiot !

I have a laerge collection of them from many manufacturers,
I have them because I am in apartment maintenance for a
200-unit complex that people leave these in when they move out.

they leave them BECAUSE THEY ARE DEAD !

The fuse or fusible-link meant to prevent catastrophic failure
is completely misdesigned in many cases and does NOT stop
the flow of full socket current into the failing circuit.

UL should be shot for endorsing these on this point alone !

Yes, they have FCC (radio wave emission interference) codes,
and UL listed codes on them to be absolutely clear !

So stop saying it is a friggin rumer asshole !

16. We The People - June 29, 2011

I was so mad I made that many typo’s in that post,
I never do that,
so you can guess how mad moronic denial makes me !

17. MF - September 8, 2011

Take it up with the manufacturer if you feel that way. Contact FCC or other government parties involved. You can even launch a class action if you feel you are right and can get a bunch of people to go in with you. i myself have not had a CFL ignite on me and I have used them for 10 years. I like the benefit of saving on electricity and now that i know there is mercury in them, i will take proper steps in disposing of them when they go (maybe in 7 years)

However, I wouldn’t go around calling people idiots or assholes though. That gets you no where.
You may be mad but keeping your emotions in check will get you a lot more respect for your issue. I suspect dealing with people is not your thing and this is why you do maintenance for a complex.

18. Jen - November 23, 2011

Snopes apparently isn’t always right because I had this kind of lightbulb in my bedroom that melted. It took me a while to figure out where the smell of something burning was coming from when I finally looked up and saw the lightbulb hanging down from where it was, melted and stinky. This is enough to make me not use them anymore. This is the second one that has melted in my home. It’s not worth the risk, especially when they only last a few months, not years like they claim.

19. cfl explosion survivor - November 28, 2011

Fell asleep while reading a few hours ago. Woke up to sparks flying out of my cfl and a horrible smell. While watching flames started shooting out. Have opened all windows and taken lamp outside. Not sure of the brand of bulb but do know the sparks, smell, and shooting flames were real. Glad I was home, otherwise I think I would have had a major disaster on my hands.

20. Edmund Contoski - December 1, 2011

Read the comprehensive report on CFLs published by the Science and Public Policy Institute at:

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/cfl_fires.pdf

21. Craig A. - December 6, 2011

I just had a CFL bulb burn out (and I do mean burn) right over my head in my dining room. Not in a bathroom, not over the stove, in the dining room in a very low-stress-on-the-bulb situation. Sylvania brand, made in China. I’ll bet you can’t find any of these type of bulbs that aren’t made in China.

None of them last as long as we’ve been told. And whoever wrote that article above doesn’t know anything. “Mercury dust”? Mercury is a liquid; how can it be “dust”? More mercury in old thermometers? Sure, but comparing a sealed thermometer to a broken CFL is just plain stupid. And three-way lamps do not have a “low-voltage setting”. Three-way bulbs have an extra electrical contact on the base, so that different parts of the bulb will be lit; the bulb always gets the full 115 volts, no matter what switch position you use.

We need REAL information about the dangers of these bulbs we’re being forced to use. I’ve never in my life had an incandescent bulb flame out.

22. Craig A. - December 6, 2011

I’m finding references that state that it is a VOLUNTARY standard for manufacturers to make the bases of CFL bulbs flame RETARDANT. It is NOT required by law, and flame retardant does NOT mean flame proof.

23. 5 mistakes - December 9, 2011

Your site is pretty interesting to me and your subject matter is very relevant. I was browsing around and came across something you might find interesting. I was guilty of 3 of them with my sites. “99% of blog owners are guilty of these 5 errors”. http://tinyurl.com/cwa3tj7 You will be suprised how fast they are to fix.

24. Joy Fisher - January 1, 2012

I turned on a lamp that was seldomly used & a loud hissing noise occured. I immediately unplugged the lamp and noticed a liquid dripping from the base of the bulb. The nasy smell resembled plastic burning & was very difficult to get rid of for hours. The bulb was a Sunbeam sdf 24. Sice we seldom used that lamp, I would safely say that the bulb had less than 10 hrs. of use. As you know they;re not cheap & am reluctant to buy any more. That was the first problem I’ve had with these bulbs, but I thought it was goung to burst into flame any minute.

25. bob - January 15, 2012

I also had problems with a cfl bulb. It began to flicker and a half hour later it started smoking from its base. Very noxious odor. Chances are it won’t happen again but is it worth the risk?

26. fred C - January 16, 2012

I know of two people that had exploding CFL’s and one person it torched the lamp shade. Where is the EPA on this? and why are they so silent when it comes to these light bulbs.. I will never risk have them no matter what, I’ll buy candles first.

27. Elizabeth - February 21, 2012

I had one of these almost catch my house on fire last night. Had I been gone for 30 minutes it seriously would have burned my house down. We have to stop using these before people die.

28. Amused - April 3, 2012

Let’s just remember that no one is being “forced” to use CFL’s nor are they being “forced” upon us. The EISA legislation is in place to rule out the least efficient lighting. Americans have other lighting options like LED or Halogen bulbs. Imagine is we still used horse drawn carrage because automobiles were full of “explosive gas” silly, right?

29. Loyd - May 16, 2012

I had similar incident, I had a globe mini spiral bulb in my closet, I bought in walmart probably 5 years ago, anyhow once I turned the light on, it was flickering, I thought there was something wrong with the switch, I turned it on/off few times, eventually it stayed on, (then I thought I turned it off) I went to take a shower, came back, I could feel the burning smell in the room, I could see smoke coming out. I turned it off and took the light off, the base was blacked in like in the picture above.


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