CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:08 am

Well here's another update for fire safety.
I got this through our Fire Marshall's office at work. I have some picture's that he sent but they will not transfer.
We all may have some of these is our house's. He did say one of these lights exploded in a baby's room & burnt the house down. Everyone got out safe.

WITH NEW ADVANCES AND TECHNOLOGY come new problems for fire and rescue people. We all remember the crash-course training on the new automobile bumper shock absorbers and their propensity to hurl deadly debris into the nearest firefighter.

These sorts of discoveries are always a surprise because nobody who makes these things ever thinks about letting us know first. We have to find out about it ourselves and then spread the word. Such is the case with these new light bulbs that are showing up in homes all over the country.

One of our brothers from another Local passes this along to us from a training memo from his department that we all can file away into the cranial databank for future “smell of smoke” calls. This bulletin tells us:

On June 18, 2008, BC602 ran a house fire where the occupant reported a haze of smoke in the structure. The first Engine reported an electrical odor at the top of the basement steps that had the distinct odor of light ballast. Initial investigation both visually and with a Thermal Image Camera revealed no unusual hazards. The house contained no “traditional” fluorescent light fixtures. The occupant informed us that they had installed CFL bulbs in numerous fixtures and lamps throughout the house.

We began the process of checking each bulb and found one in a ceiling fixture that had a ballast failure much like we are accustomed to finding in traditional overhead tube lighting fixtures in commercial buildings.

A CFL bulb contains a ballast at the base of the unit between the spiral tube and (Edison) screw. This ballast, encased in a plastic shell, may or may not have visible vent holes or slots.

The ballast contains a Voltage Dependent Resister that, when failure occurs, opens like a fuse to protect the device and associated electrical equipment. The resultant heat and smoke should escape from the vents in the housing. Light smoke may be visible and one will smell that distinct electrical ballast odor. As in the case the other night, there were visible smoke marks and a small, brown oily/gooey residue at the vent holes. These signs were not visible with the bulb in its socket.

Since more CFL bulbs are finding their way into the home, don’t overlook these items when investigating a smoke odor.

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:35 pm

Good post. Do you have any tips or advice for cleanup in the event of the light breaking with the high level of mercury involved??

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:41 pm

Screwstick where did you hear there is a high level of mercury?

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:51 pm

There is a minimal amount of mercury in each bulb. If a bulb is broken, the pieces should carefully be cleaned up without contact to the skin. A vacuum cleaner should not be used because of the possible dispersal of the mercury. It is recommended that old CFL bulbs be treated as hazardous waste and taken to a proper disposal site.


Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:00 pm

I guess 'high' is a relative term. Not trying to be an alarmist, just trying to get to the idea that they do contain mercury and require special handling procedures for cleanup if broken. That's not saying that you need to have the EPA come by for a hazmat survey, but that care should be used during disposal, even if not broken. Also trying to let Jeff know that people do read his safety posts, give him recognition and maybe he could expound on the topic. :D Thank you Mr. Silvey!!
Here is one source for the mercury content:

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:08 pm

I heard about the mercury last night at my vol. fire meeting but I didn't put too & too together. I thought they were talking about a run they had. Like some other's have said I would clean it up with sweeper. I wish I could post the pictures that was with the article.
Last edited by Jeff Silvey on Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:17 pm

Jeff I had a new thought. When you wet down the cold water against a hot CFL might pop the bulb and now you would have mercury vapors. Maybe not much but I would think that to be worse than just a broken bulb. Another good reason for your Scott Pack or equivalent.

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:27 pm

You know... these bulbs are supposed to be good for the environment because they "save energy"... What about the poor environmental impact of all that Mercury? Disposing of them at a hazardous waste dump? We have special collection points around town here and they dispose of them for us (to a hazardous dump!)...

Has anyone done an analysis of what the energy required to make and dispose of these bulbs would be compared to the energy and disposal and usage costs of a regular incandescent bulb? Are we really SAVING anything??

Mike in La Crosse, WI

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:47 pm

Mike, I think the trade off is this: Burning coal to generate electricity is one of the major sources of mercury pollution. By using CFL's, the need for electrical generation drops significantly, hence less environmental mercury from the coal burning.


Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:34 pm


Up until a couple of years ago, our local Landfill (It is less a landfill than it is a huge recycling/composting/hazmat) facility was allowing Flourescent tubes and such to be placed in your garbage for curbside/roadside pickup. This is NO LONGER the case. We must collect all of our CFL, regular Flourescent fixtures as well as other light bulbs in separate storage containers. One for regular incandescant bulbs and one for CFL/Flourescent Tubes. These must then be taken to one of our local collection points or to the annual HazMat collection day behind the firehall here in Dieppe or In Moncton or Riverview for disposal. This stuff no longer goes into the landfill, it must be recycled. This is a GOOD thing and complies with good Green Policy.

As with all things some of the Green policies make sense and some are a colossal waste of resources.. however since we are still on the learning curve I would expect that say in a decade much of this will be standard practice continent wide.

When I lived in Europe in the 80's, this was already par for the course... in fact we even had to rinse/wash many of the containers before placing them in the dry garbage. Europe has long been green friendly, more out of necessity I think... composting is huge over there... and is a good thing.


These are the modern 3 r's we need to teach our kids along with readin, ritin and rithmatic :big smile:

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:02 pm

According to article in Snopes, the mercury in a cfl is about 5 milligrams, or about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. You cna read the article here

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:47 pm

I find the "concern" over the use and disposal of CFL bulbs quite interesting. What have you all been doing with your broken and burned out flourescent tubes for the last 75 years? :roll:

Re: CFL Bulbs

Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:08 pm

Don't know if this is a nationwide operation, but the 'Do it yourself' stores have collection points set up for CFL bulbs, so you can drop off the bad ones on your way to get the new ones!
Rudi wrote:... in fact we even had to rinse/wash many of the containers before placing them in the dry garbage. Europe has long been green friendly, more out of necessity I think... composting is huge over there... and is a good thing.

This was the biggest shock and the item that took the longest to get used to when I moved to Europe, seperating and cleaning garbage! But, after about 2 months I had it down pat. After I got used to the requirements, my monthly "garbage" could easily fit into a Walmart Bag! Everything else was recyleable in one way or another. Even baby diapers were sorted separately.

Re: CFL Bulbs

Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:08 am


Our local facility is recycling diapers.. :big say what:

Yeah, I know.. but apparently it recycles into something useful... will have to check that out.

I am all for reducing our waste. Waste diversion rates of 85% and 90% are relative norms in Europe and can be met here, if we have the will to do so. Our planet's resources may very well be finite.. so we best recover what we use.

I am also a real believer in stewardship. The Lord gave Mankind dominion over all that we survey.. but with dominion comes responsibilities.. to use it with respect and care, to maintain and feed it with respect and care and to leave this planet just a tad bit better than when each of us became part of it..... :!: