Estimating human indoor exposure to elemental mercury from broken compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

The 2008 European Union regulation, which prohibits conventional incandescent light bulbs, is to be implemented in phases, completing in 2012. One of the possible substitutes is the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), which, however, does contain up to 5 mg of mercury in its elemental or amalgamated form. The question arises as to the possible exposure of individuals to mercury as a result of lamp breakage during operation or when disconnected from the power supply. Therefore, an appliance was built to shatter CFLs and drop the shards onto glycol-modified polyethylene terephthalate, a carpeted floor, or laminate floor under defined climatic parameters and operating conditions. Six CFLs of different types and mercury content were studied. After the breakage of a common CFL containing liquid mercury, concentrations up to 8000 ng/m3 were reached in the chamber. Much lower peak values were obtained with amalgam-type lamps (414 ng/m3) or with lamps with a shatterproof coating (60 ng/m3). It was found that ventilation can considerably reduce the indoor air concentration within 20 min. Acute health effects would only be expected if the mercury is not removed immediately. The authors concluded that careful collection and disposal of the lamp fragments would also prevent dwellers from the risk of long-term exposure.

Authors: Salthammer, T.; Uhde, E.; Omelan, A.; Luedecke, A.; Moriske, H.-J. ;Full Source: Indoor Air 2012, 22(4), 289-298 (Eng) ;