Caution needed when using low-power bulbs

IN AN effort to go green many households have switched from traditional incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Making this change will help to use less power at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Though CFLs use up to 75percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer and are also cheaper, they do have one drawback. CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, an average of 4mg.

By comparison, old thermometers contain about 500mg of mercury - an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs.

No mercury is released when the bulb is in use and as long as it remains intact. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous to children. Most exposure to mercury comes from contaminated fish.

Most makers of bulbs have reduced mercury in their products. Thanks to advances in technology the average mercury content in CFLs has dropped at least 20percent in the past year. Some manufacturers have made further reductions, cutting mercury content to 1,4mg to 2,5mg per bulb.

However, a problem arises when these CFLs break, particularly in a child's bedroom.

Outside the home, the bulbs can break in dumpsters or trucks, and workers might be exposed to high levels of mercury. A cleanup involves opening a window, leaving the room for quarter of an hour, and then cleaning up as best you can without using a vacuum cleaner, while wearing disposable gloves and using a piece of cardboard as a scoop or duct tape to pick up fragments.

A disposable wet wipe can be used to clean the affected area. The debris should be placed in a plastic bag that should be sealed and safely disposed of. Finally, wash your hands and vacuum the area where the bulb was broken. - Keitumetse Segoai