Okay, need some help regarding a broken CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) in my 2-year-old son's room. I've looked through a couple of similar questions here, but this situation is a little different so I'm hoping for more specific insight. I've also already seen a lot of varying information relating to proper clean-up procedures, potential long-term contamination and adverse health effects, etc. I really need to know what I should be concerned about with regard to my son's health.
posted by S1C EM to health & fitness (24 answers total)
Here's what happened. About a week ago, I was changing a burned out bulb in my son's room which, of course, turned out to be a CFL. It had been burned out for about a week, so right off, I don't know how the bulb being 'dead' affects this whole scenario. We usually use his lamp in his room and not the overhead light, hence why it took a me a few days to change it out. As I was unscrewing it, it just dropped through my grasp and hit the carpet below, then bounced/rolled about a foot and a half toward one corner of the room where it came to rest. I heard a slight 'pop' noise as it impacted the carpet, but the bulb did NOT shatter or break into a multitude of pieces. In fact, it had no more than a small through-and-through hole in it (about half the size of a dime)...almost looked like it had been shot with a BB gun and didn't shatter. You could place a straw through it. Thus, there was no evidence of any phosphor powder having 'spilled' out onto the floor. I don't know how the phosphor would spill, but that seems to be the biggest concern with all of the cleanup instructions I've seen. I'm assuming that it is bound to the inside of the glass and only releases when the glass shatters?
Knowing they contain mercury, I quickly got down, grabbed the bulb and carried it quickly to the kitchen where I placed it into a plastic ziplock bag, sealed it and took it outside into the garage to take for recycling later. Now, I know I should have taken the bag to the room and sealed it there before walking through the house, but that's hindsight now. My wife and son had just gone into our bedroom to take a nap, so I closed the door to our bedroom (which is directly across the hall from my son's room, the door to which is still open at this point). I then went into the room where the bulb broke, cracked the window and turned on our attic fan. We have an older home which has an attic fan in the hallway, again directly between the door to our bedroom and the door to my son's room. It generates a ton of suction and I've used it with great success to clear smoke out of the kitchen on the other end of the house after burning something in the oven. My thought was that it would suck out, forcefully so, any mercury vapor in the room. I assume that it did. Unfortunately, I forgot to shut down the central heat while I did this, but I know the attic fans pulls MUCH harder than the central heat return. I initially started looking for the two, small round pieces of glass from the bulb on the carpet. Unfortunately, this meant my face was at carpet level for a couple of minutes just after the bulb broke. Depending on how much vapor the attic fan had pulled out of the room by this point, I may or may not have been breathing a good bit of mercury vapor.
After not finding the glass pieces initially, I left the room for about 20 minutes and began searching for cleanup directions. I needed to figure out how to get those two pieces of glass up. I discovered the whole duct-tape, index card, DON'T vacuum thing like everyone else. Unfortunately, there was no glass or powder (visible, anyway) for me to clean up. There appeared to be nothing on the carpet. The directions further say to throw away clothing that came in direct contact with the mercury (the phosphor powder I guess?), which didn't apply (or didn't seem to). Some directions I found said you could vacuum if you had to, but then to throw out your vacuum bag or clean out the dustcup if you did. I called poison control and they said, given the situation, it sounded like I could go ahead and vacuum...just to ventilate the room and wear a mask while I did. So after about 30 minutes, I vacuumed the room, attic fan still sucking away and me wearing a mask. I left the room again and continued to let the attic fan pull fresh air from the window and suck it all up through the roof for about a total of 2 hours or so. I did, by the way, find the larger piece of glass from the hole in the bulb. It was in the vacuum dustcup. I can only assume the smaller circle of glass also came up.
So now, I'm paranoid about putting our son back in the room and not knowing if any of the powder did get into the carpet and could be still evaporating. Again, I don't think any powder separated from the bulb, but I just don't KNOW. He hasn't been back in the room since this happened. I threw all of his bedding in the wash immediately, even though only the vapors could have touched it. I left the window open with the ceiling fan on and a fan in the window blowing air out of the room for four days and vacuumed a second time during that period.
Sorry for the long-winded backstory, but what can I do? Should I be concerned? I'm not worried about me, but my son, again, is only 2 and I'm not sure how even a small bit of mercury vapor could impact him if he goes back to sleeping in the room with ANY level of mercury present. Additionally, his stuffed animals that were in his crib when all this happened would have been exposed to the vapor also. I can't wash those and he's really attached to a couple of them.
Are they safe for him to have now? Should I throw them out? Is the room safe for him? Should I wipe down all hard surfaces in the room?
*Lord, I now HATE CFLs....*