Is cutting myself on a CRT going to kill me?
September 24, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I cut my thumb on the glass of an old broken cathode ray tube earlier today. Is this any more dangerous than just cutting myself on broken glass? I washed the wound out and put some antibiotic ointment and a bandage on, should I do anything else?

I was at the county dump getting rid of some old electronics and while I was tossing an old computer in I cut my thumb on what I now realize was the back of a CRT that was also in the dumpster. I don't know exactly what to call the part that I cut myself on, but looking at this picture it's the part encased in glass in the foreground. I guess it's the electron gun? The glass was already broken and there were also little metal pieces sticking out, but I think it's the glass I cut myself on.

Most of what I can find on the dangers of CRTs focus on the electrical aspect, obviously that's not a problem, but there is mention of dangerous chemicals - lead, mercury, phosphor. Do I need to be worried and is there anything special I should do?
posted by radiomayonnaise to Technology (6 answers total)
You'll probably be fine. The levels of lead, cadmium, etc. in a cathode ray tube are unhealthy, but not so unhealthy that you need to worry about a short encounter and a brief cut. Since you're at the dump, I would be more concerned about germs from handling dirty objects, but if you washed it out, you should be fine.

If you frequently go to the dump and handle old electronics, as part of a hobby, maybe be more worried. As it stands, you're probably fine. Consider calling your doctor or a nurse advice line to be sure, but unless your cut acts up, I don't think you need an in-person visit. (Then again, I am not a medical professional.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:26 PM on September 24, 2012

I agree with blnfrnk. That part of the tube is nice clean glass; the rest of the envelope at the back - the grey bit - is glass with (typically) lead vapour-deposited on it, but even that's pretty inert & safe. The silvering on the glass in the neck from the getter is typically aluminium, so again fairly safe.

The nastiest stuff in CRT tubes is usually the phospors, but that's right down the front end (and, again, deposited and fairly well stuck to the glass)

To be honest I'd be more worried about the accumulated dust & shit on the outside of the tube - your usual random airborne crap found in any home, but concentrated - and any dirt or pathogens picked up from the dumpster itself, than I would about the contents of the tube.
posted by Pinback at 3:50 PM on September 24, 2012

I, too, would be more worried about cutting yourself in a city dump/dumpster type environment more than exposure to heavy metals.

Are you up to date on your tetanus shots?
posted by Sara C. at 4:19 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, y'all! That's pretty much what I had figured before I managed to freak myself out about it. I did clean it with soap and water, but I'll keep an eye on it and also give a call to my doctor's office to make sure I'm right in thinking I had a tetanus booster in 2010.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 5:30 PM on September 24, 2012

Best thing to do when you cut yourself in that type of scenario is to let it bleed freely for a minute or two.

And make sure you're UTD on your tetanus.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:14 PM on September 24, 2012

Do be careful around CRTs. If they weren't properly discharged before disposal, unplugged CRTs can still hold enough voltage to shock you badly. (Hopefully it sat there long enough to lose the charge but better safe than sorry.)
posted by IndigoRain at 8:09 AM on September 25, 2012

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