CFL's operate using mercury (the same as the overhead flourescent tubes). A hazard occurs when a CFL is broken, as the mercury is released into the atmosphere and often into clothing, bedding material and carpeting (the same occurs when a flourescent tube is broken). The clean-up and disposal required is rather involved, and the EPA guidelines to follow are here. A CNET clean-up/disposal instructional video can be seen here.
CFL's are basically flouresescent tubes twisted into the pigtail shape, as a certain length is required for them to operate. A university study found that UV light leaks occur because of the twists and turns that break away the phospor coating. Persons should avoid CFL's at close range and place them behind glass barriers or enclosures. Information on that study is here.
CFL's have electronics in their base, just like the tube has a ballast. The electronics generate heat, which can be a problem if vents are blocked or the bulb is used in a manner for which it was not designed (inverted, enclosed, etc). Be sure to use the right bulb for your purpose and follow all safety instructions on the bulb and packaging.
CFL's have been reported to cause migrane headaches and exacerbate problems for people sensitive to flickering light, seizure disorders and lupus. Our suggestion for someone that might have such a condition is to do further research, or try switching to incandescent lighting. Here is a site to start your research.
Check with your local home improvement or hardware store (Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, ACE, True Value, etc). They may have a recycling program where you can deposit intact CFL bulbs and flourescent tubes. They may also take your broken CFL bulbs and clean-up materials, such as paper, tape, towels, jars, vacuum bags, etc..
Bright Lights USA, Inc.
414 Briarwood Drive
Cleveland, GA 30528
Phone: 866-341-0108 (toll-free)
Fax: 706-400-4450 /348-7499
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Some Information Topics;
Incandescent / Newcandescent® History
Newcandescent® Life Test
Light Bulb Legislation
Newcandescent® vs. Standard Incandescent
Congress, Common-sense and CFL's