How much mercury is in fluorescent tubes

Mercury in compact fluorescent lamps (energy saving lamps) and fluorescent tubes

Small quantities of mercury are found in compact fluorescent lamps (energy-saving lamps) and fluorescent tubes. It is necessary for the lighting process when operating these lamps. The maximum permitted amount of mercury in lamps is regulated in Europe. Older fluorescent tubes (flashlights) can, however, still contain many times more. Since 2012, the mercury content has to be indicated on the packaging of the light source. When buying light sources, it is important to ensure that the mercury content is as low as possible. Used (burnt out) mercury-containing lamps do not belong in the household waste, but must be disposed of as non-destructively as possible at suitable collection points (recycling center, retail, disposal company).

No mercury is released when the lamps are used as intended. However, when changing or otherwise handling energy-saving lamps or fluorescent tubes, there is a risk that lamps will be damaged. If lamps break, mercury can be released into the ambient air. Defective gas discharge lamps should not be replaced when they are hot. If hot bulbs break, the release of mercury vapor is greater than when they are cold.

If the lamp breaks, it is advisable to ventilate vigorously for a few minutes. While ventilating it is advisable to leave the room and only after 15 to 30 minutes carefully remove the remains of the lamp, e.g. B. with cardboard strips or paper, to sweep up or take up with tape. Disposable gloves should be worn if possible. Under no circumstances should lamp residues be removed with a vacuum cleaner. All materials used must be put in a sealable container (e.g. plastic bag or glass container with a screw cap) and this must be labeled with the label "Warning, may contain mercury residues from energy-saving lamps" and taken to the municipal waste disposal facility.

Measurements by the Federal Environment Agency on energy-saving lamps newly on the market have shown that no significant concentrations of mercury occur after a lamp breaks, the fragments have been completely disposed of and the room is immediately ventilated. The IFA also carried out investigations into the mercury exposure in the event of a lamp break as part of the project "Exposure to mercury from lamps and LCD devices".