Mercury-Containing Lamps

Safe Handling and Disposal of Mercury-Containing Lamps

Fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) contain a small amount of mercury in order to operate efficiently.  Still, fluorescent lamps provide significant environmental benefits compared to incandescent bulbs since they last up to 10 times longer and use far less energy.  Mercury sealed within the glass tubing poses no danger when bulbs are intact or in use.  When bulbs are broken, small amounts of mercury are realeased into the envrionment and can pose health risks from inhalation and skin exposure.  Proper cleanup procedures have been designed to reduce a workers’ exposure to the low levels of mercury anticipated when a fluorescent bulb is accidentally broken. 

The disposal of mercury-containing lamps at the University of Windsor is regulated by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) Regulation 347.  At the University of Windsor, it is prohibited to disposed of mercury-containing lamps in the garbage.  Proper management of end-of-life lamps prevents the release of mercury into the environment through landfills and also allows for reuse of 98% of the material that make up the lights.  The disposal of mercury-containing lamps is managed by the Chemical Control Centre.  All personel who handle mercury-containing lamps at the University of Windsor must be fully aware of the following disposal procedures.

How to Clean-up Broken Lamps

(Health Canada recomendations)

  1. Open windows (if possible) to ventilate the room.
  2. Wear rubber gloves to remove as much debris as possible with stiff paper or cardboard and place in a plastic bag. Do not use a broom.
  3. If a break occurs on a hard surface, wipe the area with a damp paper towel and place it in the plastic bag.
  4. If a break occurs on a carpet, use sticky tape (such as duct tape) to pick up any small pieces of glass and fine particles and place it in the plastic bag. If necessary, vacuum the area and place the disposable vacuum bag in the plastic bag.
  5. Seal the bag and place it in a a box labeled "broken fluorescent lamp".  Arrange for delivery to the CCC.
  6. Wash hands thoroughly after cleanup.

How to Dispose of Mercury-Containing Lamps

  1. Package spent lamps in original boxes. If a box is not available, place them upright in a sturdy plastic barrel or drum. 
  2. Do not tape lamps together. This makes them difficult to separate for crushing and increases disposal costs.
  3. Packaging in between lamps is not required but each box should be filled to capacity to prevent movement.  Ensure the bottoms of boxes are secure and can support the weight of the contents.
  4. Label boxes to distinguish spent lamps from unused lamps.
  5. For high intensity discharge lamps or other non-straight lamps use any sturdy cardboard box for storage or place it back into its original casing. Be sure to label the box.
  6. If a lamp breaks in the box, leave it alone. Do not attempt to remove the broken lamp, or its parts.
  7. Arrange for delivery of intact and broken lamps to the CCC.

Household CFLs: The CCC does not accept personal household CFLs.  These can be recycled through your municipal public waste depot or participating stores such as Canadian Tire.

Additional Information

Contact the Chemical Control Centre

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Chemical Control Center
 B37 Essex Hall
Phone: (519) 253-3000 ext. 3523
Fax: (519) 973-7013