In my last column, I talked about the benefits of compact fluorescent light bulbs over incandescent and how to avoid some of their problems. But, I held out one so I could dedicate a whole column to it: Mercury.
Mercury is a toxic element, and is currently an unavoidable part of CFLs. Each CFL contains about 500 mg of mercury, equivalent to the tip of a ballpoint pen. For comparison, those old mercury thermometers we all used as kids had 50-100 mg of mercury in them. And like the thermometers, the mercury in CFLs is released only if the glass is broken. Broken bulbs release mercury vapor and a mercury- containing phosphor powder.
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