Fluorescent lamps are a popular lighting option for businesses and consumers that are looking for ways to conserve energy and cut down on wastes. Since mercury - a very useful but very toxic element - is used to conduct the charge in fluorescent lamps, these benefits can come at a significant environmental and health risk.
Alternative lighting options, such as energy-efficient and long-lasting light emitting diodes (LEDs), hold promise for the future. However, LED lighting currently is not feasible for most lighting applications, such as mass indoor lighting in office buildings, due to their significantly higher cost.
With an increasing focus on green solutions brought on by public demand as well as new rules and regulations, the use of fluorescent lamps will continue to grow - especially as governments around the world pass measures to phase out the use of traditional incandescent light bulbs in favor of more efficient lighting alternatives. To minimize the environmental and health risks of mercury vapor released from broken fluorescent lamps, used lamps should be properly packaged, stored, and transported to recycling facilities - where the mercury vapor can be safely extracted.
A Package Designed to Contain Mercury Vapor
A recent study conducted by my research team at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, measured the performance of three different types of packaging configurations that are used to store and transport used fluorescent lamps.1