That Could Be a Mighty Expensive Light Bulb:

The Boston Globe reports:

The [study issued by the state of Maine and the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project], which shattered 65 [compact fluorescent] bulbs to test air quality and clean-up methods made these recommendations: If a bulb breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum -- even on a rug -- to clean up a compact fluorescent light. Instead, while wearing rubber gloves, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the bulb broke. Use a glass jar with a screw top to contain the shards and clean-up debris.

Cut out the piece of carpet? How expensive will that to be replace? I've seen reports that the mercury risk is greatly overstated, but this story worries me. The $2000 toxic cleanup bill story was apparently based on an overreaction; but if this study, which is hardly anti-fluorescent, is right, those bulbs might prove very costly.

As importantly, while it sounds like the mercury danger can be largely eliminated using these cleanup tips -- expensive as they can be when carpeting is involved -- there's always a risk that the cleanup won't be done exactly right: Say, for instance, that a child breaks the bulb, and doesn't follow proper cleanup procedures, or doesn't get out of the area promptly. Of course small children should be taught to leave the area of any glass breakage in any event, but the trouble with small children is that they don't always do as they're told; I don't like the idea of adding mercury poisoning risk to the risk of glass cuts.

And I say all this as someone who has largely replaced most of the standard incandescent bulbs in my house with fluorescent ones (though fortunately for me, we have wood floors in most of our house, so at least the carpet concern is absent). Perhaps I should have stuck with my normal skepticism about environmentalist enthusiasms. Or am I missing something?

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web for the pointer.