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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury

Mercury is an essential element in the operation of fluorescent lighting; it allows the bulbs to be an efficient light source. Because CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury, it is important to educate yourself on proper use, recycling and disposal of these products.

The Facts about CFLs and Mercury

  • Because CFLs use less electricity than traditional light bulbs, they reduce demand for electricity; that reduction means less greenhouse gas emissions (including less mercury) from power plants.
  • CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury — an average of 4 milligrams in each bulb.
  • No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use.

Why Use CFLs?

CFLs use significantly less energy than traditional light bulbs (75% less). If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, we would save enough energy every year to light 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars. And even though CFLs contain a small amount of mercury that could ultimately end up in the environment, that amount is significantly less than the amount of mercury avoided as a result of the energy savings.

Recycling and Disposing of CFLs

Like any other product containing potentially hazardous materials that you use in your home, CFLs come with some special instructions.

Learn what you should do if a CFL breaks in your home

You may have heard that the government is requiring all light bulbs to be more efficient in the next few years. Learn more about how the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will affect the sale of light bulbs.