The corkscrew-shaped bulbs last six times as long as conventional incandescent lights, use 75 percent less electricity and are a simple way to reduce global-warming pollution.
Each bulb contains a tiny bead of mercury, a toxic metal blamed for poisoning waters and fish around the country. Here's a primer on how you may handle the problem:
Q. How much mercury is in a bulb?
The average compact flurescent bulb (CFL) contains 5 milligrams of mercury. When the bulb's turned on, electricity zaps liquid, starting a chain reaction that eventually lights your home. The Environmental Protection Agency says that when used properly CFLs are safe, but experts worry about the accumulated effect of tossing tens of thousands of bulbs in the trash every year.
Q. How do I dispose of a bulb safely?
The bulbs can be taken to Sanitary Garbage Company/Beatrice Recycling Center for disposal.
Q. What happends to recycled bulbs?
The bulb is put into a machine that takes the mercury out.
Q. If I break a bulb, am I in danger?
The EPA's advice if you break a CFL: Open nearby windows to disperse any vapor that may escape, carefully sweep up the fragments (not using your hands) and wipe the area clean with a paper towel to remove glass fragments. Don't use a vacum, as it might spread the mercury. The agency recommends placing all fragments in a sealed plastic bag and putting it in the trash.
Q. So what's so green about CFLs?
The EPA says, CFL bulbs prevent more mercury pollution than they might cause. Most mercury in the air comes from buring coal to produce energy, and flurescent bulbs use a lot less energy than traditional lighting. A power plant emits 10 milligrams of mercury to operate an incandescent bulb compared with 2.4 milligrams to run a CFL for the same time, the agency says.