Fluorescent FAQ


How Does a Fluorescent Lamp Work?
A fluorescent lamp consists of a glass tube that is filled with mercury vapor at low pressure. The inside of the glass tube is coated with phosphorous. Two tungsten filaments are at opposite ends of the tube and when voltage is applied between the two filaments, electrons move from one end to the other. While moving through the tube, the electrons crash into mercury atoms, which give off their energy in the form of ultra-violet (UV) light.

UV-light is not in the visible spectrum for the human eye, so by itself is useless. However, when the UV-light hits the phosphorous on the inside of the glass, it fluoresces and gives off the white light that illuminates the room. The conversion of light from one type to another is called fluorescence, which gives the fluorescent lamp its name.


Are Fluorescent Lights Dangerous?
All Fluorescent lights contain mercury, a neurotoxin, that can cause kidney and brain damage. Fluorescent lighting, including regular tubes, compact tubes or bulbs (CFL’s), ballasts, high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, UV lamps and mercury-bearing devices contain mercury. Therefore, they must be handled and disposed of properly and cannot be thrown in the trash.


What Happens If I Break a Lamp?
According to the EPA, a detailed eleven-step procedure should be followed. Here are the basics: Air out the room for half of an hour before you begin the clean up process. Wear gloves when picking up the debris. Do not vacuum! This will only spread the toxins. Double-bag the refuse and use duct tape folded over to lift the remaining residue from the carpet. Finally, the next time you vacuum the area, immediately dispose of the vacuum bag. This procedure will help keep your family safe in the event of a breakage.


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