Energy-saving lamp broken - what danger exists?

Again and again, the high risk that emanates from energy-saving lamps is reported. What you have to pay attention to, and what is the health risk of a broken lamp actually, read in this post.

Mercury in energy-saving lamps

For technical reasons, energy-saving lamps always contain a small amount of mercury. 5 mg are allowed, but most energy-saving bulbs are around 2 mg.

This is a comparatively small amount - in old fever thermometers, which still work with mercury, can be up to 1 g of mercury contained.

Despite its small amount, mercury, which is highly toxic to the human body, can pose a considerable risk. Above all, the type of recording plays a role:

  • Recording by touch
  • Ingestion by ingestion (such as of mercury globules)
  • Absorption of metallic mercury vapors

Depending on the route of admission, the danger to health can be very different.

Recording by touch

If you have touched the mercury of a broken energy-saving lamp, there is little health hazard. Mercury is absorbed only very slightly through the skin. If you wash your hands as quickly and thoroughly as possible after touching them, you are usually on the safe side and there is no high intake into the body.

You should still avoid a risk, and therefore always wear rubber gloves when removing the remains of a broken energy-saving lamp. So any risk is excluded.

Ingestion by ingestion (such as of mercury globules)

Especially with children, it can happen that they get mercury in the mouth and swallow. As far as mercury beads are concerned, the acute damage is usually limited here.

In the majority of cases, mercury in the form of globules passes through the organism without causing much damage and usually without accumulating in the body in high quantities. Of course you should pay attention to typical symptoms or symptoms (headache, nausea, etc.), but usually not much will happen.

Absorption of metallic mercury vapors

On the other hand, metallic mercury vapors represent a very high and significant health hazard. They are released when an energy-saving lamp breaks down during operation - then the mercury is in gaseous form and instantly distributed in the room air.

Partly problematic concentrations occur, especially near the ground and in the first few minutes after breakage. Here, indoor air concentrations are reached that can be dangerous for children.

Key symptoms of poisoning by metallic mercury vapors are

  • a headache
  • nausea
  • distinct metallic taste in the mouth

As long as several lamps are not broken at the same time and the resulting vapors are inhaled, treatment is usually not necessary even for children. This may be different in individual cases.

Vapors represent a particular danger because the mercury concentration in the blood can suddenly increase, and mercury accumulates mainly in the intestine and kidneys, where it can lead to ongoing self-poisoning.

Tips & Tricks

Before doing any further work, be sure to air the room thoroughly for at least fifteen minutes after breaking a lamp. After that you should put the remains of the lamp in one airtight vessel Dispose of properly (recycling center or collection point, household waste is prohibited).

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