As of Feb. 17, Vermont will become the first state to ban the sale of compact fluorescent lamp bulbs.
CFLs use 75% less energy than traditional light bulbs and can last up to six times longer, according to Earth911, an online recycling and conservation source. However, they contain roughly 4 milligrams of mercury per bulb on average, KTLA sister station WTEN reports.
Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation moved to restrict the sale of “screw-based mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps” in Feb. 17, 2022, but gave retailers and distributors one year to move any remaining inventory.
In a notice detailing the decision, the state’s Agency of Natural Resources determined LED bulbs to be a suitable, more eco-friendly replacement.
“The Agency based its decision on the evidence that screw-based LED lamps provide the same or better overall performance at a cost equal to or better than that of a mercury-containing screw based compact fluorescent lamp (CFL),” reads the notice.
Old or used CFL bulbs, too, cannot be discarded in the trash, but must be brought to a collection site or recycling center, Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation reiterated.
All mercury-containing bulbs also require special handling during disposal, as they can release harmful mercury vapor if broken or crushed.
If a CFL bulb breaks, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation suggests clearing the room immediately, opening windows or doors, closing all interior vents, and letting the room air out for at least 15 minutes before attempting to clean up any broken pieces. Do not use a vacuum, “as this may spread any mercury vapor,” the agency writes.
The broken materials can then be picked up using stiff paper or cardboard (“such as playing cards or index cards”), sticky tape, damp paper towels or wet wipes (on hard surfaces), before placing the pieces in a “rigid” disposable container with a lid.
Further disposal instructions — including requirements for transporting and disposing of hazardous waste — can be found at the Department of Conservation’s site.
Exposure to mercury vapor can result in lung damage, neurological issues, rashes or disturbances to kidney functionality, among other health problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other forms of mercury poisoning, via ingestion or topical application, can result in other harmful outcomes, including — but not limited to — damage to the nervous system or developing fetuses, per the CDC.
After Vermont, California looks to become the next state to ban the sale of CFL light bulbs in Jan. 2024. The same month, Vermont will also be begin restricting the sale of mercury-containing tube-style fluorescent lamps.