PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As incandescent bulbs are phased out across America in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescents (CFL), a Philadelphia environment expert is warning of a potential danger in the bulbs — especially if they are accidentally broken.

ryan robert Expert Warns Of Danger In Broken CFL BulbsRobert Ryan (right), a professor of environmental engineering at Temple University, says you need to take special precautions if a CFL bulb breaks.

“Open up the windows,” Prof. Ryan advises.  “Leave the room for 15 to 20 minutes and let the room air out.  There will be a little bit of mercury that will vaporize.  Mercury is a toxin and you don’t want to breathe it in, but it is a very small amount of mercury,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

He says if a bulb breaks you should also turn off your central air or heat for about 20 minutes if you have a forced-air system.

Ryan says you don’t need to wear gloves for the cleanup if you air out the room because the mercury would have evaporated.  But you may want to wear gloves anyway, to avoid cut fingers from the broken glass.

What about disposing of CFL bulbs?

“Even if it is not broken, you should set the bulb aside and take it to a recycling center,” Ryan says.  “You don’t want to take these to a landfill — then you are letting the mercury become an uncontrolled source back out to the environment.”

Many retailers who sell CFL bulbs will take them back from you for proper disposal.

Reported by Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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