Have a green dilemma or question for Planet Green? Please send questions to askplanetgreen [at] gmail [dot] com. (Questions may be edited for publication.)
Dear Planet Green,
Recently, a CFL bulb shattered into pieces in my tiny living space. After sweeping away the pieces, I could have sworn I tasted a metallic-like flavor in my mouth the rest of the day. Am I a paranoid freak or do I have a legitimate concern?
Sincerely, CFL Fraidy Cat
The main concern with CFLs is that they contain mercury, a toxic metal, sealed within its glass tubing. Mercury could lead to sickness if you come in direct contact with enough of the substance. But if you didn't feel sick or aren't sick now, it's probably a good chance you are fine, especially since CFLs only contain a small amount of mercury; about 4-5 milligrams according to the EPA.
To stay safe in the future, however, it's a good idea to make sure you properly and carefully clean up a broken CFL to minimize the chance of any health effects. The EPA issued a number of instructionsn for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb after a CFL breakage report study was released.
Here's a quick list of the steps: