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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Safetyland: US$2000 to Clean Up Broken Fluorescent Bulb

Last March 13th, thrifty Brandy Bridges of Prospect, Maine was changing lightbulbs, all by herself. She had decided to replace two dozen incandescent bulbs with screw-in Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) replacements “in an attempt to save money on her energy bill”. Disaster!—when changing the bulb in her daughter's bedroom, it slipped from her fingers and broke on the shag carpet. Aware of the hazards of broken fluorescent bulbs, she called Home Depot where she had bought the engine of destruction, and was successively referred to the Poison Control hotline, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Environmental Protection, which sent a “specialist” to measure the mercury levels at the scene of the accident which, indeed, plunging the sensor down into the carpet at the site of the impact, read more than six times higher than the “safe level” of mercury: 300 ng/m³. The ambient air in the room was, however, below this level.

The specialist advised Ms. Bridges not to clean up the disaster site herself, and referred her to Clean Harbors Environmental Services, which duly submitted an estimate of US$2,000 for the job. One month later, Bridges is “gathering finances” for the clean-up; her daughter's room remains sealed up with plastic, the tyke forced to sleep in another room. According to a news story on the calamity published in The Ellsworth American, Ms. Bridges is “worried about her daughter staying in the same house for the next 11 years, potentially having long-term exposure to mercury. She’s worried about the rest of her family’s health.”

For further mercury madness, see this earlier posting; sadly, the story linked to from that article has disappeared into the legacy media memory hole. Tip o' the hat to “jomath” for the pointer, via Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor Musings.

Posted at April 21, 2007 20:31