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Pediatrics/CFL Break Mercury exposure


QUESTION: Hi there. I am a concerned mommy to a 3 yr old little girl. This past week, my husband broke a CFL bulb in our bedroom over the bed by accident. I disposed of the broken bulb and fragments immediately and tried my best to do a good cleaning.

My concern is this: After reading quite a bit of information and studies online about this particular bulb ( i know it contains mercury), I am concerned about my daughters exposure to this toxic substance. She was not in the room when it broke and i have not let her back in the room since it happened. What i read online says that the mercury can vaporize in carpet and materials for months. This scares me because i know one bulb has a small amount of mercury, but if she's breathing in a little bit each day, wont that be a chronic exposure? Im very fearful for my little girl and was hoping you could shed some more understanding on this. I want my little girl to be able to go back into that room because she loves playing in there and watching tv on my bed. I hate to banish her from that room for months. Im also worried about the air quality now in the rest of our home. Please help me.

ANSWER: Hi, Brooke,

Although CFL contain a small amount of mercury, if you clean the area well and remove all the glass pieces, it will be fine.  No evidence that this small amount of mercury hurts anyone.  Detailed EPA instructions:

Good luck, Dr. Olson

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: My main concern is reading some of the studies done on these bulbs, mainly the Maine study, which shows that a single bulb can cause mercury emissions even after cleaned up properly. They say it can emit for weeks, or months. Should I keep her out of the room that long?

Hi, Brooke,

The EPA is a pretty reliable and usually conservative source of information.  I would follow their advice and just ventilate the heck out of the room.  Of course, you can always do what you,as her Mom, thinks is best.

Good luck, Dr. Olson


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David Olson, MD


I would be happy to attempt to answer any questions about general pediatric topics, either medical issues or behavioral issues. This would include all the various questions one receives in a busy pediatric practice. I`m a board certified pediatrician in northern Michigan and have been in practice for over 15 years. I enjoy the teaching role I have in our practice and would enjoy the opportunity to help others with their pediatric problems.

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