Mercury is a naturally occuring element that is used safely in many of the products and items that we come in contact with every day at home and at work. The following chart compares the amount of mercury contained in a single CFL to the amount found in other commonplace items (source: www.energystar.gov).
As noted above, CFLs do contain mercury. The standard CFL contains approximately 5 mg of mercury - which is about the amount it would take to cover the period at the end of this sentence.
Although CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury the use of CFLs actually helps to avoid mercury being released into the environment. This is possible because CFLs use up to 75% less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs and last from 8-10 times as long. Since CFLs use less energy this means less electricity has to be generated to run them which, in turn, leads to less mercury released - mercury is a by-product of generation (source: www.energystar.gov).
An additional benefit of CFL use is the reduction of landfill waste. Since CFLs last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, you could throw away up to 10 incandescent light bulbs over the life of a single CFL.
Although CFLs only contain 5 mg of mercury they still need to be recycled properly. You can return broken or burnt out CFLs to any of Berkeley Electric's four district offices for recycling. Additional recycling centers can be found at Charleston County recycling centers or by visiting www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or www.earth911.org.
If you happen to break a CFL, please follow the recommended guidelines for proper clean-up and disposal of the bulb which can be found at www.energystar.gov.