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Do LED Bulbs Contain Mercury?

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LED lights are gaining popularity because they are more energy-efficient than other lighting options such as fluorescent lights. Also, unlike other ordinary light bulbs that contain dangerous materials, LEDs are safe to use. What about mercury content? Do LED bulbs contain mercury? Let’s find out.

Do LED Bulbs Contain Mercury?

No, LED bulbs do not contain mercury. Unlike other traditional lighting options that include mercury, LED bulbs do not have any traces of mercury. They also have a low impact on the environment compared to incandescent bulbs because they use less energy than CFLs. 

Moreover, LED lights reduce power bills and produce superior quality light. However, some LED lights might contain arsenic, lead, and other dangerous substances, which can pose environmental and health concerns. 

Broken LED light bulb

Are LED Lights Safe if Broken?

Many people praise LED lights for their energy efficiency, extended lifespans, and better lighting. Although they contain dangerous materials like nickel and lead, LEDs are safe to use since the concentration of these hazardous materials is minimal. 

Apart from the dangers associated with shattered glass, you can dispose of broken LED bulbs easily without any dangerous implications. While you may be apprehensive because any exposure to dangerous substances can impact your health, this isn’t the case. 

What Dangers Do Broken LED Lights Pose?

The average lifespan of LED light bulbs is 50,000 hours. However, collisions might happen. For instance, your LED lights can shatter when you are changing your busted bulb or crack during an accident. Like any glass object, the bulb can’t handle pressure since it’s fragile. 

So if it falls accidentally, it can shatter into several tiny pieces. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to detect these pieces because they’re translucent. If you step on them, they can cut your skin and cause bleeding. Although a cracked bulb is prone to vibrational damage, it doesn’t pose any danger. 

Again, the glass bulb only serves aesthetic purposes so the LED doesn’t need it to function optimally. However, if your bulb cracks and doesn’t shatter, it can still emit light so long as the diode is intact. Also, unlike conventional bulbs, LED glass isn’t filled with gas.

What’s Bad About Mercury?

Mercury changes into colorless, odorless steam when it’s heated. The steam is used in compact fluorescent lamps to electrify the tungsten coils’ electrons. Unfortunately, exposure to mercury is dangerous, especially for the elderly and kids.

Short-term exposure to mercury can cause a lack of concentration, migraine, and fatigue. On the other hand, long-term exposure can result in neuromuscular problems like weakness and muscle atrophy. Bear in mind that CFLs contain about 3-5 milligrams of mercury.

When broken, the mercury steam can find its way into your home and stay there for several weeks. Due to this, you should handle and dispose of CFL bulbs carefully if they break or burn out. 

LED bulbs containing mercury

What Other Toxic Substances Are in LED bulbs?

Unfortunately, the internal elements of LED light bulbs might contain dangerous materials like nickel, iron, arsenic, copper, and lead. Exposure to these elements is dangerous and can result in long-term health implications. For instance, it can increase the risk of skin and bladder cancer.

Continuous exposure to arsenic can also cause skin lesions and diabetes. However, it’s important to note that these components differ depending on the LED type. For example, red LEDs contain up to eight times more lead compared to other LED colors.

These harmful materials also affect the environment. Since copper does not decay, it can poison marine wildlife and microorganisms if it accumulates on the planet. These substances aren’t classified as harmful by law because the amounts are minute.

How Should You Handle Broken LED Lights?

Surprisingly, broken LED bulbs do not need special disposal. You can dispose of them with your trash because they aren’t categorized as harmful. Although LED lights contain minute amounts of toxic components, you should still follow safety precautions.

Here’s what you should do if your LED light breaks:

  1. Take your pets and kids to a secure place to prevent them from injuring themselves.
  2. Wear a mask to protect you from inhaling harmful fumes. You should also wear gloves to protect your fingers from broken pieces.
  3. Turn off your air conditioning system and then open the windows to allow the fumes to disappear.
  4. Sweep up the broken pieces using a broom and throw them away when you are done.
  5. Pick up smaller pieces you may have missed using sticky tape.
  6. Put the broken fragments into a sealable container and dispose of them.

You can also recycle broken fragments where possible.

Why Recycle?

Fluorescent lights contain 3.5-15 milligrams of mercury. However, this depends on the fluorescent light type and when the bulb was manufactured. While manufacturers have reduced mercury traces, they are yet to eliminate the mercury completely. 

Although mercury traces are few in a single bulb, most bulbs are discarded improperly, which contributes to the mercury that’s disposed of on the planet. That’s why you should recycle bulbs containing mercury.

Broken bulb
  • Recycling Allows Other Substances in the Bulbs to Be Reused: Recycling fluorescent lights allows the repurpose of the phosphor powder, glass tubing, metal end caps, and other substances used to design the lights. Other glass products can also be made from recycled glass. Additionally, you can recycle the mercury into new fluorescent bulbs.
  • Recycling Prevents Mercury From Being Released on the Planet: Bulbs that contain mercury tend to break when disposed of in a dumpsite. To ensure mercury isn’t released into the environment, take the bulbs to a recycler to repurpose the mercury in them.

Related Questions

Before we finish this article, let’s answer a couple of questions related to LED light bulbs.

Which Light Bulbs Contain Mercury?

CFLs (Compact fluorescent light bulbs), HID (high-intensity discharge), and high-pressure sodium bulbs contain mercury. 

Are LED Bulbs Toxic When Broken?

Since LED lights aren’t classified as harmful by law, you can throw away the broken pieces with other trash. You can also call your local municipal agency for disposal instructions.

Which Light Bulbs Do Not Contain Mercury?

Compact fluorescent lights do not emit mercury. CFLs also use less energy than incandescent bulb lights, reducing power costs for users.

Conclusion

LEDs do not contain mercury, however, they contain dangerous substances like nickel and arsenic. Although the amount of these materials is little, you shouldn’t expose yourself to danger. Follow the safety guidelines we have highlighted above while handling broken LED bulbs.