Top toxicologist warns of dangers from CFL bulbs

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Amidst increasing use of CFL bulbs, health authorities warned the public to take precautions as those bulbs contained mercury.

Head of the Toxicology and National Poison Information Centre, of the National Hospital, Dr Waruna Gunathilake told The Island that CFL bulbs can break and release mercury.

"We don't know their quality, but if one breaks or explodes mercury will be released," he said.

Dr Gunathilake said that mercury was a developmental neuro toxin which mainly affected children as they took much air into the respiratory system.

The senior physician said that there was an 80 per cent possibility of mercury getting into the human body through the respiratory system through the lungs. It would be harmful to the brain, kidney, liver and central nervous system.

Dr. Gunathilake said that people should be very careful when disposing used CFL bulbs.

"If a CFL bulb explodes allow the house to be properly ventilated by opening the windows and doors," he said adding that if it is an A/C room turn off the machines immediately.

He warned against the use of brooms or vacuum cleaners to clear the exploded bulb and instead to use a wet clothe to clean it.

Dr Gunathilake said that broken parts of a CFL bulb should not be kept inside the home but should be stored in a container outside the home until disposed of in a proper manner.

He said that a proper disposal system for the CFL bulbs was an immediate need as there was increased usage.

When contacted, the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority, Dr Wimal Rubasinghe said that the CEA would introduce a proper disposal system for CFL bulbs and tube lights this year.

"We decided to introduce a proper system to prevent possible health and environmental hazards caused by chemicals like mercury contained in those bulbs," he said.