Mercury: Vapor Bulbs

Fluorescent and other mercury vapor bulbs are excellent environmental choices because they use up to 50 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs. But remember, mercury bulbs must be carefully handled and properly disposed. Mercury vapor, immediately released upon breakage, can contaminate the air we breathe.

The various types of mercury vapor bulbs and their most common uses are:

  • Fluorescent and HID (high intensity discharge) - kitchen, workshop, garage and other home lighting.
  • Metal halide - street, security and flood lights.
  • High-pressure sodium - street, security and flood lights.
  • Neon, almost always colored - novelty, lounge and retail store lighting.
  • Automotive headlamps with characteristic blue tint when lit - Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo models and Lincoln Continentals.

Mercury Vapor Bulb Guidelines

Identify light bulbs that contain mercury:
  • Use stickers or some other form of identification to mark lamps and appliances that contain mercury vapor bulbs. For safety, do not place stickers on the bulbs or any fixture that could get hot.
Properly dispose of household mercury vapor bulbs - recycle them!
  • When a mercury vapor bulb burns out, carefully remove it from its fixture and store it in its original container or other box.
  • Do the same with blue-tinted automotive headlamps; be sure to remove them before sending a retired vehicle to the scrap dealer. Mark the container "Mercury for Recycling" and take it to a local mercury recycling site, such as a local recycling drop-off location that accepts these lights, your local solid waste management district, or in Marion County, contact the ToxDrop at (317) 327-2234.
  • Never break or crush the bulbs. If a bulb is accidentally broken, air out the room and scoop the mercury-containing pieces and powder into a sealable, plastic container.
  • Although fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and require special handling and disposal, they are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and often last much longer. These characteristics reduce our reliance on coal burning - a major source of mercury pollution.
Before you buy, check what's inside.
  • Ask your retailer to stock new low-mercury bulbs that are now available. Remember these bulbs need to be recycled too.