Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Assessing Occupational Mercury Exposures during the On-Site Processing of Spent Fluorescent Lamps

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Assessing Occupational Mercury Exposures during the On-Site Processing of Spent Fluorescent Lamps

Article excerpt

* A fluorescent lamp usually consists of a sealed glass tube coated with a powdered phosphor material.

* The tube is filled at low pressure with argon gas and mercury vapor.

* At either end, tungsten coils coated with an electron-emitting material form electrodes.

* When voltage is applied, electrons pass through the tube, striking the argon atoms and releasing more electrons.

* These electrons strike the mercury atoms, causing the orbital electrons to move to an excited state.

* Upon relaxation, the mercury atoms emit ultraviolet light.

* The UV light strikes the phosphor, causing it to fluoresce and produce visible light.

* When fluorescent lamps are discarded or recycled, and subsequently broken, mercury may be released into an occupational setting or the surrounding environment.

* U.S. EPA added used mercury-containing lamps to the list of "universal wastes" in 1999.

* Used lamps designated as universal waste must be shipped to an authorized facility for disposal or treatment such as recycling.

* One of U.S. EPA's goals was to make it easier and more cost-effective for handlers to recycle used lamps.

* On-site crushing of lamps into 55-gallon drums prior to shipment to a recycling facility can reduce volume and transportation costs. …

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