Ellsworth, Maine housewife, Brandy Bridges, dropped and shattered a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) on the carpeted floor in her daughter's bedroom. Aware that CFLs are potentially hazardous, Bridges called the local Home Depot store to ask for advice. Home Depot told her that the CFL contained mercury and advised her to call the Poison Control hotline. Now remember, this is the replacement to the electric light bulb you've used for your whole life. You know...you drop one on the floor. It breaks. What do you do? Get a broom and dust pan and sweep it up. What happened when Brandy Bridges called the Poison Control hotline?
The hotline had her contact the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP sent Andrew Smith, a toxicologist, to her home. He sealed the room with plastic and told Bridges it would cost about $2,000 to clean up the mess from the one toxic $3 CFL devise that broke on her floor. The levels of mercury toxicity in the downstairs living area were safely under 300 mg/m3. However, the mercury levels spiked to 1,939 mg/m3 in Shayley Bridges' bedroom. Bridges' daughter could not sleep there because of the toxicity levels were too great. Bridges, a single mom with an overcrowded house and limited financial means, filed a claim with her homeowner's policy. The insurance company denied the claim because mercury is a pollutant that wasn't covered in her homeowner's policy. Smith said he believed the contamination was localized at the spot where the bulb broke, adding that mercury is dangerous to anyone who has experienced long term exposure to the chemical element - and, it's expensive to the homeowner who has the misfortune to break a CFL in their home--$2,000 expensive to be exact.