At Nu-Life Industries in Langley they prepare fluorescent lights for recycling. The employee responsible for breaking the bulbs wears a full hazmat suit. It's a precaution that might seem excessive until you realize that all fluorescent lights, including compact fluorescents, contain mercury.

"There is the myth that the green means there is no mercury," plant manager Rand Heiberg said.

Some bulbs say ‘contains mercury' but not all do. Some just say 'Hg' – the chemical symbol for mercury.

When a CFL light bulb breaks, 14 per cent of the mercury vapour is immediately released into the air. So with the B.C. government banning higher wattage regular light bulbs, all of us need to take precautions at home.

First, don't install the bulbs in fixtures that may be easily knocked over. If the lights do break, you have to treat it as hazardous waste.

"Open a window or a door and let it air out for 15 minutes," Oscar Ceron, the manager of BC Hydro's Power Smart Residential Lighting program, said.

And you should leave your home.

New guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advise you to air out the room for several hours and leave your forced air heating system or air conditioning system shut off during that time.

Health Canada has not changed its recommendations but does say to use the proper cleanup procedure.

On a hard surface do not use a broom or a vacuum cleaner. A broom can spread the mercury around and a vacuum cleaner will be contaminated.

Here is the proper procedure:

  • Put on disposable rubber gloves.
  • Scoop up the pieces with stiff paper or card board.
  • And wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel.

To remove a broken CFL light bulb from a rug, use sticky tape to pick up the pieces.

And then put everything into two sealed plastic bags.

"And then look for a recycling location in your area," Ceron said.

When your CFL light bulb stops working, take it back to a retail collection point for recycling, such as Best Buy, Future Shop, London Drugs, and Home Depot, In fact, when you buy them ask the store where you can recycle them. They may have a collection box right there.

With a report fro CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen