This is Snuffy the cat. He likes to perch on my desk while I'm on my computer. Also on my desk is a green banker's lamp with a CFL bulb in it. Snuffy, alpha male that he is, rubbed his face on the lamp and knocked it to the floor. The green glass shade is intact but the CFL bulb broke scattering mercury on the carpet.
This is no small matter! I would rather the lamp had broken. I had heard that broken CFL's required special cleanup so I closed the door and went on my housemate's computer in her room. The instructions were: wear a face mask so you don't inhale the mercury, take a glass jar with a metal lid to hold all the fragments, do not sweep or vacuum because that raises the mercury dust into the air, pick up as much dust as you can with duct tape, use damp paper towels for other cleanup, turn off heat or AC to the room and open a window, close off room for 8 hours... Other sites offered harsher restrictions.
As I sit here at my computer today, I feel like everything I touch is contaminated. I followed all the instructions but when I googled the effects of mercury on the human body, it was really scary. Most sites are vague about the what the harmful effects would be from exposure to a single broken light bulb stating it depends on amount you inhaled or absorbed through skin, your age (old is good), other health problems, etc.
Here is a partial list of possible symptoms: tremors, nervousness, moodiness, irritability, headaches, muscle atrophy, insomnia and the list goes on to mention kidney failure, respiratory failure and death.
It makes you doubly concerned for children who might accidentally break a bulb and fearfully clean it up without any awareness of the danger. Even unbroken CFL's must be disposed of as hazardous waste! So now, after all the years spent cleaning up lead in paints and asbestos in schools, we introduce this frightening new hazard?
Paraphrasing Ed Grimley (Martin Short's alter ego) "We are doomed as doomed can be, I must say!"