CFL light bulbs a safety hazard?

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, about the size of a pen point. Mercury forms a vapor that you can inhale. If a bulb breaks, it needs to be cleaned up properly to protect everyone in the house.

Americans have debated the pros and cons of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's) for over a decade. While they consume only half the electricity of a regular light bulb and last longer, they're also filled with mercury, a toxic gas.

These CFL lightbulbs can be pretty dangerous if not disposed of properly.

"People don't understand that these shouldn't just be thrown away. They need to be recycled and there are recyclers out there who can recapture the vapor and recycle the glass, get the mercury captured. That's the biggest thing in them," said Bill Romans, a division manager with Allied Waste in Quincy.

"They're not dangerous when they're turned on. They're not dangerous to handle. You can put them in your purse, your car. Nothing's going to get out of the bulb unless its broken," said Melissia Mabie, a buyer at Heintz Lighting in Quincy.

It's that exact situation that can put you and the environment in danger.

"The biggest danger we see is the point of pickup. When you bust the glass, the glass flies and the mercury vapors escape. An employee breathes it in, a mother and her kid walking by breathes it. I mean, it's in the atmosphere, so people really need to be responsible," said Romans.

But these bulbs cannot be packaged with the rest of your recyclables. So how do you recycle them? Stores like Heintz Lighting will take them off your hands.

"You can bring them here, save them up, bring in more than one at a time, give us the old bulb, get a new one and be on your way," said Mabie. "We send them to a facility in St. Louis that breaks the bulb down and recycles the glass, plastic and the mercury, and then reuses it for new bulbs."

"If it's just one from the whole world in the trash, then no. But if everyone throws one away, we're in big trouble," said Romans.

We checked around the Quincy area to see where you can recycle your used light bulbs. So far, we've found that Lowes and Heintz Lighting both have drop off sites.

Are you energy conscious in your home and use CFL bulbs? We want your comments below or join the rest of the conversation on our Facebook page here .