Here's one to make you think a bit before going "green". From the March 17, 2007 online edition of the Bangor (Maine) Daily News ("Broken light bulb sparks debate"):
Brandy Bridges was among the untold thousands of Mainers who liked the idea of saving both money and the environment. She installed more than two dozen compact fluorescent bulbs in her Prospect home.
But Bridges’ trust in the new technology literally shattered this week when a minor incident with a loose bulb turned into a major headache. A bulb she was trying to rethread tumbled from her hands and broke on the carpeted floor of her daughter’s bedroom.
Remembering lessons from shop class about fluorescent bulbs, Bridges began calling around for advice on the proper cleanup procedure.
"I was nervous. Something about this gave me a bad feeling," Bridges said in an interview.
She called The Home Depot, where she bought the bulb, and was referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which eventually referred her to the DEP’s environmental response team. A specialist who responded found mercury readings more than six times the state’s acceptable level at the spot of the broken bulb.
Readings a few feet from the spot where the bulb broke were within safe levels.
The specialist referred Bridges to an environmental cleanup company. The estimated cost, according to Bridges, was about $2,000.
"Save 40 cents a month on your electric bill, but it will cost you two grand to clean up?" Bridges said.
The article from the Bangor Daily News goes on to say that the State of Maine is adopting procedures to guide homeowners in cleaning up the mercury mess themselves without having to call on professional help. However, reader "Ray" asks a disturbing question in a comment to the article at the URL link above: "What if you are in the process of selling your home and have residual mercury in the carpet from a broken energy saving bulb.. Do you have to disclose that problem to potential buyers?"
Illustrating, once again, that there is no such thing as a lack of trade-offs in going "green". You can save on your light bill and increase your risk of mercury exposure from a broken light bulb; you can accept the government's assurance that the risk is minimal and still face increased legal risk if you act on the government's assurance and don't disclose the mercury in your home sale documents; or you can disclose the supposedly minor problem in your home-sale documents and increase the risk that the sale will fall through (unless you'd like to give a $2,000 credit for hazmat cleanup).
Please consult your lawyer and toxicologist before changing that bulb!