The increasingly wide-spread use of energy-efficient, fluorescent lamps has had tremendous environmental benefits. However, mercury, a toxic chemical, is an essential component of fluorescent lamps. When lamps are broken, whether during storage, transport, disposal, or crushing, a substantial portion of the mercury contained in the lamp is released as mercury vapor. If the mercury vapor is not controlled or contained, it could be readily inhaled by anyone in the area and be hazardous to the health of those exposed individuals. Additionally, mercury released from broken lamps is persistent in the environment, where it can be chemically transformed to methylmercury, which is more toxic than elemental mercury and which bioaccumulates up the food chain. When lamps are disposed of in a landfill, rather than recycled, a substantial percentage of the lamps are broken and virtually all of the mercury contained in the lamps is released into the environment. In addition, lamps may be broken during collection, shipping, or handling. Therefore, in order to protect human health and the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly encourages the safe handling and recycling of fluorescent lamps. Lamp recycling can be done either by sending whole, boxed lamps to a recycler or by using a drum top crusher (DTC) device at the point where lamps are removed from service. DTC devices are designed to fit on the top of a 55 gallon drum in order to prevent the release of mercury vapors while crushing the fluorescent lamps into the drum below. These devices are used to reduce the volume of waste lamps so as to improve storage and handling and reduce shipping costs associated with fluorescent lamp recycling. Each method of recycling has potential benefits and draw-backs. This report examines DTC devices only and does not address whole lamp recycling or disposal of lamps. As part of ongoing efforts to encourage safe management of mercury-containing equipment and fluorescent
lamps, EPA conducted the Mercury Lamp Drum-Top Crusher Study. The objective of the Study was to evaluate the ability of four DTC devices to contain the mercury released from crushed lamps in terms of preventing worker exposure to adverse levels of airborne mercury resulting from the operation of these devices.