Which Light bulbs contain mercury? - B-Lite

For decades, mercury-containing light bulbs have dominated the world market. The high efficiency and the long-life performance of the cold-light Bulbs led to the progressive replacement of incandescent Bulbs with tungsten wire by fluorescent Bulbs.

Aside from the increasing popularity of fluorescent Bulbs, these advantages came paired with some downsides.
Toxic mercury vapor emissions from defective and used fluorescent Bulbs became an environmental problem. This is why it is crucial to find safe options for managing and recycling mercury.

Typical Mercury-Containing Bulb Types

Fluorescent bulb


Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) have the same size as incandescent Bulbs, except that they use disc-shaped or U-shaped fluorescent tubes to produce light. CFLs are the most widely used mercury-containing Bulbs in households.

Linear fluorescent Bulbs (LFL) incorporate mercury as vapor or powder inside a sealed glass tube. While they are widely used in offices, shops, and warehouses, they are less common in private households. 

Mercury levels in the different types of fluorescent Bulbs range from >0 to 100 mg. Nevertheless, the National Electrical Manufacturers reports that approximately one-half of fluorescent Bulbs manufactured or sold by their members in the United States contains 5 to 10 mg of mercury, and a quarter contains 10 to 50 mg of mercury.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs


HID (High-Intensity Discharge Light Bulbs ) is a family of gas discharge Bulbs generating light as an electrical discharge pass between two electrodes and through a plasma or ionized gas. 

We can classify HID Bulbs as follows: metal halide, ceramic metal halide bulbs (CMH), Mercury vapor, and high-pressure sodium bulbs.

This type of Bulb is well known for its high efficiency in converting electricity into light and its remarkable durability. As they are used in street lighting, floodlighting, car park lighting, and industrial lighting, the HID Bulbs require a ballast to provide the initial surge of current needed to start and regulate their output during normal operation.

  • Metal halide bulbs should be considered as a complete system for all mercury vapor lamps, comprising lamp, ballast, igniter, fixture, and control. The quantity of mercury in individual MH bulbs is between 10 mg and 1,000 mg, depending on the wattage used.
  • Ceramic metal halide bulbs (CMH) provide better light quality, better lumen maintenance, and better color consistency than MH Bulbs. Commercially available with less mercury than MH light bulbs. Instead, most contain more than 5 mg to 50 mg of mercury.
  • High-pressure sodium Bulbs (HPS) Given their poor color reproduction, their use is limited to outdoor and industrial applications where high efficiency and long life are priorities. Generally, HPS bulbs hold 10 to 50 mg of mercury. The oldest HID technology, mercury vapor bulbs, is mainly used in industry and outdoor lighting because of their low cost and long life (16,000 to 24,000 hours). These bubs are becoming ore obsolete and will soon become difficult to obtain.


Why Should We Recycle Light Bulbs?


The EPA requires that mercury bulbs, such as fluorescent tubes, be managed as hazardous waste under Regulation 5 for general wastes unless they pass the Toxic Causal Leaching Test (TCLP). 

Depending on the bulb type, manufacturer, and production time, the mercury amount varies between 3.5 and 15 milligrams. Over the last 20 years, light bulb manufacturers have significantly reduced the amount of mercury in light bulbs but have not eliminated all of it. 

Millions of mercury-containing light bulbs are sold in Canada each year, with most of them improperly recycled. Although the amount of mercury in individual fluorescent bulbs is small, overall, many bulbs contribute to the amount of mercury released into the environment. The EPA recommends the recycling of all mercury-containing bulbs.

We offer to recycle to all our clients outside Quebec, while we recommend working with Recyc-Fluo to our Quebecois clients.

So, Why Should We Recycle Light Bulbs?

  • Recycling helps to prevent mercury from entering the environment. Fluorescent tubes and other mercury-containing light bulbs often break when disposed of in bins, waste containers or compactors, landfills, or incinerators. In order to avoid the emission of mercury, these light bulbs should be taken to a recycler before they break. This recycler recovers and recycles mercury and other components.
  • When recycling fluorescent tubes such as CFLs, the glass, metal, and other materials that make up the tube can be recycled. Almost all components of fluorescent tubes, such as metal caps, glass tubes, and phosphors, can be separated and recycled. The metal parts are usually sold as scrap metal to recyclers. While Recycled glass can be used to make other glass products. Also,  Mercury can be recycled in the production of new fluorescent tubes and other mercury-containing devices.


What Is The Non-Mercury Alternatives Bulb Technology?

LED technology

LED technology is a mercury-free alternative to fluorescent tubes and HID bulbs. LEDs emit light when a positive electric current flows through the LED circuit like a semiconductor diode. However, the emitted light from an LED bulb depends on the semiconductor material used with a blue color (cold colors). On the other hand, it can appear white (warm colors).

LEDs are considerably more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes. They have been used in commercial applications since the 1960s and offer the advantages of energy efficiency, lower maintenance, impact resistance, and long lifetime. Today, LEDs are used extensively in residential and commercial lighting applications such as stadiums, billboards, traffic signs, streetlights, and more recently as displays in cars and aircraft carriers.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs are the original electric lighting used for over 100 years. These bulbs are electric light sources that exploit the incandescent lamp phenomenon, in which light is generated by heating a filament. Incandescent bulbs work well on alternating current or direct current, and they do not require external regulating equipment.

Household and commercial lighting use them, as they are compatible with control devices such as dimmers, timers, and photo sensors and are perfect to use indoors and outdoors.

Finally, It is important to know that in 2019 Canada developed a national strategy to address the handling of mercury lamps and prevent any environmental damage. A code of practice is now available to the facilities and operators who majoritarily are responsible for ensuring a safe management of those types of lamps.

You will find in our store a selection of safe Light bulbs that you can order with confidence.


Like what you read
Please take some time to share the word

BL Solutions: A sustainable and cost-effective choice

By choosing our residential, commercial and industrial lighting, you’ll enjoy a vast selection as well as a guarantee of sustainability! Read more about our commitment and our values to find out what makes BL Solutions unique.

Plus, thanks to our large network of partners and manufacturers, you’ll enjoy great prices on all our equipment.

A team at your service to create a tailor-made solution

Select a Language