How Everything Works
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Question 553

Are there any risks, other than a case of implosion, with regards to exposure to normal fluorescent lighting? - RR
While the phosphors in fluorescent lamps are not considered to be toxic, they do contain a tiny amount of mercury. This mercury is an essential part of the operation of the lamp (it is what creates the initial light during the electric discharge). While most fluorescent lamps are simply discarded into landfill, some facilities (including the University of Virginia) dispose of them more carefully. The University of Virginia breaks the lamps to collect the phosphors and then distills the mercury out of the phosphors. The phosphors are then entirely non-hazardous and the mercury is recycled.

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