Last week, I spoke about mercury poisoning through the dental amalgam. One of our readers alerted me to mercury poisoning through energy-saving light bulbs.

These have been hailed as our latest invention to save the planet. It lasts 10 times longer and uses less thatn10 times the amount of energy

But they also contain mercury. It is a very tiny bit (about 5 milligrams). Enough to fit onto the tip of your ball point pen. But mercury is considered toxic waste and if you inhale the vapours form mercury, the damage to the brain (including your body body) can be great. So if you have the light bulb and the mercury within the lightbulb you are safe.

Mercury is recognized as a health hazard by authorities worldwide because its accumulation in the body can damage the nervous system, lungs and kidneys, posing a particular threat to babies in the womb and young children.

But if you break it, then you may be in danger of mercury poisoning. Here's what to do if you do break it:

  1. Ventilate the room: leave the windows open for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Wear rubber gloves while you are cleaning mercury beads
  3. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth. Breathing in the vapours is the worst thing.
  4. Place the mercury beads in a plastic bag by collecting the spilled mercury using a thin piece of card. Or use an empty plastic bottle to collect the beads.
  5. Wipe the area with a damp cloth.
  6. In a plastic bag, put the card and the beads and the damp cloth that you just wiped the floor with and then dispose of it. (Your Town Council should provide facilities where you can dispose hazardous waste.)
  7. Never touch the mercury with your bare hands, do not use the vacuum cleaner, do not wash the mercury down the sink, do not wash clothes with mercury on them in the washing machine.

These are symptoms of mercury poisoning:

Cough, breathlessness, chest pains, a tight chest, feeling irritable, nervous, sore eyes are symptoms of poison by mercury. If you breathe in beads of mercury, you could cough up blood, have breathing difficulties, or have an infection of the lungs. At this stage, run to the doctor for further advice!

But be warned … the proof is in the pudding, whatever gets past your teeth: one such energy-saving bulb contains a hundred times less mercury than is found in a single dental amalgam filling!