When Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5543 on March 19, Washington became the first state to address the dangers of unsafe packaging and transportation of used fluorescent lamps and mercury-containing devices. This new legislation is set to be the precursor of future state and federal legislation as awareness of mercury vapor dangers increases.
Due to deficiencies of most current packaging configurations utilized for shipping used fluorescent lamps, the new law requires that lights and other mercury-containing devices are packaged and shipped in material that will minimize the release of mercury into the environment. The law also states that packages should include mercury vapor-barrier materials if lamps are transported by the U.S. Postal Service or a common carrier or collected via curbside programs and mail-back businesses.
Recent research studying the packaging employed to transport used fluorescent lamps has indicated the need for much stricter legislation to prevent the release of mercury vapor from used lamps. This research, published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, revealed the need for proven vapor-containing packaging. The results indicated that four out of five commonly used packages failed to minimize levels below acceptable occupational exposure limits, as defined by state and federal regulations and guidelines. For an abstract of the study and pdf download, go to journal's Web site.