Follow Janet On Twitter!





Archive for June, 2009

Fluorescent Bulbs Turned My House Into A Toxic Wasteland

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Frank and I believe in the Green Movement. We recycle, walk when we can, and have put fluorescent bulbs in all of our light fixtures. The change from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent bulbs has cut our electricity bill by about a third (the fluorescents save three-quarters of the electricity of incandescents). But today, we lost four months of savings in the span of one second when Frank accidentally broke a fluorescent bulb while changing it.

It all started when I hopped into the shower this morning. The bathroom light started flickering. So I called Mr. Fix-It. Frank appeared, armed with a new fluorescent. Still bleary-eyed from waking up, he took out the old bulb. The bulb slipped from his hand, crashed onto the tile floor and shattered. “Okay, that’s bad. Real bad,” he said, seeming stunned. “Why?” I asked. “It’s just a bulb.” I envisioned picking up the pieces and vacuuming up the rest. “Uh…” he replied, “it’s a fluorescent. This is bad. Uh. Don’t breathe.” I’ve heard this phrase many times from him while in the bathroom, but apparently there was real danger here other than a bad attack of nausea. “I’m stuck here,” I replied. He said, “You need to get out of there, don’t breathe, don’t step in any of this and get out of here.” I complied, but breathed anyway, figuring passing out on top of the broken bulb would be a worse fate.

When I finally escaped from the bathroom, Frank closed the door and turned off the heat. He looked very upset. “I just read about this. This is bad. Mercury vapor and powder are in fluorescent bulbs and are super toxic.” I suggested he look online for directions on how to clean up the mess. He found instructions on the EPA website. What a shocker. (

If you break a fluorescent bulb, basically, you’re screwed. Your household becomes a temporary Super Fund toxic waste dump. Here’s a Readers’ Digest version of the six-step procedure to clean up a broken fluorescent bulb. First, you open a window and evacuate the room. Turn off the heating system, make sure no one walks through the glass and powder. Let the room air out for at least fifteen minutes. (We didn’t do this. I stood there, dripping wet, and breathed in all the fumes, thereby saving Frank and the cat…) Put on rubber gloves, use cardboard to scoop up the fragments. Throw fragments into a glass jar or plastic bag that can be sealed. Use tape to pick up any remaining fragments or powder. Wipe the area clean with disposable wet wipes, discard into the glass jar or plastic bag.

You can’t use a vacuum cleaner or you’ll contaminate not only the vacuum cleaner, but the entire air supply of the household. Forever. Nor can you use a broom. If the powder or fragments land on a rug or clothing or bedding, you have to seal the bedding and garments and rugs in a plastic bag and throw them away. If you’re in the room when the bulb breaks, you have to wash the clothes you were wearing during the exposure to the mercury vapor. If powder and fragments land on carpet, you use tape to get as much up as you can, then vacuum up the rest. (This is the only instance where vacuuming is recommended.) Then you must discard the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag. Then, get this, for the next “several times” you use the vacuum you have to turn off the forced air heat or air conditioning, open a window, then vacuum, then wait fifteen minutes, then you can close the window and turn back on the heat.

Have you followed all this? Is this insane? I read online where a woman busted a bulb in her kid’s room ( She had the room tested for mercury and the place where she dropped the bulb was highly contaminated. She was told to tear out the carpets and throw away all the contaminated objects in the room. She was so freaked out, she sealed off the room and they don’t use it anymore. All these contaminants? From one bulb breaking?

These stupid pieces of crap are supposed to be “saving the environment.” By poisoning it? The bulbs carry a only small warning label on them. They don’t list the procedure for disposal. The label only states that if a bulb breaks, follow proper disposal procedures. For the normal person this means picking up the pieces and vacuuming up the rest. But this will completely poison your household.

How many bloody people know this? And how many people are going to remember to go through this lockdown procedure every time they use the vacuum cleaner after they clean up a broken bulb? Uh, no one. Who is going to throw out the clothes they wore when the bulb broke? No one, except for Frank and I. I also threw out two new bathroom rugs. Frank and I spent an hour cleaning the stupid bathroom. I tracked mercury powder all over my house before Frank read the clean-up procedures online. And these clean-up recommendations were from the EPA, an organization that denied global warming until last year. The most toothless, bought-by-the-chemical-companies, useless public agency in existence. I shudder to think how poisoned my house really is. How much I just shortened my lifespan by being stuck in a room when a stupid fluorescent bulb broke.

After our morning fun, I wanted to banish the bulbs from our house. Frank refused, citing the (same) EPA website that shows how much mercury gets into the air by coal-burning plants and how much mercury pollution is saved by fluorescent bulbs. I reluctantly agreed. Lesser of two evils and all that. But my last question to him was: “Why is any mercury getting into the environment? Why can’t we find clean energy that’s actually CLEAN?” Frank replied, “Money.”

Like I needed another lesson in that.

©2009, Janet Periat

Things That Worry Me

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I think, therefore I worry. I realize worrying hasn’t changed the outcomes of anything I’ve worried about nor does it serve any other purpose than to give me something to think about at three in the morning. But that doesn’t stop me. Worrying is my favorite pastime. Here are some of my latest.

Worry Number One: The World Will End. Abruptly. In a large nuclear apocalyptic mushroom cloud of doom. Like on the TV show 24. Now, I don’t worry that I’d die in this massive explosion, I worry I will survive. Here’s my worst fear: I’m wandering aimlessly through a destructive landscape of charred bodies and swirling dirt storms with only Spam to eat. Why do we save canned foods for emergencies anyway? How is this going to make you feel better if you’re the sole survivor on the planet? Not only will you be facing the death of mankind, you have to eat salty fetid meat, too? Note to self: buy more freeze-dried backpacking food. What really worries me is that Doomsday will precede the conclusion of Survivor or 24 and I’ll be wandering aimlessly through the desolate streets without knowing who won the million bucks or whom Jack had to torture to save the world.

Worry Number Two: We’ll run out of money, lose the house and be forced out onto the streets. And the food bank will give us only Spam to eat. (See Worry Number One). Even though I would no longer have to worry about property taxes, a giant mortgage, house insurance, earthquake insurance, remodeling the leaking showers, fixing the roof, propping up the sinking front porch, re-stuccoing the outside walls or replacing the forty-year-old stinky carpeting, this would—wait. Why am I worried about this again?

Worry Number Three: My career will take off after I die. The day my ashes get buried in the Pescadero Cemetery, finally, all my books will sell, I’ll get awarded a freakin’ Pulitzer and my estate will be showered with millions of dollars in cash. That would make me mad enough to rise from the grave. Why do they give Pulitzers posthumously, anyway? The person who cares the most is dead. Dead. Dead people don’t care about sales and awards, they want to be recognized in their lifetime or the achievement doesn’t count. The only people benefiting from a dead person’s success are the publishers and the dead author’s relatives, people who probably sent the person to their grave in the first place. Oh. Money. Duh. Of course. I am so naïve sometimes. I just figured this out (see Worry Number Five). They give awards to dead people to pump up their sales. Added benefit of having dead winners, competing live authors can’t bitch publicly that they were cheated without seeming like total idiots. Still, I don’t want this happening to me. I want all my accolades now. All that money now. Course, what if this is my peak? What if this is as far as my writing career goes? Which brings me to Worry Number Four.

Worry Number Four: My novels won’t sell to a big publisher. After twenty years and twenty-six unsold novels, this isn’t really a worry. This is a condition. This is a state of being. While I win contests and I get glowing rejection letters from publishers, The Big Contract still hasn’t happened for me. Yet I still work diligently forty hours a week, delusional in my optimism. I figure if I go to my grave without selling a book, at least I’ll leave behind a hundred plus unsold novels—wait. Now I’m right back to Worry Number Three…

Worry Number Five: I’m stupid. I mean, really stupid. You know that movie, Waiting for Guffman? It took me three years and four months to get that the title was a play on words of the theatrical production, Waiting For Godot. And I’m a theatre major. Who saw the play about three times. And the movie about the same number of times. Did you know that awards are given to dead authors as a marketing tool to drive sales? I could name twenty other jokes I didn’t get for a year or two and situations I didn’t understand until way after the fact. There are some synapses in my head that work at a glacial pace. Of course, at three in the morning, these lapses all add up to a case of Terminal Stupidity. Thankfully, the only person who’s around when I make these embarrassing realizations is Frank. Oh. And now you people. And I just put proof of my stupidity in writing. Doh!

Worry Number Six: They’ll Change The Formula of Cocoa Puffs. Again. I know this doesn’t really compare to the other worries, but nonetheless it is a valid concern. They’ve changed Trix and Lucky Charms and countless other childhood comfort cereals, I just got used to Cocoa Puffs again and I really like them. Which means they’ll change the formula. Like what they did to Cracker Jacks. Freakin’ criminal.

Worry Number Seven: My cat will starve if I don’t offer him wet food eight times a day. Give or take a few times. Even though I always leave a big bowl of dry food out for him and a huge bowl of fresh water, he’s old. I worry about him not eating enough. Because I am an obsessive cat parent. And he is not obese and I’ve always had obese cats… Oh. Wow. Two huge realizations in the span of one column. Which brings me back to Worry Number Five.

Worry Number Eight: The Christian Right will take over America and I will be killed to silence my big mouth. In every cultural revolution, the first people who get rounded up and executed are the intellectuals. Especially the loud females. Wait. All I have to do is to produce this column and show them Worry Number Five. Whew. Dodged that bullet.

Worry Number Nine: I spend too much time worrying about stupid crap that never comes to pass. Yeah? And your point?

©2009, Janet Periat

Site maintained by Laideebug Digital
Laideebug Digital