Department of Toxic Substances Control Department of Toxic Substances Control

Restrictions on the use of Certain Hazardous Substances in General Purpose Lights


Existing lighting choices for consumers contain toxic materials that, if released, can be harmful to public health and the environment. For example, incandescent bulbs may contain lead and fluorescent bulbs and tubes contain mercury.

Fluorescent lights are more efficient, effective, and economical than traditional incandescent bulbs, and have become increasingly popular lighting devices. However, when disposed of, fluorescent lights are considered hazardous wastes, therefore, these bulbs and tubes are prohibited from traditional disposal in California and should be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste facility or to a Take It Back partner.

While growth in use of energy-efficient fluorescent lighting is increasing the amount of mercury-containing waste produced, the US Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that shifting from incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent lighting will result in a net reduction in total United States mercury emissions due to the reduction of coal-fired electricity generation, a process that releases mercury into the atmosphere.

Concerned about the risk of mercury and lead exposure to the environment that could result from the disposal of used fluorescent and some incandescent lights, in 2007 the California State Legislature enacted the California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act or AB 1109 (Huffman, Ch. 534, Stats. 2007) to, in part, limit the amount of mercury and other hazardous substances allowed in general purpose lights. This law can be found in Health and Safety Code, division 20, Chapter 6.5, article 10.02 Lighting Toxics Reduction (Sections 25210.9- 25210.12).

In addition to restricting toxics in general purpose lights, AB 1109 also required the California Energy Commission adopt energy-efficiency standards through regulations; and required DTSC, in coordination with the California Integrated Waste Management Board, to convene a taskforce to make recommendations on methods for the proper management and collection of general purpose lights, including fluorescent bulbs and tubes.

Here are some commonly used lighting terms for your convenience. This link will open a new window that you can reference if/when needed.