Light or my Life: Halogens in bulbs

Long, long ago, I learned that Chlorine and Fluorine gases are poisonous. (The antidote is a urine-soaked rag.)
Years ago, I learned that some cars have halogen bulbs for headlights (At least my Cavalier does).
Later, I learned what halogens are. (Cl & F et al.)
Months ago, we got halogen lightbulbs in the kitchen (not my idea). They look a lot like ordinary bulbs, and I bet they’re just as fragile.
Then, I put two and two together, and said, “HEY! What if I break one of those?”

So, since the CSA and ULC can’t possibly sanction a situation where poisonous gases are potentially released in the home, I want to know:

What’s really in a bulb labeled ‘Halogen’? How do they get away with it?

And: nobody post links to this thread. It doesn’t answer my question.

Thanks in advance, wolfStu.

Sure, try,

Search for ‘halogen’

Halogen is indeed a chloro-florocarbon, but the amount in a bulb isn’t going to have any effect on your well being, even if you break the bulb right under your nose and snort the contents.

Here’s an interesting page about halogen lamps that answers part of your question:

Actually, halogen lamps CAN have a negative effect on your health.
I read a medical research paper that indicated a link between halogen desk lamps and the early development of cataracts. The doctors said you should NEVER view a naked halogen lamp, and always set them up so the lamp provides indirect lighting (bounced off a wall or something). And they said you should never use halogen for desk lamps, the design of desk lamps tends to cause repeated direct exposure to the naked bulb.
Halogen lamps are also an excessive fire risk, particularly free-standing lamps that might accidentally contact curtains or other flammable objects. An apartment building next to my house was destroyed by fire, the source was a halogen lamp. Your apartment burning down IS a risk to your health.
Halogen bulbs and fixtures get really REALLY hot and I’ve burned myself on halogen studio lighting many times. 2nd degree burns are a risk to your health (albeit a minor one).

But the CONTENTS of the halogen bulb aren’t going to cause you any trouble. And a urine-soaked rag is no “antidote” for chlorine or fluorine.

"And a urine-soaked rag is no “antidote” for chlorine or fluorine. "

Actually, inhaling ammonia gas, as found in used catboxes, used to be the recommended method of preventing lung damage from inhaled Chlorine or Bromine. Ammonia neutralizes the acids that these halogens produce in the lung.

As far as the lamps go, there just isn’t enough halogen in them to be a serious concern.

Breathing through a pee-soaked rag isn’t going to provide enough ammonia vapor to counteract chlorine or fluorine exposure, unless you’ve either got some hideous urinary problem, or keep old pee-soaked rags with decomposing urine in them.

Well, I’ve been drinking coffee and browsing on Google for a while here, and I don’t see anything that advocates inhaling ammonia gas if you’ve been exposed to halogen gasses. As a matter of fact, it would seem to be definitely contra-indicated, ammonia itself being quite dangerous to inhale. I did, however, find the source of the factoid.

Medical Treatment of
Chemical Warfare Casualties

Medical treatment for inhaled gasses.

Ammonia is very strongly reactive with halogens, not to say explosive. So the World War I gasses weren’t that toxic to begin with (as compared to, say, modern nerve gasses), didn’t have that much chlorine in them, and probably breathing through a urine-soaked rag with its very small amount of ammonia would have acted to filter out the very small amount of chlorine that was present in the phosgene gas.

I would think that you’d have nothing to worry about from the amount of halogen gasses in a single light bulb, even if, as Bare said, you put your face right up to it and snorted the contents.

Chlorine gas, in normal out-in-the-open-air conditions, is not as toxic as you might think. If you inhale the fumes from bleach, you don’t fall over dead, boom, like that.

Now, water treatment plants, whose personnel handle pure undiluted chlorine gas by the tankful, do have scuba gear for them to use when they’re handling it. But as I said, they’re dealing with the elemental material. So don’t worry about “Death By Light Bulb”. :slight_smile:

Inhaling chlorine/fluorine gasses. First aid.



Nope, nothing in here about quickly peeing into your shirt and holding it up to your face. :smiley:

If you want something else to worry about, worry about exploding light bulbs down at the ice rink. :smiley:

Now aren’t you glad I told you that? :smiley: Saturday afternoon, down at the ice rink. The ice-making equipment springs a leak, while far overhead, unnoticed by any of the happy skaters, one of the halogen lights flickers unhealthily… [ominous TV-movie music]

And, er, Squink?

Sorry, but I’d sure like to see a cite for that. I can’t find it anywhere. Ammonia gas itself is quite dangerous–as you can see from the CDC cite, it’s even faster-working than phosgene, and I don’t see any website advocating this sort of treatment. Are you sure you’re not just handing down a version of the “gas attack/pee-soaked rag” factoid? :wink:

Halogens damage your lungs by producing edema (the excess accumulation of fluid), so you can’t breathe. Although the various gasses do react with the moisture in your lungs to form acids, I would think that if you were to deliberately breathe in some ammonia gas in order to neutralize any acids that were in your lungs, not only would the ammonia damage your lungs, but so would the chemical reaction itself, between acid and base.

Okay. Thanks everybody. That just about does it. Well answered, by all.

As for all the discussion about the urine-soaked rag:
That was actually a tongue-in-cheek reference to a defence strategy discovered by soldiers of a regiment of the Canadian Expeditionary Force of World War One (PPCLI?). They discovered, after the Germans released the toxic gases, that breathing through a rag soaked in urine seemed to stave off the adverse affects (namely death) of the gas. I wondered whether or not I should include that comment, and considering the attention it gathered, maybe I would have been best not to.

Thanks for the help, wolfStu.

“Ammonia neutralizes the acids that these halogens produce in the lung.”

“Sorry, but I’d sure like to see a cite for that. I can’t find it anywhere. Ammonia gas itself is quite dangerous–”

Sorry, I know of no online site that discusses it. I picked it up from a book on chemical injuries back in ~1972. It seemed relevant since I was working with Chlorine and Bromine gases at the time; but I doubt that anyone every copied the old manuals onto the internet.
The ammonia treatment was described for acute poisoning problems; such as accidently inhaling a lungful of chlorine straight from a tank. Under these conditions, you are likely to die horribly within minutes as your lungs stop working. Ammonia is also toxic, but the compound formed by the reaction of chlorine and ammonia, ammonium chloride, is not nearly so bad. As you may know, inhaling ammonia is not much fun, but if the choice is between inhaling a nasty smelling toxic compound and straight out dying…

Well, turn me over and paint me pink if, still in “oh, come on, Squink” mode, I didn’t go a-searchin’ on Google under “treatment inhaling chlorine” and find this.

Worth noting, though, that this website is talking about tiny amounts of chlorine, not a whole tankful with your face right in it. I think we’re talking “dainty little sniffs” here, not “deep breathing exercises”. :slight_smile:

You bring the paint, I’ll bring the brush :smiley:

Just for the record, halogen is a word often used to describe the diatomic members of group VIIa of the elements, namely fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine and astatine. Chloroflurocarbons are different. It’s a pretty old word, but is still very useful and widely used.

To clarify a bit more; Chloroflurocarbons must also contain Carbon in addition to Chlorine and/or Fluorine.