Not long ago, I ordered a pack of four CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) light bulbs from Amazon.com. It was a wicked deal that sold out too fast for us to post on dealnews.
When I received my CFLs, I didn't know what they were, because Amazon shipped them in a padded manila envelope. Surely, I thought, Amazon wouldn't ship as fragile an item as light bulbs in a manila envelope. Right?
I opened the package, found that it was indeed my CFLs, and also found that two of the bulbs had broken, as seen here:
If you look at the two middle bulbs, you can see that they're indeed partially shattered. I had just read this Consumer Reports piece on how CFLs contain mercury, which is a neurotoxin, and to dispose of broken CFLs properly. OMG, Amazon is trying to KILL ME!
What's the actual risk of mercury exposure from two broken CFL bulbs? The answer is, INSTANT DEATH. No really ... the actual answer is, the risk is apparently low. It's not likely that this amount of mercury would be dangerous. However, the risk isn't zero. Mercury in CFLs is metallic, not liquid, mercury, but it can turn into mercury vapor easily, which can then be inhaled into your lungs. And that's a risk, since it can then damage your central nervous system, kidneys, and liver.
FWIW, Amazon refunded my money without question. But Amazon Customer Service didn't answer my question: Why in the world would Amazon ship a breakable item (that contains a poison no less) in a manila envelope and not in a box?