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Sunday, January 23, 2011

OH! NO! Bad News

Bad news
Regular incandescent light bulbs will be phased out by 2014. Manufacturers will no longer make the most common sizes.

To me, this poses serious physical health and mental health risks. There is a huge potential for a developing black market.

People discuss the problems fluorescent lights cause in their everyday lives and their health--headaches, dizziness, eyestrain, irritability, aggressiveness. No, I have not yet found links to support their or my health issues.

Changes in apparent hues
Since I have sewn for many years, I believe I am a credible witness to the difficulties of fluorescent lighting. It is impossible to know what any fabric or thread combination will be in outdoor or incandescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting changes colors of fabrics. When I am fabric shopping, I must take the bolt outdoors to determine exactly which shade I am purchasing. If this is impossible, I seek a fixture, usually a lamp on display to sell, in order to place my intended purchase under it.

Surely, people who knit or crochet have this problem as well.

Paint--true color
I have become adept at shopping for paint. Even stores like Lowe's have a unit in which to place the paint sample. The unit has three sections--outdoor light, incandescent lighting, and fluorescent. If the source of light does not matter, why would paint manufacturers recognize the results of painting in different conditions as different?

My ability to read, learn, behave, or excel was never an issue for me. However, experience through students and my one office with others showed me there were many people who needlessly are exposed to conditions that are unfavorable to learning. Eyestrain was my main symptom. Of course, I became irritable when I discovered I could not control lighting to my benefit.

My office
When I had my own office, I never turned on the fluorescent lights unless I had a student in the office.  I used lamps brought from home. Low, but adequate, lighting is all anyone needs. I will move under a bright incandescent light if I thread a needle or read small print. Never did I perform either of these tasks in my office.

Perceived calm
Recently, when I was in a classroom for an advanced science unit (certification is in English), I left the fluorescent lights off after lunch. I commented to the students after lunch that we would leave the lights off unless they needed the light to read. When they asked why, I told them of the health benefits and how calm the abundant natural light was to most people. After coming in with the same students for a few days in the month, the students would ask to have the lights off because "it's so peaceful without the fluorescent lights." Some of the students tried it at home and verified the same results. Okay, maybe I colored their perception. Or, maybe not.

I cannot find the study, but maybe you can. Some students cannot learn at school, but at night under incandescent lights at the kitchen table, learn all they were supposed to learn at school. Classroom lighting made the difference.

Disruptive behavior in school
Students who will not mind, are just disruptive, or have learning disabilities are all affected by the lighting. This is a sensitivity to the light. If students spend seven hours in an environment that causes them emotional problems, are we further damaging their future by forcing their parents to use a light source that is harmful.

Using eHow is not really primary evidence. But, like many behavioral problems and health problems, anecdotal evidence leads to research.  Primary evidence exists, I am just not finding it. Conditions like fibromyalgia were not legitimized for many years. So it goes.

I told all this to a friend who said her physician brother-in-law tested this concept in his waiting room. For a period of time (days) he used only incandescent lamps in the waiting room and then switched to fluorescent. His office and nursing staff reported that patients exposed to incandescent lighting had fewer complaints about their wait time and fewer irritable expressions about their health.

So far, all I have told you is anecdotal.
So, here is another personal experiences.,
When I worked in an office with three other women, using the federal grant money and a donated office, we worked under a very low ceiling with 3'x6' fluorescent light panels. One was right over my head and to the back of me. Working with my desk lamp with an incandescent bulb worked well for me. The other two disagreed. So,  because the program director thought I was just complaining, I went to an opthamalogist who agreed that it was the fluorescent lighting. He was very kind but explained that no one would agree to removing the overhead fixture or allowing us to use lamps only. "No one understands," was the best I got, plus a prescription for a screen for my computer to cut down on glare. Glare was not the problem.

When I taught GED, a teacher whose child was in my class introduced me to the Irlen Method. Fortunately, eyestrain, fatigue, and headaches were my only symptoms. Read the list of symptoms and see if anyone you know exhibits these behaviors or health problems. When I mentioned the colored overlays to my students who had problems reading, they assured me the overlays work. They could read with comprehension and lack of any problems.

Light Sensitivity (from Irlen) symptoms

•Bothered by glare, fluorescent lights, bright lights, sunlight and sometimes lights at night
•Some individuals experience physical symptoms and feel tired, sleepy, dizzy, anxious, or irritable. Others experience headaches, mood changes, restlessness or have difficulty staying focused, especially with bright or fluorescent lights.

My plan
I want to be certified in the Irlen Method and get a PhD in reading. That may not happen. But, I believe reading is the single most important skill anyone can learn. Of course, reading with comprehension is the goal. I believe that much of the difficulty most students encounter in school has to do with the lighting. Lighting, combined with a host of other individuals leaves us with a nation of children identified, labeled, and not receiving proper instruction. This is not to blame the educational system. But, I do believe better results could be obtained with different, therefore, better classroom lighting.  Only the lack of money thwarts my plan.

Teachers either dismiss the fluorescent lighting problems or whole-heartedly agree. You may write me off as a nut with a theory that is not falsifiable (cannot be proved through scientific methods). I am not. but, if changing the lighting could cause a child with any kind of learning disability or other label to function better in a classroom, would you believe?

This is going to be a challenge in terms of space and money. This old lady now has things to do.

Your turn
What is your take or experience on the effects of fluorescent lighting?  Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?


  1. I love the energy savings and have noticed no ill effects. But everyone's different, so I hope they will hurry up with making LEDs available and hope they will work for you. We'll all save even more with LEDs.

  2. We lose our incandescent light bulbs in Canada in 2012. A few other countries are ahead of the US too.

    I really notice the lighting difference at my parent's place. I don't know what kind of fluorescents they use, but they give off a pinkish blue glow. I just buy cheap flourescents, and I don't seem to get the same effect from them. It's really noticeable when painting. We just did their bedroom and hallway in a nice beige, in the day time, with the windows all open. As soon as it started to get dark and they turned the lights on, the paint seemed to have a pink tinge to it. My biggest personal issue with the fluorescent lights though, is the need for hazmat suits to clean up after you break one. We break a lot of light bulbs. Up til now, I've kept the incandescents in the barn and the kids rooms, where we break the most. Soon that won't be an option. There have been improvements in leds, although they're still pretty expensive.

  3. Dmarie, maybe it is my It is the children affected who will suffer. But,I wonder how many can children or parents cannot identify any problem they might be experiencing and link it to lights. I wonder if I can get a doctor's not for fluorescent? Yes, energy costs should be in the equation. Maybe the LEDs will be better. I will give them a try.

    Wendy, I am very particular about color. That would really annoy me, having the paint change that way. The problem is the colors in different fabrics and mediums do not always change to be compatible. Besides the color change, the flicker is a problem. Yes, they have reduced that some, but it still remains a problem.At least your children know not to eat the bulbs!

    Oh, Wendy, you can ask about the colors mixed and decide which colors you do not want in your beige and choose the sample that has colors you don't mind showing up.
    LEDs are too bright. Obviously, I am sensitive to this. Eyestrain is my problem. I feel miserable for hours after continual exposure to fluorescent light. Thanks for the link.
    So, I will be out buying incandescent all the time from now to end of production. Granny is hitting the backstreets.

  4. I so agree. I HATE them with a passion.
    Yes there are energy savings but I decided a long time ago that I would use less lights and don't have lights on at night unless I really need to. Hubby is a light user but I have been called a possum because I like the dark.
    We can't buy the ones I want over here in Australia any more. I used to use them in broody boxes to keep the chickens warm, the new ones aren't any good for this.
    The light they give off is useless. The dangers if they break. Are the *powers that be* really so dim. There are so many other things that they could be doing to save energy, if they were serious about it.


  5. I'd agree with a lot of what you said about the old long tube type of lights. The newer ones that replace ordinary bulbs I've found better. To be honest I go higher in wattage than I would have gone before - i.e. equivalent of 150W in place of 100W and 100W in place of 60W

    They are slow to get up to full light but after that honestly never notice a thing and I do get headaches (or used to) under poor old tube lighting

    I'd try them and try different types and values to see which is best for you....

    For working/reading try halogen lights. My sister has a halogen reading light for this reason

    One thing - I think the claims on lasting for years is rubbish. They may last longer but nowhere near what is claimed on packs and they are much more difficult to dispose of - so I'm not that convinced on the advantages really

  6. Halogen seems dangerous with the high temperature reached by the bulb. I had a 60 watt incandescent scorch the lamp shade. From what I have seen and heard, the claim of lasting a long time IS rubbish. Does UK still have incandescent available?

  7. Barb, It is incomprehensible that the bulbs are not available for heating you chicks. What on earth do you do for a substitute heat source? If I am up,walking around, cooking, or doing any kinds of chores, I want the lights on in each room as I walk around from room to room. If I am sitting and using the computer, I use one 60 watt bulb, maybe 40 watt if that is what is in the lamp. I use an antique lamp with three arms and the option to use one, two, or three lights, according to task. There is also a higher, central light that I mostly use for mood lighting. Plus, there is a footlight on the base that shines through a translucent portion of the base. I have four of these, three in the room where I spend the most time. Can you tell I like lamps and light options?

  8. hey, I have since read in a Consumer Guide book that the newer CFLs are no longer prone to flickering. Might give ONE a try, in hopes they will no longer bother you. ??

  9. That is what I hear, but I don't believe it. Yes, I will try one. Thanks


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