How Fluorescent Lights Affect You and Your Health
Fluorescent lights are a common light source in office building and shopping markets. With the advent of compact fluorescent lights they are becoming common place most homes as well. Fluorescent lights are cheap to buy compared to how long they last (about 13 times longer than regular incandescent bulb) and cheap to operate requiring a fraction of the energy incandescent bulbs do. But they can be incredibly bad for you.
There have been hundreds of studies done since the last quarter of the last century that have shown causal links between elongated exposure to fluorescent lights and various negative effects. The base of these problems is all based on the quality of light that's emitted.
The theory is basically that we are children of the sun. It is only relatively recently, with the proliferation of electricity, that humankind has taken complete control of the night and interior spaces. Before that most light came from the sun or a flame, and since flames didn't give you that much light you usually woke according to the sun and worked by a window.
With the light bulb we had the ability to do more at night and work in enclosed rooms without windows. When the fluorescent light came about businesses had a cheap and durable light source so of course they adopted it. But it's not the same type of light as the sun gives us.
The sun gives us a full spectrum light, that is, a light that spans the entirety of the visual spectrum.
If you are forced to work/live beneath fluorescent lights for extended periods of time each day there are a number of things you can do to combat the negative effects. The first is to get out in the sun more. Getting sun exposure, especially for stints in the morning midday and late afternoon, can help maintain your circadian rhythm. Putting in some windows, skylights, or solar tubes to bring sunlight into your interior environment can work as well.
Short of bringing in the sun you can bring in a light source with a fuller spectrum. There are some "full spectrum" and "daylight spectrum" LED lights in the market that have a better color temperature spread than regular fluorescent lights so they do help balance the difference in the spectrums. Flourescent lights produce Ultraviolet (UV) rays that may causes skin problems, prematurely age materials like plastic or leather, and cause photos to fade.
In some case phototherapy, or light box therapy, can counter act lack of sunlight exposure. This is a common treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder and it uses an incredibly bright light for a limited amount of time to help keep your body chemistry regulated.
Optometrists have long prescribed glasses with a very light rose colored tint on them to counteract the effects of working under fluorescent lights, especially in women who are experiencing hormonal problems.
Flicker problems can be improved by using fluorescent light fixtures that use electronic ballasts as opposed to magnetic ones, but does not compare to the benefits of LED lighting.
In fact the sun gives us a lot more than the visual spectrum. Incandescent lights give off rather full spectrum, but not as much as sunlight. Fluorescent lights give off a rather limited spectrum.
A lot of our body chemistry is based on the day-night cycle and we refer to it as the circadian rhythm. Theoretically if you do not get sufficient exposure to sunlight your circadian rhythm gets messed up and that in turn messes up your hormones and then you're all screwed up.
Learn More: What Happens When Your Sleep
There are a number of negative health effects that have been linked to working under fluorescent lights that are theorized to be caused by this body chemistry mechanism such as: