Fluorescent lights have been popular in the workplace since the 1960s, but recently, they've become more and more popular in the home. With spiral-shaped compact fluorescents now using the common twist-base, millions of homeowners have switched to the energy-saving alternative. However, some people are adversely affected by fluorescent light. Fluorescent light allergies are not uncommon and cause health issues from headaches to skin rashes. Although these allergies are caused by preexiting conditions, they can be exacerbated by fluorescent lighting.
Headaches are among the most commonly reported issues with fluorescent lighting. Many people believe that if they have headaches under fluorescent lights, they are allergic, but the headaches are actually caused by a constant, imperceptible flicker of the phosphors inside the bulbs. Often unseen by the eye, they're picked up peripherally and cause small to moderate headaches.
Headaches can also be caused by eyestrain associated with fluorescent lights. Approximately 10 - 12 percent of people suffer from scotopic sensitivity syndrome, which causes severe eyestrain. Patients with this condition see things like words on a page or even their surrounding landscape with blurs, duplication or movement. Because fluorescent light goes into the scotopic spectrum (as opposed to just photopic), sensitivity is made worse under fluorescent lights.
Skin rashes are also common reactions to fluorescent light. Although not an actual "medical allergy," many people with preexisting conditions do develop slight, itchy patches to severe skin rashes after prolonged contact with fluorescent lights. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, "fluorescent light bulbs are known to worsen skin rashes in people with a variety of diseases and conditions including dermatitis, eczema, lupus, photosensitivity, porphyria and xeroderma pigmentosum."
Treatments at Home
Lighting technology alternatives like standard incandescent bulbs or even natural sunlight are great options where the patient can control the lighting, such as in the home or in a personal office. Incandescent lighting has had no adverse affects on people with skin or neurological conditions relating to fluorescent light headaches or skin rashes.
Treating at Work
In areas like schools or office buildings where patients aren't able to control the lighting, a few minutes out in natural sunlight can relieve the headaches or itchiness brought on my fluorescent lights. Using the 15-minute breaks most employers are required to give twice a day, employees can venture out of the office for relief from any issues caused by the lighting. Over time, people have noted a decrease in headaches caused by the lighting after spending time outside in the sun.
As greenhouse gases take the spotlight, energy-saving methods of everyday tasks are celebrated. Many governments, including those of the United States and United Kingdom, are looking at banning incandescent technology in favor of fluorescent. However, with an estimated 100,000 people in the United Kingdom alone suffering from issues caused by fluorescent lights, many are left wondering if they'll be going back to candlesticks. Awareness is critical to the fight to make governments think twice before outlawing the only option hundreds of thousands of citizens live with.