The dangers of fluorescent lighting in schools

Harsh+white+fluorescent+lights+students+are+exposed+to+seven+hours+a+day.

Photos by Isabel Schmidt

Harsh white fluorescent lights students are exposed to seven hours a day.

Fluorescent lighting in schools is a big problem that is harming students every day. However, there are some solutions that schools have to fix this issue and help students. 

Students are in school for seven hours a day, five days a week. When they are under fluorescent lights for this long, their eyes pay the price. A study at The Australian National University found that exposure to these types of lights for over 45 hours a week increases the probability of developing eye problems, such as cataracts and pterygium. 

The reason why these lights are so harmful is because of the ultraviolet light they produce. Ultraviolet light is a form of electromagnetic radiation. The photoreceptors in a retina can be harmed by this light and over time become more and more damaged. This leads to many more eye problems. 

Eyes are not the only thing being affected. Fluorescent lights also adversely affect the brain.

Fluorescent bulbs emit 1000s of “flickers” a second. While the naked eye can’t see the flicker, the brain still picks it up. It notices it as flashing lights disturbing the brain. This can trigger nervous system events like migraines, tics and even seizures in sensitive students.

Fluorescent lights can also interrupt people’s circadian rhythm which is their body’s natural sleeping pattern. They do this by delaying the production of melatonin. Melatonin is an essential hormone that makes people sleepy and tells the body it’s time to sleep. 

When students are exposed to this light for most of the day, it causes their bodies to misinterpret whether it’s daytime or night. This affects their quality of sleep, causing them to be even more tired. 

There are options to lessen these problems. One option schools have is to dim the lights a bit. They should make sure not to dim the lights too much because that could also cause migraines and worse eyesight due to eye strain.

The best solution is to allow more outdoor light. Teachers can open the blinds, and only use the lights when needed. Schools should also be built so that the top floor can have natural light coming from the roof. Additionally, teachers could have more classes outside and find ways to do more outdoor activities. 

Studies also show that warmer colors, such as yellows and oranges reduce headaches and eye strain. Incandescent lights are one of the only lights that have these attributes. This type of lighting is the most natural and pure form of light because they use direct heat as a form of light.

However, incandescent lights come with their own problems. It takes almost three times more energy to light an incandescent light than it does a fluorescent light,  due to the fact that they use direct heat as light.

With obvious problems with both lighting choices, schools might be wondering what they can do to get the best of both worlds.

The answer essentially is to put “sunglasses” over the fluorescent lights. These “sunglasses”will be a tinted glass covering over the lights that can alter the light color coming through,  and stop some of the UV.

Students deserve a suitable learning environment to grow and become their best selves. School is not currently the place for this. Hopefully, one day we can make these changes and better the lives of our future.