Lighting 101: Health – Protecting Today’s Students
Lighting can have a direct impact on student (and teacher) health and wellbeing. It’s important to have a good balance between artificial lighting and daylighting to create a healthy physical and mental atmosphere.
Installing newer light fixtures can reduce the risks of exposure to harmful toxins, such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are carcinogens that can lead to a variety of health effects on the immune, nervous and endocrine systems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they can be found in the magnetic ballasts in fluorescent T12 tubes. They can leak or rupture, but can also emit small amount during regular use of the fluorescent tube.
Circadian rhythm plays an important role in school lighting. By adjusting the artificial lighting in the classrooms and hallways to the levels needed by student circadian rhythms, stress levels and sleep patterns can be better regulated. Using a light on the blue side of the spectrum in the morning can help students wake up and become more productive. Then throughout the day, making subtle adjustments can make all the difference. Cool white and blue lighting has been proven to suppress melatonin levels, causing the body to become more alert and awake. Blue light (such as 5000K) suppresses melatonin levels, making us more awake and alert. Color color temperatures can also improve behaviors in students who have ADD, ADHD and other types of learning disadvantages. Warmer color temperatures (2400K-3000K) can cause students to become more relaxed, which can sometimes be a helpful tool during quiet times in the classroom.
Glare and Flicker
Glare can also cause health problems. Too much light can cause someone to squint, blink or look away, causing discomfort and reducing visual performance. Fluorescent lighting has also been proven to bother students with autism due to their sensitivity to the sub-visible flicker of direct fluorescent lighting. This can cause headaches, eyestrain and increased repetitive behavior. LED fixtures do not flicker when they are fully dimmed, which is a huge benefit for special education classrooms.
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