Do Fluorescent Lights Actually Cause Health Problems?

We’ve all seen them and we’ve likely all been somewhere that uses them: bright white fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lighting has been a staple in buildings for decades in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area that depend on these lights to provide visibility and workplace safety. It’s easy to see why: these lights are bright, energy-efficient, inexpensive and long-lasting – and they require very little maintenance and extremely infrequent bulb changes.

However, studies have been done to find out if these lights are actually safe for use or repeated long-term exposure. In this blog, our skilled electricians take a look at what the experts have to say about the impact of fluorescent lights on our health, including tackling three of the most common rumors about what these lights can do.

Do Fluorescent Bulbs Emit Dangerous Radiation?

There’s a common rumor floating around that fluorescent lights expose us to dangerous radiation that can cause cancer. The foundation of this rumor came from a 2009 study conducted by Canadian scientists who found that a compact fluorescent bulb, (CFL), gives off ultraviolet rays. CFL bulbs are the type of fluorescent lights where the tube is bent into a sort of spiral shape, and it screws directly into your lamp or light socket as a regular lightbulb would.

Exposure to UV light can cause dizziness, eye strain and migraines in some people, but it can do this only if you’re exposed to a large amount of radiation in a short amount of time. The Canadian study found that these bulbs don’t put off nearly that required amount of radiation and ultimately concluded that as long as the bulb is at least a foot away while using it, you won’t experience any harmful effects. As for those long tubes that light up your office, the simple cylindrical shape makes them even more effective at containing this radiation, which means you’re even less prone to exposure than you would be with a CFL bulb.

What about Migraines?

In a study conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, researchers noted that people who get frequent migraines are often “photophobic,” or more sensitive to light – and they may be more prone to suffering from a migraine as a result of exposure to fluorescent lights. This is particularly true because fluorescent lights flicker at an extremely high speed. As the bulbs start to go, this flickering becomes visible to the human eye and can trigger a migraine.

However, other research has indicated that the lighting alone isn’t usually the sole cause of office or school migraines—while it plays a role, it isn’t helped by the fact that most of the time these areas are extremely poorly ventilated. The poor indoor air quality often also contributes to headaches, and in many cases is the actual trigger which sets off the migraine.

Fluorescent light filters are inexpensive and easy to install and can significantly lessen the impact of fluorescent lights on those who suffer from the headaches which they may cause.

Do Fluorescent Lights Impact Your Sleep Pattern?

Some people have claimed that working under fluorescent lights for eight hours a day disrupts their circadian rhythm to the point where they can’t sleep properly.

There is a small bit of truth to these rumors: fluorescent lights emit shades of blue light which does disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone on which we depend to help us sleep. However, this really only has an impact on your sleep cycle if you’re exposed to it in great amounts in the hours leading up to bed time. Unless you spend eight hours under fluorescent lights and then go straight to bed after that, you won’t be impacted.

Further research has also suggested the opposite—some people report that working under fluorescent lights makes their eyes feel tired and their entire body feel less alert than those who see sunlight during the day. In some cases, this actually can make it easier to fall asleep, regardless of the blue light exposure.

Do you need a light fixture repaired or want to replace your fluorescent lights with energy-saving LED technology? Call Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar at (408) 868-5500 to schedule an appointment today.