Health

Are There Risks To Spending Time Under Fluorescent Lights?

Fluorescent lights are great for energy savings when compared to incandescent bulbs, but a lot of people don’t seem too keen on them. 

First, they don’t create the soft and warm glow of our favorite incandescent bulbs. Instead, the piercing white color tends to highlight our skin imperfections, lines, and other things we aren’t very confident about.

Second, we might be impartial to them because they are often the main source of light at work or other places we may not love, thus creating a negative association.

But besides the negative views we hold toward fluorescent lights, are there any health reasons for why we should avoid them? It turns out there might be.

The Potential Health Risks of Fluorescent Lighting

Before we begin and add to any hysteria, there is no conclusive evidence that the normal operation and exposure to household or commercial lighting is dangerous. 

However, there are potential dangers if, for example, the fluorescent tube breaks. In these instances, you may inhale mercury vapors or powder that can be harmful. Additionally, if the light is powered while installing it, you may risk a shock that could result in a fall or more serious injury. If a fluorescent tube does break, make sure to follow proper procedure to clean it up.

According to Psychology Today, there may be other reasons fluorescent are not a great idea, as described below.

Fluorescent bulbs “flicker” when under operation. If the bulb is beginning to die or not correctly installed, you will often see this happening. During normal operation it happens so quickly you may not be able to see it. These flickers may trigger central nervous system problems, such as migraines, tics, or seizures. But newer bulbs are said to have eliminated this problem, so you may need to replace old bulbs if this is a problem for you.

The “colder” color of the fluorescent light (around 3500K or less when light becomes more blue) may also disrupt the brain’s internal clock, normal hormonal function, and also emotion, arousal, and muscle tension.

Some research also points to repetitive behaviors or hyperactivity in subjects with autism when exposed to fluorescent lighting; these behaviors we lessened under incandescent light. People with Tourette’s may also be affected. 

Other concerns are related to the build quality of fluorescent tubes. Some researchers who bought fluorescent tubes found that many bulbs have hairline cracks in the coating around the glass, potentially allowed mercury and radiation to leak out. The radiation was a particular concern, with researchers suggesting that in controlled studies with cell cultures, the fluorescent bulbs produced an amount of UV radiation that was safe for a cell over 8 hours in just 42 seconds.

For humans, radiation to our eyes and skin can be damaging, increasing the risk of irregular cell growth, damage to eyesight, and other health problems. 

Alternatives

Unfortunately, incandescent bulbs are becoming more rare as demand falls and government policies favors the more efficient alternatives. Thankfully, there may still be hope with LED lights. 

Light emitting diodes are compact and even more efficient than fluorescent lights. They also produce LED tube lights to replace your fluorescent tubes. Even better, there are LED bulbs that you can change to any color via an app on your smartphone. But LEDs are still expensive, and some consumers may not be able to pay upfront. If you do go with LEDs, you will be using just a few watts of energy and they should last more than 10 years.

The sun is our best light source, and you should absolutely get as much natural light into your environment as possible. But in the mornings, evenings, and cloudy days, that isn’t an option. Short of living by candlelight, there is no “perfect” light. 

The good news is that currently there is no concrete evidence that there is any danger in lighting your home or office with fluorescent lights. Honestly, you probably shouldn’t give it too much thought. There are a lot of other important things happening in life. So instead, focus on eating right and living your best possible life. 

Author

Eleanor Ward