Please help LightAware to raise awareness about how artificial lighting affects human health and wellbeing
In the beginning there were light bulbs. Just normal light bulbs, with a warm, calm, bright light. You had a stash of them in your hall cupboard. You made jokes about how many people it took to change a light bulb, because it was really such a simple affair.
Then a whole new kind of light bulb came along, weird, space-age-looking, curly things called CFLs. We were told these were Good and Green. You switched them on and waited…peering into the dull, cold gloom until enough light arrived to see. Unsurprisingly not everyone liked them, and along came a wider array of new developments, speedier-CFLs, halogens, LEDs, and all sorts of fittings. Changing a light bulb got a whole lot more complicated.
And then came barely believable news – normal incandescent light bulbs had been deemed bad, and were to be banned by the European Union. How on earth did that happen? It seems that with the best of intentions the European Green Party had seized an opportunity to attach this new lighting to legislation on making household products greener. And the rest of ’em, keen to be seen to be green, let it become law.
And who could argue? I didn’t. I work and socialize with an environmentally-aware bunch and these lights spread enthusiastically through my world, in general the greener the company the grimmer the lighting. The light was ghastly but we believed it was good and so we’d just have to suffer it. In the face of the cataclysmic prospect of global warming, who could bicker about aesthetics?
But then doubts started to emerge… and questions lingered without answers. Were these new light bulbs really so green – containing mercury and other toxins, manufactured in China with complex electronics…? How much mercury is in them and what would happen if you dropped one? What about their safe disposal?
And then people began to report feeling ill when exposed to this new lighting, with symptoms including migraine and debilitating headaches, skin rashes and burning, joint aches, dizziness, sickness and fainting. Were these new lights actually safe for human health?
But the legal wheels were turning and the ban ploughed onwards through its successive stages, oblivious to these questions. Throughout the UK, Councils earnestly intent on cutting their carbon footprints installed new fluorescent lighting in schools and community centres across the land, hospitals and health centres and churches and businesses did likewise. Soon most of civic life was lit by fluorescent gloom.
But what happens to the lives of people who cannot tolerate this new lighting?
Err… nobody’s thought about that.
And what provision has been made for these people to access healthcare, education, shops, community centres, places of worship, transport, public toilets etc?
Err…. none at all.
It seems to me that this legislation is democratically dodgy, ethically absurd, an infringement of civil liberties and a serious issue of health and social exclusion. And yet there’s been very little scrutiny, by politics, medicine or the media.
Maybe one of the reasons is because it’s a complex issue. It’s got physics in it. Physics, all mixed up with the mechanisms of European legislation, with an added dose of dermatology and neurology, doesn’t make for easy listening. I certainly couldn’t face getting to grips with it all, until – you guessed it – it happened to me.
At a conference centre last April, sitting under CFL lighting I experienced a sensation as if my head was being fried: intense burning, together with nausea and confusion and severe agitation. Ever since I have experienced these symptoms when exposed to CFLs and new fluorescent strip lighting.
I’m perfectly well if I stay away from this lighting, but that means staying away from my children’s school, friends’ houses, most shops, community centres, libraries, swimming pools, churches and Quaker Meeting Houses, public transport, healthcare centres and hospitals…
I’m writing this blog because I’m scared and confused, and trying to come to terms with what this means for my life and my family. Writing is my way of processing stuff and gaining understanding and clarity. Normally I do this in the privacy of my own notebooks but I thought I’d try blogging for the first time, in the hope that it may offer some solidarity to others in the same situation and to raise awareness of this unreported issue.
The EU acknowledges that some people cannot tolerate this new lighting, but reckon it’s a small enough percentage of the population to be ‘acceptable’. It’s not acceptable if you’re one of them. It’s not acceptable at all. It’s enough to make you incandescent…