Lighting Oxford MS
Plymouth Meeting, PA
Orchard Park, NY
A growing body of research strongly suggests that lighting can have a profound effect on human heath, influencing everything from sleep patterns to mood swings. Lighting has even been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease. If these studies bear out, then the way we light our homes, offices and other spaces needs to be evaluated carefully and could be subject to massive change.
Up to now, lighting has been designed almost exclusively to support visual needs, says John Bachner, communications director for the National Lighting Bureau. As we learn more about these research results, new lighting system components will be created to not only enhance our visual performance but to help prevent disease as well.
Many of light's health effects stem from its ability to influence circadian rhythms, which are oscillations in neural activity controlled by the brain's hypothalamus. These in turn influence secretions of melatonin by the pineal gland. Melatonin acts as an antioxidant blood cleaner, as it builds up while we sleep.
Light also is associated with the production of vitamin D, which in some forms (such as D3) is manufactured in the skin as light hits it. A Finnish study shows that children who received vitamin D supplements from the age of 1 year on had an 80 percent decreased risk of developing Type 1 diabetes. Other studies show that people who work long hours indoors tend to be vitamin-D deficient, and that supplements or exposure to more light could significantly reduce the risk of colon and prostate cancers. Yet another study shows that women who work night shifts are more susceptible to breast cancer.
A study on Alzheimer's patients showed that different wavelengths of light had different effects on the patients. Other studies show that lighting can help cure neonatal jaundice, psoriasis and other skin diseases, as well as seasonal affective disorder, and can help prevent myopia and counteract airborne disease transmission. More studies are underway to assess lighting's impact on high blood pressure and heart disease.
The NLB, a not-for-profit information resource funded by the lighting industry, trade associations and certain agencies of the federal government, touts these studies as evidence for the need to revisit current energy codes.
Results are likely to show that the lighting needed to improve our health requires more energy than is currently allowed by codes, because those codes are based only on supporting vision, Bachner says. Generally speaking, the amount of electric illumination needed to influence health tends to be about 10 times that required for vision.
For more information about the NLB and some of the studies cited, go to http://www.nlb.org . You also can visit http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca to check out other independent studies conducted by the Canadian Institute for Research in Construction.