Lighting affects our health. It affects our mood and circadian rhythms. Poor lighting is linked to glare, headaches, eyestrain, skin conditions and various types of sight loss.
What can building owners and occupants do about it?
1. Ensure lighting is well maintained – failed lighting results in dark areas which may be unsafe. Faulty lighting that flashes on and off can cause headaches or epileptic seizures.
2. Reduce exposure to glare – arrange visual display units so that reflected glare from luminaires and other bright light areas is limited or avoided. Use matt surfaces rather than glossy finishes. Use light finishes of high reflectance for ceilings and walls to enhance the overall luminance of the space.
3. Use daylight where possible – raise blinds when not needed. If possible, create areas with both plenty of sunlight and good ventilation, so that they do not get intolerably hot.
4. Get outside – exposure to bright daylight and sunlight at lunchtime can help keep the body clock entrained and avoid the symptoms of SAD.
5. Be aware of the possibility of UV exposure from fluorescent lamps close to the skin, e.g. from desk lamps – if used for long periods such desk lamps should have a protective glass cover, or use LED’s instead.
6. Reduce shift work, especially night work – rapid rotation of shifts (a change every few days) is better than weekly rotation as it interferes with circadian rhythms. Use clockwise rotation of shifts (morning, afternoon and night) to give adequate rest. Avoid early starts to morning shifts.
7. Dispose of lamps correctly – follow Public Health England recommendations on how to deal with broken fluorescent lamps to reduce exposure to mercury. Recycle lamps at the end of life by following local lamp recycling instructions.
The above advice is based on the recent report Lighting and health funded by the BRE Trust and published by BRE IHS Press. Visit www.bre.co.uk/lighting to find out more.