By Kevin A. Kirschner
They hum. They flicker. They emit UV radiation. They give off a yellowish green light. They are all around us. What are they? If you answered “Aliens from another planet,” you’ve been watching way too many “X-Files” episodes. The correct answer is… fluorescent lights.
Why We Use Fluorescent Lamps
Fluorescent lighting has been with us for over 50 years. You find them at the office, the grocery store, the beauty parlor, at school, the bank; virtually everywhere you go. They’re even in the last place you’d expect them to be… your doctor’s office. The fact is, in the last 10 years, over 600 million fluorescent lighting fixtures have been sold in the United States. The reason they are so popular is because they give off the most amount of light for the least amount of money. Fluorescent lamps use one-fourth the energy that an incandescent bulb does. Fluorescent lamps are warm to the touch, unlike incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs. Fluorescent lamps, without question, are the most cost-effective form of artificial lighting.
The Problems with Fluorescent Lamps
Despite all the advancements in lighting technology, we have regrettably ignored the human factor, that is, the effect on human beings. I have worked in the fields of optometry and ophthalmology since 1973 and can tell you that the number one (1) complaint in the eye clinics has been the headaches and eyestrain from fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lamps, unshielded, create glare and reflections that cause those irritating visual symptoms. The headaches and eyestrain lead to decreased performance and increased stress.
People hate fluorescent light. They dislike the flickering and humming. They don’t like the colors they see under fluorescent light. Has this ever happened to you…? You enter a department store to buy an article of clothing that matches something you already own. You spend quite a while carefully matching the two colors. After you make your purchase, you step outdoors and find that the colors don’t even come close to matching under sunlight.
Fluorescent Lamps are 100% UV
Most people are not aware of the fact that fluorescent lamps require the use of ultraviolet (UV) radiation in order to work. Basically, (Fig. 1) a fluorescent lamps is nothing more than a glass tube that is coated on the inside surface with phosphors, that is sealed at each end and filled with a small amount of mercury vapor. As the current of electricity is sent back and forth inside the tube, it excites the mercury vapor, transforming it into ultraviolet energy. The UV that is created causes the phosphors inside the tube to glow and give off light.
How UV Affects Us
Ultraviolet light, even though it is not visible to the human eye, affects each of our lives. A small amount of UV is necessary in our bodies to effectively work with the skin and kidney to convert Vitamin D to its active form. This in turn promotes stronger muscles and bones. Some plant life also requires a small amount of UV to thrive.
Unfortunately, there are some negative effects of UV in our daily lives as well. UV is notorious for fading articles of clothing. For instance, have you ever been shopping for a new jacket and noticed that right along the hanger line there is an area of bleached-out fabric color? Whether UV fades your carpets, drapes, clothing, photographs, paintings or wall coverings, it represents loss. Department stores are routinely writing off many thousands of dollars in such loss.
In (Fig. 2), you can see the obvious fading of the book’s spine due to UV. Notice the difference between the color of the spine and the front and back sides of the book, which were not exposed to fluorescent light.
Is UV a Health Risk?
UV is known to cause everything from sunburns to skin cancer. UV can also cause early formation of cataracts and other ocular injuries. UV can be reflected off of light colored objects such as snow or sand, which is how skiers get sunburned under their ears, nose and chin.
Certain medications, when taken into your body, cause a “photoreactive response.” Chemicals that produce a photoreaction (reaction with exposure to UV light) are called “photosensitizers.” After exposure to UV radiation either from natural sunlight or artificial light sources such as fluorescent lights or tanning booths, these photosensitizers cause chemical changes that increase a person's sensitivity to light. Medications, food additives, and other products that contain photosensitizers are called photosensitizing products. Photosensitizing products can also aggravate existing skin problems like eczema, herpes, psoriasis and acne, and can inflame scar tissue. They can also worsen autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis, in which the body's immune system mistakenly destroys itself.
UV affects over 125 generic (and name brand) medications. One such classification of drugs is anti-malarials, such as Chloroquine (Aralen) and Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil.) Both of these medications are commonly used to treat SLE.
How to Protect Yourself from UV Rays
When outdoors, wear the appropriate sunblock (sun protection factor (SPF) 25 or greater) and clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. When indoors, your primary exposure to UV will come from fluorescent lighting. The same suggestions apply to indoors, but they are not always practical. There has to be a better way…
NaturaLux™ Filters for Fluorescent Lighting
After years of study and research, I have invented and received an U.S. patent for a fluorescent lighting filter we call the NaturaLux™ Filter. The NaturaLux™ Filter is designed to perform three very important functions:
1. The first is to absorb 100% of the harmful ultraviolet (UV-A and UV-B) radiation.
2. The second is to eliminate the glare that causes the headaches, eyestrain, and stress caused by fluorescent lighting.
3. The third is to transform ordinary cool white (actually yellowish-green) fluorescent light into full spectrum light. This not only makes you look better, it makes you feel better. Several studies have shown that full spectrum light helps to boost the effectiveness of your autoimmune system. Full spectrum light is being used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (the Winter Blues), jet lag and PMS. As you can see in the photograph below, full spectrum lighting allows you to see every color accurately.
In Fig. 3, we see two exam rooms separated by a common wall in an ophthalmologist’s office. Both have identical carpet (blue/grey) and wall (light slate blue) colors, and identical illumination levels. The room on the right has a NaturaLux™ Filter installed. The room on the left does not. Compare the colors in the two rooms for yourself.
At Inspired Concepts, our primary goal is to awaken and educate “Corporate America” to the damaging effects of UV on everyone, including lupus patients. Throughout my career in vision care, I have had the opportunity to visit with patients and co-workers alike who are affected by lupus erythematosus. They’ve related to me their personal experiences of the pain and frustration caused by this terrible, but treatable disease. I’m sure you’ve either heard or lived through the same trials. It is due to their courage and determination that my partners and I have decided to do whatever we can to help the lupus community at large. To that end, last year we donated and installed a number of our filters at the headquarters of Lupus International in Irvine, CA. This year, we are making a further donation of filters, to be installed at the hospital where the San Bernardino lupus support group holds their monthly meetings. As our company grows, we are committed to assist lupus patients through funding further research as well as various lupus organizations. Inspired Concepts is here to help and here to stay.
For further information, please visit our website at: http://www.naturalux.com. You may also contact me directly by e-mail at: Kevin@naturalux.com