Many Californians are excited about the change to energy efficient fluorescent lights. By 2012, legislators hope to have incandescent lights banned. While this may very well save the average home $50 and help to save energy, for some, that’s not enough to motivate them to make the change. I’d sooner go out of state for some illegal incandescent lighting, than take the fatigue, headaches, and even fainting spells caused by fluorescent lighting. For me, and others with scotopic sensitivity syndrome, the possibility of a change to fluorescent lighting sounds like a horror movie.
For more information on incandescent lights, fluorescent lights, and energy efficiency, I recommend reading Summer Minor’s excellent article: “Energy Efficient Fluorescent Light Bulbs Gain Popularity.” To summarize a bit, incandescent light bulbs have been around for a long time, but aren’t all that efficient. Fluorescent lights are becoming popular, as they are much more energy efficient. Most importantly, this energy efficiency has inspired legislators in California to increase fluorescent lighting use and even ban incandescent lighting.
Those with scotopic sensitivity syndrome (Irlen syndrome) in California are definitely not rejoicing over this proposed change. While not all symptoms of scotopic sensitivity syndrome relate to fluorescent lighting, several do. For example, many people who have been diagnosed with scotopic sensitivity syndrome experience strain or fatigue working and reading under fluorescent lights. They may even get a headache or even a migraine if under such lighting for any length of time. Performance may deteriorate under fluorescent lighting and concentration may fade. Those with scotopic sensitivity syndrome may become restless and daydream under fluorescent lights. While not everyone with Irlen syndrome will have the same symptoms, fluorescent lighting is very likely to cause at least some problems.
Take a moment to imagine some of the effects of fluorescent lights in the workplace. Do employers want employee performance to deteriorate? Probably not. If an employee can’t concentrate, they aren’t going to get as much work done. Leaving with a headache a few times a week would be unacceptable. If reading is affected and is needed on the job, performance may become especially slow. Perhaps the words will all run together and become illegible. Maybe the words will dance and swirl. All of this makes working much more difficult. Fluorescent lighting is already installed in several offices, but if someone has so far been able to find a workplace with incandescent lighting, they will now be out of luck.
Imagine all classrooms having fluorescent lighting. If some of the children are unable to read under such lighting or develop headaches when reading, how are they supposed to learn? There are currently still classrooms that have not been switched over to fluorescent lighting, but soon those might not even be available. Combine fluorescent lights and a white board, and then you’ve got a nice combination on your hands.
Here’s one for the economy. Some stores already have fluorescent lighting, while others do not. If you were to get headaches, feel dizzy, or get nauseous while shopping, would you shop more, or less? If a lot of people bought less stuff while out shopping, would the dent in the sales tax be worth it for the state? Or would the energy savings be enough to be worth the loss in sales tax? For me, there are already stores I won’t shop in because of the lighting. When I’m in Wal-Mart, I can see the lights flashing the entire time. It drives me crazy. After about thirty minutes in a Wal-Mart store, it makes me faint. If all stores had this effect on me, I’d probably only shop online. As it is, I’ve already come pretty close to that.
Generally however, people don’t worry about just one group of people when making a change. To legislators, I’m sure it seems like a great idea to save energy. There are other ways to save energy however. People could shut off lights when not in use. I personally save my share of energy I’m sure. I generally read in very low lighting, I turn off everything when I leave the house, and I don’t drive an electric car. Yet I’d much rather pay the extra money on my energy bill than suffer the consequences. If you choose to change to fluorescent lights in your own home, that’s your business. If the state requires the change, that will be bad news for many people. If the issue comes to a vote, I’ll hope you’ll consider those with scotopic sensitivity syndrome in your decision.