Fluorescent light is all around us. For over half a century most of our offices, retail spaces, and institutional buildings have been lit almost exclusively with fluorescent light. A growing body of research indicates the unhealthy effects of fluorescent light exposure. However, nowhere is the influence of fluorescent light more disruptive than in schools. While the study of the effects of fluorescent light on students is relatively new, the results are concerning. As the evidence mounts, many teachers and administrators are looking for solutions. While it would be ideal to replace all of the fluorescent lights in our schools, the economics are prohibitive. As an alternative, many educators are turning to fluorescent light filters for classrooms.
The Study of Fluorescent Light
The study of the effects of fluorescent light is a sub-specialty of the study of human factors and ergonomics. Ergonomics as a field of study has its roots in the early industrial practices of the 1800s. At the time, the goal was to improve the efficiency of industrial workers by using “scientific management” techniques. These techniques used objective study and experimentation to determine the most efficient methods to complete a given task. Researchers identified the optimum tools and motions for industrial applications that allowed workers to do more work in less time. These studies led to such innovations as conveyor belt construction, which greatly increased the output of manufacturing plants.
Beginning in World War I, studies on aviators and aviation took up the study of “human factors”. Military researchers wanted to determine what characteristics differentiated the most successful pilots from other aviators. It soon became apparent that environmental factors also contributed to the success of a pilot. Aircraft designers began to consider how they could design aircraft that were most readily usable by the pilots.
During World War II, military aircraft became increasingly complex. Even the best pilots in perfectly functional aircraft were crashing far too often. To increase the effectiveness of military pilots, researchers began to focus on how to adapt the aircraft controls to the limitations of the human mind and body. With more logical controls, pilots flew better and had greater military success.
After the war, the U.S. Air Force published 19 volumes documenting their research into human factors and ergonomics, kickstarting the civilian use of the developing field. Over the years, all sorts of equipment, including vehicles, industrial processes, and office equipment benefitted from ergonomic research.
Eventually, the study of ergonomics led researchers to look at how light, including fluorescent light, affected workers.
The Effects of Fluorescent Light
Scientists from the fields of ergonomics and sleep science became interested in the effects of light on the human body. Typically, ergonomic scientists focused on the impact of light on worker productivity. Sleep scientists were interested in the effects of light on human physiology. The addition of their expertise significantly bolstered the ergonomic studies.
As the science progressed, the results were alarming. The human body relies on signals from light to perform many essential functions. Systems relating to brain health, blood sugar levels, and the immune system all take cues from light. To function correctly, the human body relies on the changing light of the sun throughout the day to trigger various hormones and neurotransmitters.
In the early hours of the morning, the slowly increasing brightness triggers systems that help the body to wake up and become active. That is part of why it is so difficult to wake up early in the winter when the sun has not yet risen. As the day progresses, the body uses light to decide what it needs to be doing. At midday, the light of the sun includes the highest level of short-wavelength blue light. This signals the body and mind to wake up and become most active. In the evening, as the light fades, the body begins the process of slowing down and preparing to sleep.
When these triggers are absent or confused, the body is unable to function at its best. In particular, sleep cycles are disrupted. Fluorescent light, like the midday sun, is skewed towards short-wavelength blue light. With overexposure to fluorescent light, the body is fed signals that it is midday all day long and never slows down from its most wakeful state. This leads to a host of other problems related to sleep deprivation.
Fluorescent Light and Student Performance
As damaging as fluorescent light is, its effect on students, in particular, has only recently been documented. As general interest in the ergonomics of education has grown, some attention has been paid to school lighting. Many students could tell you intuitively that being in school is stressful and exhausting. Recent studies seem to back this up and link these effects to the lighting in classrooms and other areas at school.
The most intriguing research compared students who were exposed almost exclusively to fluorescent light to students who were exposed to large amounts of natural or full-spectrum light. The results were startling. The students who were exposed to fluorescent light consistently performed worse than the full-spectrum group on an array of academic tests. In addition, the fluorescent light group exhibited more behavioral problems in school.
The results of these studies point to a major problem with fluorescent light. The “awake” signals that are triggered by blue light are also influential on mood. In particular, they can increase both stress and fatigue. This combination makes it more difficult to perform many routine tasks.
Fluorescent Light Filters for Classrooms
The demonstrably negative influence of fluorescent light on learning has raised concern among many educators. Both teachers and administrators recognize the need to reduce fluorescent light exposure. Some changes, such as more outside time, can make a small difference. But the real solution would be to remove the fluorescent lighting and replace it with large windows and natural light. Failing that, replacing fluorescent lights with full-spectrum lights would be an improvement. Unfortunately, these are expensive solutions. Today, when public schools are more underfunded than ever, there is little room in the budget for lighting changes.
Luckily, there is a lower-cost solution that many teachers have discovered. At Octo Lights, we are proud to say that today many teachers are using our fluorescent light filters for classrooms to great effect. Our fluorescent light filters work by filtering out much of the harmful blue light produced by fluorescent lights. The result is light that is more evenly distributed across the spectrum. This light is more soothing to the eyes and doesn’t generate the same wakefulness response as blue light.
In addition to the benefits that come from filtering fluorescent light, Octo Lights fluorescent light filters for classrooms, offices, and other spaces feature beautiful images. These images can completely transform a room. One school told us that they were using some of our ocean-themed light covers throughout the school to represent their mascot, the dolphins. Many teachers report installing our popular cloud-themed light covers. They tell us that the students love the way they bring the outdoors indoors.
Ordering Fluorescent Light Filters for Classrooms
If you are interested in fluorescent light filters for classrooms, take a look at our reviews section. You’ll find reviews from many teachers and educators who are already using our fluorescent light filters in their classrooms. If you have specific questions, check our FAQs or contact us directly. Ordering fluorescent light filters is as easy as picking an image, selecting a size, and checking out. Once you order, we print your selected images using environmentally friendly water-based inks. The films we use are UL rated for safety. You order will ship in 1 or 2 business days via FedEx Ground. As soon as it ships, you will receive an automated email with a tracking number and expected delivery date. To learn more about installing your fluorescent light filters, check out our video!