Immune system illness suffering triggered by fluorescent lighting

The need for offices to move from fluorescent lighting is underlined by the fact that it can trigger painful and debilitating immune system illness symptoms.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is an incurable immune system illness, probably genetic in origin and mainly suffered by women.

In SLE, or lupus, the immune system produces too many antibodies that cause reactions leading to inflammatory processes anywhere in the body.

Two main symptoms are joint and muscle pain and an extreme and persistent tiredness, not alleviated by rest. Rashes, headaches, fevers, depression, anaemia, hair loss and mouth ulcers can also be triggered.

Some sufferers have mild symptoms but the range extends right through to those who have life-threatening conditions.

UV radiation

Light sensitivity is a common symptom and affects around 60% of patients. For most sufferers, it is possible to manage the condition to minimise the effect on daily life. But fluorescent is one type of light acts as a trigger for many.

According to Lupus UK, the national charity for people affected by SLE, this is because fluorescent tubes emit UV radiation, which has been found to be unsafe for light sensitive individuals, unless covered by protective film or of the ‘double envelope’ type with the ballast at least 5 metres from the individual.

Ms S. Day, who works as a Business Development Manager at a London based university has suffered from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) for over 14 years and has a first-hand experience as a result of working in offices with fluorescent lighting.

She explains:

“Being under fluorescent lighting for long period of time triggers a Lupus attack. In fact, it can trigger what is called a ‘flare’ which defines a period of lupus activity where the body attacks itself.  My own experience confirms this. I get extremely tired, coupled with muscle and chest pain and terribly dry eyes. Working with this type of lighting, in particular without any cover or partial cover, decreases the quality of my life.

“SLE not only effects our lives but also our families, our loved ones who depend on us and to those, who play major part in our lives. Lupus is a difficult illness to manage. My hope is that all offices can make the required adjustments to lighting. The best action based on my own experience would be to remove the fluorescent lighting in order to minimise the triggers for SLE sufferers within the office environment.”

LED lighting

Replacing fluorescent tubes with the right type of LED lighting is one way to minimise the presence of triggers in buildings.

While LEDs emit almost no UV, it is very important to select the right colour temperature. Warm white can be tolerated by many sufferers, particularly if there is shade or diffuser. It is recommended by Lupus UK that cool white or bright white colour temperatures are avoided.

With wellbeing and health of staff a prime concern, careful selection of quality LEDs can help to minimise the triggers that make life a misery for so many SLE sufferers.

LED lighting also brings with it a significant saving on energy bills when compared to outdated technology such as fluorescent tubes.

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