Nine LightAware Case Studies
The following 9 Case Studies from the LightAware charity are real life accounts of
people suffering a range of ill health symptoms triggered by LED and modern
LightAware is particularly concerned about the lack of suitable research and evidence
about the effect of LED lighting on human health. Although people often tell us that
they feel unwell under fluorescent lights, many are reporting that LED lighting
triggers symptoms much more quickly, and with greater severity and frequency. As
such, the adverse effect of these lights on people’s lives can be devastating.
The ban on incandescent lighting has proven to be catastrophic for many people who
are made ill by LED and fluorescent lights. Likewise, the replacement of well tried and
tested alternatives, such as sodium and metal halide, has further exacerbated the
situation. This has caused ill health, social exclusion and job loss for many people,
because the forms of artificial lights that have been made obsolete are the very ones
they tolerate well.
The following cases represent just a fraction of the many people in contact with
LightAware who are suffering and disabled by fluorescent and LED lighting. Names
and personal details have been changed to protect people’s privacy.
Elizabeth is extremely sensitive to indoor and outdoor LED lighting. When LED street lights
were erected outside her home, she couldn’t even step into her front garden without
symptoms including severe eye pain, migraine, nausea, vomiting, and vertigo, these
symptoms starting immediately upon exposure.
She recently moved house to live in the countryside to escape the LED street lighting in her
town. However, there is no escape as neighbours and farms nearby have started to install
LED security lighting outside, restricting her access to only parts of the garden. The
neighbours next door have LED Christmas displays so she is trapped in her home for one month
after dark at Christmas time. She feels this shows little compassion.
When the street lights changed to LED, her employer also switched to LED backlit computer
screens. She was already working under LED lighting and very sick every day living on
painkillers and antisickness tablets. She eventually had no choice but to leave her job. The
widespread adoption of LED lights in the workplace has left her long term unemployed on no
Cut off socially at home, Elizabeth is excluded from using essential communication
technologies such as modern phones and computer screens as they are LED backlit. CFLs can
cause symptoms for her too, though nowhere as severe or immediate as those from LED
lamps. Although she is only in her thirtes, Elizabeth feels most of the time she is living a very
isolated life, that nooone should be subjected to.
“I don’t know where else to go. It’s distressing that nothing is being done, but at least now I
know many others who feel the same. LED lights have become commonplace, so I’m glad I
have school and college behind me because I wouldn’t be able to go if I was a child today.”
Tony was just a ‘normal young guy’ in his 30s: living in London, working in an office, with a
computer and smartphone and enjoying travelling. Some years after having laser eye
surgery, he started suffering extreme eye pain and headaches when exposed to LED lighting.
He is unable to use modern televisions, computer monitors and phones as the LED backlights
trigger severe pain. In the work world, Tony is increasingly cut off from normal activites that
people take for granted.
“The LE streetlights I have encountered have been pure and utter hell for me. Being around
them I just feel burning right on my eyes. Afterwards I feel like my eyes have been cut to bits
– the pain is almost unbearable, it feels like somebody has either burnt into or sliced my eye.
It actually feels like the white part of my eye was bleeding”.
This turned his life upside down, making everyday life a constant negotation to be able to
travel and work without exposure to lighting. His employers in an office had helped to
accommodate him, using old screen technology and sitting away from difficult lighting. He
was just about coping when LE street lighting began to be installed across his borough. It
was difficult to find out how to challenge this, as the lighting was being installed by a private
company through PFI. When he contacted the Council, they said to get in touch with the
private company, but when he did so they passed him back to the council. This lack of clarity
and accountability only added to the confusion and disorientation he felt in trying to explain
his predicament. In the end he negotiated directly with the Council who agreed to maintain
sodium street lighting on his street. He still has to go through streets with LE lighting to get
to work and indeed access the rest of the city at night. This situation is increasing difficult as
his office is due to shortly replace fluorescent overheads with overhead LE lights, which are
intolerable for him.
He fears being forced out of his job within a matter of months, leaving him in a financially
precarious situation. Lastly, if the supply of sodium street lights runs out, he could even be
forced out of his home. Currently he is lighting his home using a diminishing supply of old
incandescent bulbs and having to wear a hat to try to shield his eyes when outside.
Kevin is a father and the family breadwinner, but he was unable to continue with his career
as an IT professional, as he is not able to tolerate LED lighting and many modern
fluorescents, now ubiquitous in the workplace.
Commuting to work has become impossible for him, as LED and HID lights on cars blind and
trigger migraines for him whilst driving. Public transport is now also out of his reach as
buses, trains and stations have upgraded to LE lights. He finds road signs with white LEDs
too uncomfortable to read and they give him bad headaches. Since LED street lights have
been introduced into his county, including his street, he’s had to cease driving altogether at
night – significantly disrupting family life.
Kevin is no longer able to cycle, walk or drive whereever LED street lights are installed as
they instantaneously trigger bad headaches for him, which quickly develop into disabling
migraines, including dizziness, not being able to think straight, some loss of coordination,
and a general inability to function well – these disabling symptoms sometimes lasting more
than a day. To try and cope with LED street lights, he wears a peak cap, specialised tinted
glasses and has to keep his hand constantly raised to try and shield his eyes from their light –
despite this, these lights still trigger symptoms. Besides all this, he doesn’t feel safe driving
on roads lit by these lights, as he finds they actually reduce visibility in areas not directly
beneath them, including pavements, side street parking bays, intersections and pedestrian
“I feel a constant sense of foreboding as LED lights take over public spaces, causing my life to
be increasingly cut off. The resulting social exclusion also has an emotional impact and I feel
my livelihood has been wrenched from me”
Charlie was working in a job she loved with great prospects when the organisation she
worked for moved to a purpose built new premises with new fluorescent strip lighting. She
soon became ill, suffering from severe headaches and shingles beside her eye. From this
time she was unable to tolerate any fluorescent lighting and eventually had to leave her job.
“At first I thought I just had a problem with fluorescent lighting and was ok with LEDs,” she
explains, “but one day I was walking by the river when I was bathed in a very bright LED
street light from a new housing estate. It felt like a floodlight. I felt a sudden urge to run
away, followed by a severe headache, the pain lasted for a whole month and was
accompanied by general light sensitivity to all bright light.”
After a few of these episodes she increasingly found LED lighting too piercing and bright, and
looking directly at LED lights resulted in migraine. Charlie managed to give medical evidence
to the local council (from neurologists and optical specialists) and the council agreed to
maintain her street as sodium, and dimmed the very bright lights beside the river. This made
a difference to the whole neighbourhood, as many people were having problems sleeping.
with the sky so bright at night. It was a huge relief to have sodium lightng on her street, but
she still can’t go out beyond this area after dark or take part in events in the town.
Bernadette was a university senior lecturer when her academic department altered
the lighting in one of its buildings to fluorescent lighting, which for her triggered
migraines. Bernadette took her case to an industrial tribunal, which ruled that the
university’s need to attract new students through refurbished facilities overrode her
disability case. She had no choice but to leave a 30 year old successful and sociable
career to work from home for a fraction of the income. An elected local councillor,
Bernadette was also unable to attend council meetings in person as the council said it
was unable to alter fluorescent lighting in the chamber. She was therefore unable to
represent her electorate by voting on motions, and was deselected by her local
Bernadette has not left her home in the evening for several years since the street
lights were replaced with LED ones that trigger migraines. She likes to walk in the
daytime along a local promenade and swim in the sea nearby. A public meeting was
held to discuss a proposed seafront “improvement” that incorporated the installation
of LED lighting. Because it was held in the evening in a venue with migraine
triggering lights, Bernadette was unable to attend, but she sent a representative to
request that no LE lights be erected along the promenade, as this would mean she
would be unable to walk there even in the daytime as the lights are routinely set to
switch on automatically in dim light, and when lights malfunction the default setting
is to be on. The mayor rejected the request and the lights have been erected.
Job loss and isolation have left Bernadette depressed and feeling desperate.
6) Jessie Jessie is a goodnatured young lady in her mid teens, currently preparing for her GCSE
exams. She finds that the fluorescent tube lights at school, especially the bright cool white
ones, often make her feel dizzy. This is accompanied with difficulty focusing, listening and
remembering things. Furthermore, these symptoms can be followed by her experiencing
troubling headaches. The impact is far worse from LED lights. She wears special tinted
glasses to try and mitigate the effects from this lighting, but they only help to a limited
She looks forward to following her dreams at college in coming years, but since many
colleges are upgrading to LED lights, she wonders how this may impact her ability to earn the
qualificatons she needs to start a job one day.
“I’m concerned about when the relaxing orange street light outside my bedroom window
will be changed to LED , because others have been converted in our road already. I’m more
prone to my sleep being messed up from light coming through my window due to my
sensitivity to some lights. So if the one outside my window gets changed to LED , that would
be a disaster for me”.
Paula is a self employed music teacher in her 50s, and the dazzle of too bright lights whether
from street lighting or car headlights leaves her feeling confused and anxious.
She is concerned about the current quality of light on a number of levels – first and foremost
from a safety point of view, that she doesn’t feel safe when she can’t see properly when
driving. It bothers her at dusk but she finds it worse in the dark. She resents the fact that
these new lights have been imposed on us with no choice or consultation, when they have
such an impact on our experience of our immediate environment. She feels that there is too
much artificial light, especially at night, and too much overstimulaton generally of light and
sound. Blue rich LED street lighting feels to her like part of this overostimulaton.
“It is well known that light can affect the brain in negative ways,” she says. “Sometimes I
think – how has this happened? How is this the kind of environment we want to live in? We
don’t need these extra bright lights in the everyday environment, there is no need for it. It’s
as if it doesn’t matter that where you live is beautiful or pleasurable. It doesn’t feel at all
people friendly, I feel quite angry about it.”
Kelly has light sensitive lupus, which means she has a severe sensitivity to UV light.
She has to wear a medical mask to go outside in the daytime to protect her from the
UV in sunlight. When there were sodium street lights around her home, she could
safely go out of the house in the evening. However, now that the local council has
replaced the orange sodium lights with blue rich LE street lighting, she has to wear
the medical mask even to go outside after dark. She also feels that the LED lights
affect her adversely even wearing the mask, causing headaches and fatigue, and so
there may be another factor affecting her other than the UV content of the light.
“When I first became ill I thought I would become a night time person going out and
socialising at night. But I have a worse reaction to cool white and bright white LEDs,
now in widespread use both outdoors and indoors, than to sunlight.”
Alasdair suffers from a light sensitve skin condition known as photosensitive seborrhoeic
dermatitis, and gets an extreme reaction from all forms of light even through clothing. For
many years he couldn’t go outside his blacked out house in daylight as his skin reacted so
badly to sunlight. He was only able to leave the house at night, for a limited period, which
was his only opportunity for some fresh air and exercise. He had to leave a successful career
where he’d had a senior professional role and was now claiming benefits.
“When I heard that the council were planning to change the local area from sodium to white
CFL street lighting I was horrified. Blue light is recognised by leading photoodermatologists
to be much more penetrating and therefore much more aggravating for people with light
sensitve skin conditions. The high blue content of the proposed street lighting would mean
that I would become totally housebound throughout the day and the night.”
Backed by a lawyer, he argued the case with the local council that his human rights would be
infringed by the installation of CFL street lights in the local area and that it also would be a
breach of the council’s duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the
Equality Act, which covers public areas including the streets. He sent medical evidence to
back up his case and the council agreed to replace a limited area with high pressure sodium
street lights rather than CFLs so he could continue to go outside for a walk.