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LightAware in the Financial Times

The following letter was published in the Financial Times on October 5th and was written in response to a review in that newspaper of the book ‘Incandescent’ by Anna Levin:

I read with interest Suzi Feay’s review of Anna Levin’s book Incandescent: How Artificial Light is Damaging our Planet (“A glowing concern”, Life & Arts, September 28) As a trustee of the charity LightAware, which campaigns on behalf of light-sensitive people, I was surprised that the lighting professionals Ms Feay spoke to were unaware of health effects. Then the penny dropped — I realised she had been talking to theatre lighting designers, not those who design spaces where people live and work.

I gave a keynote address to the 2017 International Professional Lighting Design Conference in Paris on this very issue and a number of other conference presentations also covered the negative health impacts of new lighting. Our charity also won a “lighting Oscar” award at this conference for our work in bringing this issue to the attention of lighting designers.

Also, the number of people who suffer health problems with lighting is far from the “tiny number” your reviewer imagines. For example, 6m people (mainly women) in the UK suffer from migraine and light sensitivity is closely linked to this condition in around a third of cases — only a few per cent of the population, but clearly a significant number of people. And there are other light-sensitive conditions, such as lupus (also mainly women) and a number of skin conditions, which new forms of lighting have been shown to exacerbate.

I also find the idea that these problems may be psychosomatic offensive — there is a significant body of scientific research, for example on flicker causing migraines.

Furthermore, a recent report on LED lighting from the French Health Agency ANSES concluded: “The Agency confirms the toxicity of blue light on the retina and highlights disruptive effects to biological rhythms and sleep, linked to exposure to even very low levels of blue light in the evening or at night.”

Dr John Lincoln Edinburgh, UK

Click here for a link to the letter on the Financial Times website

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