• Beth Bahr

Artificial Light and Healthcare Facilities

As long as we can remember, healthcare facilities have been using fluorescent and incandescent light fixtures to illuminate their buildings. Due to the output, cost, and availability these lights where always the go-to light source. What healthcare facilities fail to realize is incandescent and fluorescent lights aren’t reliable and can have many negative effects on their patients. The best alternative light source would be LED light bulbs and LED fixtures.

There are several shades of LED lights that are available in white. The shades of the bulbs are referred to as Correlated Color Temperatures (CCT). CCT is measured in Kelvin (K). Different temperatures on the Kelvin Scale represent different colors. For example, light at 2000K-3500K looks more orange/yellow and is called warm white or ultra-warm. As temperatures increase in Kelvin, color changes to more of a “paper white” known as natural or neutral white (between 3500K and 5000K), finally transitioning into a bluish-white known as cool white (5100K – 20000K). Through out the day light changes. At dawn, light will be a warm white color and transition into a natural white, to a cool white in the afternoon, back to natural white, and eventually to an ultra-warm white color at sunset. Our bodies are use to this cycle of light. Artificial light that differentiates from this color will throw off a persons Circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.

As one of our previous blog posts expressed, different types of light can trigger different types of physiological effects. Blue/White light during a bright midday light, suppresses melatonin and increases serotonin. This is great for someone who is trying to be active. Contrarily red/orange light triggers melatonin in preparation for going to sleep. If a body is in balance, it will generate dopamine, serotonin, cortisol, and melatonin in the right amounts, at the correct time of day. Many researchers in different fields, have found that when a person’s Circadian rhythm is off balance, they are susceptible to all sorts of illnesses, sleeping disorders, and can seem irritable.

In healthcare facilities, it’s important that patients and staff have access to cool white light that resembles daylight. Windows have been found to be the best method of accessing daylight. However, it’s been found that cool white LED lights, along with the right color temperature at the right times, can have the same effect on the body.

Warmer color temperatures led to the release of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland and is often called the sleep hormone. Warmer color temperatures are appropriate during bedtime hours. However, it may cause problems for those who need to stay away, like hospital staff. Natural or cool white light in hallways, operating rooms and nurse stations can help hospital staff, especially overnight workers feel more energetic and be more alert.

Fluorescent lights contain mercury, which creates a health risk if a bulb breaks. Mercury is toxic and can be harmful if absorbed through skin or inhaled. Fluorescent and incandescent bulb also emit low doses of UV radiation. UV radiation has been linked to damaging facility materials, damaging skin, and eyes. LEDs contain no mercury and unless they’re specifically UV bulbs, they emit very little to no radiation. These factors all conclude that LEDS make the better choice of a lighting solution for healthcare facilities. LED lights don’t flicker or emit any types or color spikes. Which means, there will be reduced symptoms of headaches and dizziness, compared to other light settings. LED bulbs and fixtures can improve health and eliminate the possibility of additional health risks posed by fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.

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