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Fluorescent Lighting in Schools Found to Give Children Headaches

Saturday, December 29, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: public schools, fluorescent lights, health news


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(NewsTarget) Lighting conditions in British schools are overwhelmingly inappropriate and are likely to give children headaches and concentration problems, according to a new study presented at the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association in London.

Mark Winterbottom of Cambridge University and Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex studied the lights of 90 classrooms in 11 secondary schools (for students between the ages of 12 and 18). They found that 100 Hz fluorescent lighting were installed in approximately 80 percent of classrooms. The researchers said that lights of this frequency create an "imperceptible flicker that can cause visual discomfort and make it more difficult to read accurately."

Poor classroom design made the situation even worse, with 90 percent of classrooms found to be "excessively bright," either due to poor use of natural light or faulty blinds. According to Winterbottom, a greater use of natural light and of high-frequency (32 KHz) fluorescent lights that do not flicker would greatly reduce the strain on students' eyes.

Another contributor to students' vision and concentration problems were electric whiteboards, which use sound or moving graphics. The British government has spent approximately 50 million ($100 million) to install such whiteboards, which the researchers found at more than half of all classrooms inspected.

"The installation of whiteboards and data projectors in classrooms has been enormous over the last 10 years," Winterbottom said. "I would be amazed if they were not now used in every school in the country. There is evidence that this equipment, coupled with excessive fluorescent and natural light, can cause headaches and impair visual performance."

The study's findings have been passed on to government ministers for consideration. A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that schools should already be aware of these issues, since information about the risks and consequences of electric whiteboards and certain kinds of lighting are publicly available.

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