Beneficial Household Lighting Choices

By Rob Brown and M. D.
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It is important to consider the light intensity and color spectrum optimal in each room of your house.
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Daylight intensity is on the order of 50,000-100,000 lumens.
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“Toxic Home/Conscious Home” by Rob Brown offers key insights on how to create a conscious home by making educated choices that will preserve and increase the well-being of your home’s occupants.

Dr Rob Brown is unveiling obvious and hidden sources of toxicity within the home in Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A Mindful Approach to Wellness at Home(Healthy Berry LLC, 2018). Despite our best efforts to be healthy, Brown explains how and why our homes are silently making many of us sick while stressing the importance of proper energy flow with in the home. Safer alternatives are suggested to help the reader create a truly safe and healthy refuge. The thought of detoxing the home can be overwhelming, by taking it day by day and making one or two changes at a time will make all the difference. The following excerpt is from Chapter 5, “Food Preparation and Packaging.”

Interior lighting

Because we have created opaque housing to live in and lifestyles that carry us into the night, we have a need for interior lighting. The most common method for providing light to an interior space is to create a window that allows the sun’s light to enter, known as daylighting. During periods of insufficient daylight, the need for indoor light production is apparent. In many parts of the world today, people rely on fire for indoor light. In other parts of the world where electricity is readily accessible, indoor lighting is achieved through light bulbs, referred to in the industry as lamps.

Lamps are evaluated for their SPD, the assessment of emission at each wavelength in the visible light spectrum. This analysis is used to determine three unique qualities for each lamp, including color temperature, color rendering index, and light intensity. These qualities determine the overall color appearance of the light. Natural daylight has a broad, flat SPD and is thought by many to be best for health and well-being.

A light’s brightness or intensity is measured in lumens. A lumen is a standard unit corresponding to the amount of light generated by one candle flame. For comparison, daylight intensity is on the order of 50,000-100,000 lumens. Lamps with higher wattage provide brighter, more intense light.

Light’s color temperature is measured in the Kelvin (K) scale. Noon daylight is a white light with a corresponding temperature of approximately 5500K. Light bulbs that appear more reddish have a lower temperature than bulbs that are bluer in color. A typical warm (reddish) white fluorescent lamp may have a color temperature of 3000K while a cool white fluorescent bulb (more bluish) may have a temperature of 4100K. This is the opposite of what one might expect — the warmly-colored, reddish bulb is cooler in temperature than the cool-colored blue bulb.

The color rendering index (CRI) is an assessment of how close in color objects appear within an artificial light source as compared to their appearance in natural daylight. Outdoor light has a perfect CRI of 100 by definition. A lamp with a CRI of 80 will show colors more naturally than a lamp with a CRI of 60. The CRI for most fluorescent bulbs ranges between 60 and 75. This light characteristic is important because not only do objects such as food and skin look more normal in a room illuminated with a high CRI lamp, this quality light allows us to see detail more clearly, with less eye fatigue and strain than do lower CRI bulbs.

When choosing how to provide light to the interior of your home, start by daylighting as much as possible through the installation of windows and sky lights. During the night hours and in rooms with limited natural light, lamps are needed.

The categories of electrically produced artificial light include incandescent lamps, halogen lamps, electrical discharge lamps, LEDs, and other forms of solid-state lighting. Each product uses a different technology to produce the light. There are pros and cons to each type of lamp, and some are potentially more toxic than others.

Incandescent lamps are those lights bulbs that illuminate by passing electricity through a metal filament until the filament glows. As the temperature rises, so does the wavelength of the light, thereby changing the color temperature of the light. Incandescent bulbs produce IR radiation, emitting heat as well as light. Higher-frequency bulbs produce a blue light and some UV radiation, but the levels of UV radiation are not thought to be significant.

Halogen bulbs are similar to incandescent lamps in that the electrical current travels through a filament, but the filament is located in a chamber filled with a halogen gas so it can get very hot without melting. These bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs and they produce a brighter light, closer to natural daylight. Because of the intense heat these bulbs produce, they need to be placed in special fixtures. Because bare halogen bulbs emit a significant amount of UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation, these bulbs are usually placed within a coated envelope to increase their safety. The coating, applied to the glass interior, filters out UV radiation. Sometimes these bulbs are placed within a second glass envelope, further reducing radiation. Treated bulbs do still emit low levels of UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation.

Electrical discharge lamps do not have a filament and instead produce light by sending an electrical current through a gas. This category of lighting includes fluorescent bulbs. The color and intensity of the light produced depends on the pressure and the type of gas within the bulb. There are many variations in this type of lamp, with only a few types suitable for indoor home use. Fluorescent lights are composed of a glass tube, the inside of which is coated with phosphor, and filled with low- pressure mercury vapor. As current passes through the vapor, it creates UV radiation, causing the phosphor layer to glow and create visible white light. Compact fluorescent lamps fall into this category and have largely replaced incandescent bulbs, as they are much more efficient.

Which bulbs and where?

With so many lamp types and wattages to choose from, it is important to consider the light intensity and color spectrum optimal for each room. Insufficient light and over-illumination can both be undesirable. Examine each room in the home and decide which type of lighting is desired in each space. Choose between three basic categories: ambient lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting.

The most common type of room lighting, ambient lighting, includes those lighting fixtures that illuminate a whole room, such as overhead lights, floor lamps, and table lamps. For this purpose, CFLs and LEDs are both suitable and efficient options. The fixtures will be far enough from people in the room that CFLs should not cause any hazardous effects with the small amount of UV radiation or gas they emit.

Accent lighting is intended to be more decorative and can be used to highlight pictures, plants, or other elements of interior design. When aiming a light source at a piece of artwork, it is very important to consider the frailty of the media. Certainly, watercolors, gouaches, and other media that can fade need to be kept out of direct sunlight and also away from full-spectrum lights and CFLs. LED bulbs are most suitable for displaying artwork. Oil paintings are inherently more stable than watercolors and can be exposed to direct sunlight and all types of light bulbs. Plants thrive under full-spectrum fluorescent and LED lights. Blue light is optimal for plant growth and when combined with red light, flowering and fruiting are promoted. CFLs and LEDs run cool in temperature, provide a broad-spectrum light, and can function as grow lights. Halogen and incandescent bulbs usually run too hot to be safe for plants. Other forms of accent lighting can include downlighting, uplighting, backlighting, etc. Depending on the esthetic affects you want to achieve in your room, the source and direction of light can be used to create different moods and atmospheres. LED lights have become the popular choice for this effect.

Task lighting should aid one in reading and inspecting close-up details. CFLs are not recommended for these tasks. Halogen bulbs produce bright white light and make a more suitable light for close-up detail work. If you are light sensitive, however, LED lighting would be an even better choice for task lighting. Home office lighting should be bright and have increased blue frequency. Blue lights and white light artificially enriched with blue frequency “cool lights” have an enhancing effect on cognition, memory, and mood that is stronger than for warm, reddish lights.

Bedroom lighting choices are especially important. In addition to being a place for sleep, an adult’s bedroom is typically a refuge from the daily chaos in a home, and a private location to discuss and evaluate important decisions. An assortment of lighting options in the bedroom is desirable. Both positive and negative human emotions are felt more intensely in bright light, so it is helpful to have ambient lights on a dimmer and to dim the lights when conducting negotiations and making rational decisions. For reading lights, neither bright lights nor CFL bulbs are a good choice as they can affect melatonin production. A focused LED light that will illuminate pages in the book while leaving the rest of the room dark would be ideal for this task.

Honor the sun when it is in the sky by letting it provide you with as much light as possible during the day and when indoors, choose your light sources carefully. During nighttime, try to limit exposure to full spectrum lights, particularly before bedtime, to ensure you get a good night’s rest. In this way, your body will produce adequate melatonin, which will keep your immune system and body in a healthier state.

More from: Toxic Home Conscious Home

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Reprinted with permission from Toxic Home/Conscious Home, by Rob Brown M. D. and published by Healthy Berry LLC.