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Fluorescent Lighting Can Trigger ADD/HD and Dyslexia

Fluorescent lighting may do more harm than good. Long term clinical studies by the Irlen Institute and independent sources have found that reading difficulties aswell as academic underachievement may be related to fluorescent lighting. For example, a 2006 study by Capital E found that students in schools that had natural lighting instead of fluorescent lighting had 10 to 21 percent higher learning rates and test scores. Fluorescent lighting may cause pain and suffering for 12-14 percent of the world's population, triggering headaches, migraines, and other physical symptoms.

According to U.S. Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), the long-term visual and perceptual effects of fluorescent lighting on Irlen Syndrome should be considered when drafting fluorescent lighting legislation.

"Energy efficiency should be balanced with consumer protection and protecting the public health," she said “The long term effects of fluorescent lighting should be well studied and understood before Congress mandates that consumers use fluorescent lighting in their homes and businesses."

Tens of thousands of people have sought help from the Irlen Institute because of difficulties with fluorescent lighting. These people are already at a distinct disadvantage because of the fluorescent lighting in their schools and workplaces. They stress and tire quickly. For many, reading ability quickly deteriorates and productivity suffers in the classroom and on the job. If forced to replace burned out incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones, these people may experience the same issues adversely affecting their lives at home, too.

The following are just a few of the individuals who have been helped by the Irlen Method and no longer have problems directly resulting from fluorescent lights. But they are the lucky ones. Millions of other individuals are struggling to perform in a fluorescent lighting environment. We need to spread the word so that these individuals have a choice and are not forced to struggle in their homes, schools, and workplaces.

  • Sarah is 17 years old and in 11th grade, but not attending school. She was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and reading problems in second grade. She gets headaches daily when in school and migraines about twice a month. She was physically exhausted when she would come home and sleep for hours and was experiencing extreme anxiety. Her psychiatrist determined her problems were triggered by fluorescent lighting, placed her on Prozac, and recommended that she leave school. The negative affects of the fluorescent lighting have seriously affected her motivation, attention, and performance.
  • Bryce is 12 years old and in the sixth grade. He was getting poor grades in school, was unable to finish tests, could not finish his work in class, or focus. He was diagnosed with ADD and placed on medication, which was not helpful. Once it was determined that fluorescent lighting triggered poor attention and concentration, the problems were resolved using specially filtered lenses.
  • Tanisha is a third grader with reading problems who falls asleep in class under fluorescent lights. She also gets headaches when trying to read under fluorescent lights, because the words and numbers move around on the page.
  • Mariel is 29 years old and would always fall asleep in class even though she had enough sleep. For her, fluorescent lights are too bright, bothersome, and irritating. She is unable to concentrate and wants to turn them off. Fluorescent lights make her dizzy, tired, irritated, nervous, and anxious.

The Irlen Institute has seen thousands of individuals like these who struggle trying to read and perform under fluorescent lighting. Individuals have been mislabeled with LD, ADD/HD, reading problems, and dyslexia—all as a result of having to perform under fluorescent lights.

This is a little known problem that affects millions. Faced with a worldwide movement to ban incandescent bulbs, it is critical for all of us to be more informed and to raise the awareness of others. Energy efficiency should be balanced with consumer protection and protecting the public heath. I encourage you to share this information with others and visit the International Irlen website. Then take action by making your concerns known to your schools, employers, and legislators at the local, state, and national levels.

By Helen L. Irlen, MA, LMFT, Executive Director, Irlen Institute International

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