Fluorescent Lighting Hurts, Yet It's in Our Schools… My Mini Soapbox Rant

Fluorescent Lighting Hurts, Yet It's in Our Schools… My Mini Soapbox Rant

If you don’t mind, I’m going to spill a quick rant and stand on a mini soapbox.  Why?  Because the subject seems painfully obvious to me, and I’m not the smartest person making rules around here.

Fluorescent lighting.



Really… how is it that the educational system, the school districts that be, the decision makers, building designers and anyone who has a say, have not figured out that replacing the fluorescent lighting with something less… sharp?  Stinging?  Painful? Distracting?  Agitating… would be in the best interests of the students?  If it’s in the best interests of the students, then: 

  1. Student are more willing to learn
  2. Student are able to learn
  3. Test scores increase
  4. Teachers are taking less time to deal with the hyperactive responses to the classroom environment
  5. Teachers (and school administrators) are taking less time to handle behavioral problems (that likely have be exaggerated or begun by the effects of poor lighting)

Studies have been around.  Studies are well documented.  Everyone talks about it.

“Schools, classrooms and other work environments where people spend time learning and working under simulated sunlight (full spectrum lighting and color) experience less stress and anxiety, improved behavior and attitudes, improved health and attendance, and increased performance and academic achievement.

Research in the use of light in schools has shown that cool-white fluorescent bulbs, (which are used in virtually all classrooms) cause: bodily stress, anxiety, hyper-activity, attention problems and other distress leading to poor learning performance.” – Full Spectrum Solution

“The Human Ecological Sociological Economic (HESE) Project determined that fluorescent light can exacerbate symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, thus diminishing on-task concentration.” – The Effects of Fluorescent Lighting on Learning

“NCEF’s (National Clearinghouse for Education) report states that, in terms of lighting, there are seven independent studies indicating that classroom lighting affects student performance. These reports also document that there are optimal lighting levels for learning, that appropriate lighting improves test scores and reduces poor behavior, and that daylight fosters higher student achievement. Clearly, correct illumination is a critical component of teaching and learning.” – School Planning & Management

Yet, buildings continue to be designed with less expensive lighting.  Maybe it’s an energy issue?  While I’m all about energy savings, I’m also all about helping kids be the best they can be at any given moment in time.

I’m left to reflect upon a recent time when I was taking a class in a room with fluorescent lighting, looking at a white sheet of paper with deeply contrasting black ink, surrounded by white walls.  My eyes hurt.  My head hurt.  I wanted to do anything but look at my white paper.  And I’m an adult.  Without any notable sensory processing issues.  I’m an adult that has been systematically (supposedly) desensitized to fluorescent lighting and have developed the coping skills to get through.  Yet, I was having difficulty.

Fluorescent Lighting in Schools

Still, children, are children… just learning to develop their coping skills to a whole host of things in this world.  So why wouldn’t we make their learning environment, the place where they spend 80% or more of their days, conducive to learning?  Why would we allow them obvious distractions when our goal is their focus?  Am I just not smart enough to get this one?  

That’s it.  That’s my vent.  I’ll stand aside now and allow you to step up on my soap box.  Set me straight or vent with me.  

More Links:

Effects of Flourescent Lighting on School Children
ERIC: Do School Facilities Effect Educational Outcomes?
Natural Lighting: A Study in the Effects of Lighting on School Children
Light Up Your Classroom
Classroom Tips From Current Brain Research – letsgetengaged

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By | 2012-10-11T08:26:52+00:00 October 11th, 2012|Categories: School|Tags: , , , |4 Comments

About the Author:

Special Happens
Gina St. Aubin is a former Victim’s Advocate who now advocates for those with intellectual and physical challenges. Her eldest son is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Electrical Status Epilepticus during Sleep / Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (a rare epileptic disorder causing verbal aphasia) and Developmental Delays. In June, 2012, her son also underwent a successful hemispherectomy. Gina is the editor, author and owner of Special Happens, serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the SPD Foundation, and resides in Colorado where she is a mother of 3, wife, blogger, writer and special needs advocate.


  1. Candice Schloey August 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Although I agree with you, a lot of schools are on a tight budget and fluorescent lighting is the best mixture between quality, price and cost efficiency.

  2. Special Happens
    Special Happens August 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Absolutely Candice. An alternative is adding dimming sheets that block out the over stimulation of the fluorescent lighting.

  3. Rhianna September 3, 2014 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    As a student who had just gone into grade 10 today, I have finally found the answer as to why I feel so terrible at school. In grade 9, when I was to get to class, within almost the start of the day, I felt terrible, head hurt, I was tired, dehydrated for no apparent reason, and i just couldn’t focus, and it kept getting worse throughout the day. My mother who works at my school, says I just need more sleep, but I sleep well, I am hydrated, and I only ever felt like this while I was at school. It’s horrible. I come home feeling like I’m in pain, I am dehydrated and can’t rehydrate myself, and this was my biggest fear when coming into grade 10 that it would be the same.

    So, I came in today on my first day, and low and behold, it’s no different, I feel like this yet again. I didn’t know why until an older friend mentioned something about the lights, and I did some research, and needless to say, I’m outraged. I just want to learn and be able to come home and do my homework without feeling like total crap, the fact that they do nothing and honestly don’t care about us shows, it just hurts so much to know that I’ve been right all along that it’s the School and not me.

    I feel the same way about you on this. Shame they don’t care about our learning at all.

    -A very disgruntled grade 10 student from Canada

    • Steve Achin July 7, 2015 at 5:23 am - Reply

      There is a better way. Samsung has been producing LED light boards that are used to replace fluorescent tubes for the last two years. According to Georgia & Florida Power, Duke Energy, Kansas City Power & Electric and Southern California Edison (and many others), replacing T-12 or 8 fluorescent tubes reduces electrical consumption by 64%. Most major utilities & or States have rebate programs in place to offset the initial cost of lighting retrofit.

      LED’s emit a constant light (no fluorescent flicker) and the color rendering index (CRI) does not degrade like fluorescents. The service life of the Samsung products are guaranteed for 10 years vs. a typical life span for fluorescents of 2 years or less.

      The replacement process uses the existing fixture housing thereby reducing cost of material and labor.
      Depending on the facility, a 64% reduction in kWh results in a savings of approximately 10 to 12% of the total electric bill. The savings generally realize a 2 to 3 year return on investment cost and in many instances there is grant money available for schools.

      LED lighting simply creates the best learning environment for students, especially those with learning challenges.

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