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LightAware Winter Newsletter 2020

Light and lockdown... again

Dear LightAware Supporters, Advisors and Ambassadors,
We are writing this newsletter in another lockdown with increasing restrictions due to Covid-19, and we hope this finds you safe and well in this very difficult year.

It is also a very challenging season for many people who are sensitive to artificial light. The short hours of daylight mean that those who cannot tolerate their local streetlighting are trapped indoors for long evenings. And this year people are putting up Christmas lights early with the best intentions of spreading some good cheer, but unaware that bright, flashing, LED Christmas lights may cause pain and misery for their light-sensitive neighbours.

LightAware exists to support those people whose lives have been 'locked down' by new forms of lighting. Many are unable to visit the shops or the houses of family and friends and family, take part in sporting, social or cultural events or even to access education and health care. As the wider world looks ahead and begins to anticipate life beyond lockdown, there doesn't seem to be much hope on the horizon for light-sensitive people, especially for those who suffer adverse effects from exposure to LED lighting. But perhaps, as more people learn what it is like to not be able to go out and socialise, to get a haircut or visit someone in hospital, one thing we might hope for is more empathy and understanding. That awareness could bring about real change in respecting the rights of light-sensitive people to light their homes and live their lives.


Update from the EU: Government consultation on lighting law
From Kevan Shaw C.Eng MILP, FIALD, our correspondent from the frontline of lighting regulation.

The UK government department responsible for light (BEIS – Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) has just opened public consultation on lighting sources and labelling, with a view to implementing the Eco Design regulation into UK law.

Here is the public consultation where you can provide comments by 27th January 2021:

According to BEIS, it is open to anyone they would particularly like responses from: manufacturers; importers; trade bodies; consumer groups; environmental organisations and other civil society organisations; those with an interest in energy efficiency, resource efficiency, circular economy and climate change.

This is an important opportunity for all involved with LightAware to impact the implementation and possibly the wording of this regulation specifically in the UK. We are currently working on a position paper, which we will publish on our website by 5th January 2021. The more people who engage with the consultation specifically mentioning LightAware and the position paper the more effective this will be.

This is a real chance to highlight our issues and especially to try to secure a continuing medically-necessary supply of incandescent lamps, and as the regulations are updated, to influence quality and medical needs as part of the decision process. 

LED Flicker
As reported in our summer newsletter, late on in the process the European Commission introduced a new method of assessing flicker in LED lighting, the Stroboscopic Visibility Measure (SVM). This determines the likelihood of a normal person being able to detect a stroboscopic effect of something moving through the light. (This is carried out at high frequencies for the measurement typically 2kHz. A value of 1 represents an artefact just visible to 50% of a typical population.)

Despite much complaining by the lighting industry, the regulations coming into force in September 2021 (in the EU) now require an SVM of less than 0.9 for LED lamps and fittings and this will reduce to 0.4 in 2023. This is a very good result for many who suffer from sensitivity to flicker from LED light sources. Essentially, LED products placed on the market after September 2021 should not show any visible strobing, and to achieve that will be operating at much higher frequencies and using more smoothing that will reduce any other flicker-related visual issues. At this point we are yet to see how these regulations will be transposed into UK regulations after Brexit, though there is a strong expectation that they will be incorporated before too long. 

Incandescent bulbs
The bad news is that these regulations are set to finish off incandescent and tungsten halogen lamps, with very few exemptions. All that remain are oven lamps at small sizes and low wattage – typically less than 40W – and lamps specifically for traffic signals. These are conventional incandescent lamps but are marketed in a very restricted fashion; we have yet to see any available on the open market. The only places that now seem to have incandescent lamps are companies that have held stocks for a long time, such as bargain stores and hardware stores.
In Scotland, Edinburgh Bargain Stores still has an amazing collection of coloured incandescent bulbs for parties and Christmas Festivities - for when such events happen again!

Street Lighting report

We are seriously concerned about the rapid and near-global roll out of LED street lighting, for purported cost savings and energy efficiency, without due consideration of the health and safety of residents and wider environmental impact.

We are particularly concerned about the human rights of those who suffer pain and ill health from exposure to LED lighting, as these people will be unable to access the streets after dark. This is a severe and under-reported issue of social exclusion.

There are also growing concerns about the impact of blue-rich LED street lighting on the general public, especially children and older people, and on wildlife and the environment.

The 'hierarchy of harm', high blue content LED streetlighting has health impacts on us all
Although some people are severely affected LED streetlighting has health impacts on us all.


To learn more about the situation in the UK, LightAware sent a Freedom of Information request to all Councils in England, Scotland and Wales, asking which councils have installed LED street lighting and the measures they have taken to ensure the health and safety of residents and to minimise the environmental impact of this new technology.

LightAware have now received replies from 120 councils and are compiling a detailed report.

The full report will be available from our website in January 2021, with an online conference following in February 2021.

If you would like to receive a copy of the report please email:

Applying Light for Human Health –
CIBSE Conference Report

Dr Joan Munby, LightAware Ambassador

This online conference in November 2020 was held by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). The presentations at the conference were given by academics and lighting industry experts; two of the talks were of particular interest to those of us with light sensitivity.  

Professor Arnold Wilkins from the Society of Light and Lighting spoke about lighting instability, headaches and migraines.  His talk considered problems generated by light flicker and he mentioned his invention – FL41 lenses – that can help some sufferers of light-induced migraine.

The last presentation of the conference was by Professor John O’Hagan of Public Health England who delivered a wide ranging presentation on the future of lighting and health.  Professor O’Hagan started his talk by giving the World Health Organisation definition of health, emphasising that health is not simply an absence of illness.   

He made the observation that the more energy efficient light bulbs have become, the more there have been calls to Public Health England about non-specific adverse health effects, and that there was a high volume of such calls when compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) (which were promoted by the UK government) were rolled out.

Professor O’Hagan explained how photosensitivity varies between individuals and that it differs according to age and experiences. He went on to make the case that people do not like it when they lack control, citing the example of open plan offices where many workers have no control over their workplace lighting and have little exposure to natural light. Another example of lack of lighting control is found in hotel rooms that can now feature floor sensors, which, if stepped on, turn on lights (often blue), whether illumination is desired or not.

He noted that once a complaint has been made about light having an adverse health effect, for example in offices, this often leads to others in the same space similarly complaining. (This resonates with our experiences at LightAware and could be because one complainant gives others who are suffering the courage to speak out, or that other individuals feeling unwell had not previously been aware that it was a result of the lighting in the workplace).

Professor O’Hagan explained that flicker in lights of 100 Hz triggers headaches in about 1% of the population. If caused by LEDS, he said this flicker could be overcome with use of a dc  circuit. However there could be a problem when LEDs incorporate a light management system, which effectively turns the light on and off – potentially at 100 Hz. He proposed that increasing the frequency to KHz levels in such systems may overcome this problem. 

In his summary Professor O’Hagan said that common sense is needed.  People differ, but what everyone wants is control, including over lighting.  This can be as simple as the provision of light switches.   And what is unhelpful for everyone is bright light throughout the day until it is time to sleep – there should instead be variation, with less light in the evening. Because of the health advantages of red light, of which there is a lot in sunlight, Professor O’Hagan wondered whether any adverse effect of lack of red light in current electric lighting would be reduced if individuals spent more time outdoors. 

Overall, the conference talks clearly outlined the known beneficial effects of sunlight, and highlighted how red light, of which there is little in artificial lights, is particularly beneficial. It was reassuring to hear experts confirm that individuals react differently to different doses of light and to flicker and to hear them acknowledge that no one should be placed in situations where there is no ability to control the electric light they are exposed to.

From Dr Amardeep Dugar, Dr. Amardeep M. Dugar, IALD, MIES, FISLE, FSLL

Diwali - Festival of lights

Appropriately I am writing this on 14 November, the day of ‘Diwali - Festival of Lights’ in India and people of Indian origin globally…so here is wishing you a very Happy Diwali!

Diwali is celebrated with lighting of a lot of oil lamps. Although the advent of LEDs did bring a shift in the way lighting has been done, I am glad that people still believe in the traditional oil lamps and use them to light their homes. Staying true to the tradition is a healthy way of living especially for the light sensitive!

COVID-19 and UV

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the perspective of several hospitals, government organisations, start-ups and technology companies in India with respect to the use of ultraviolet (UV) light for germicidal purposes: for improved air quality and killing microbes.

There are three types of UV light: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C, all of which have the potential to damage human skin. UV-A and UV-B light cause sunburns and premature skin aging, and exposure to both is associated with the development of skin cancer.

UV-C light with wavelengths ranging between 200-280nmkills microbes and has been used as a means of disinfecting hospital wards and operation theatres for decades. However, the wards must be empty of people because the special germicidal UV lamps operate mainly at a wavelength of 254nm that can penetrate the eyes and skin, causing inflammation and pain.

While the effectiveness of environmental sterilization of air and surfaces with UV light has been confirmed, further research is needed about the safety of portable UV sanitizers, as well as their efficacy at sterilizing clothes and human skin. Unfortunately, several portable UV sanitizers are popping up in India as the answer to killing COVID-19 on our hands and phones, but such consumer devices may have more risks than they're worth.

Although scientists are working on ways to make these disinfecting products safe for people to use, current devices are not safe to use on our body. Many of these products are not even approved by any governing health agency. This is definitely a cause for concern and something that manufacturers who are trying to quickly create such portable UV sanitizers may ignore.

Hopefully new research will lead to more successful ways to use UV light as a germicide. For example, a study carried out jointly at the University of St Andrews and Ninewells Hospital in Dundee claims that far-UV-C light with wavelengths around 222nm could be safely used for air disinfection in public places without harming people.

However, in the meantime, unsafe and untested products are being sold in India from widespread outlets such as petrol pumps, shopping malls, various shops and digital sales platforms, and even door to door, without any public education about safety protection features or instructions.

The Indian Society of Lighting Engineers (ISLE) is extremely concerned that consumers are being misled by unscrupulous manufacturers. It has released a position statement on the use of Germicidal Ultraviolet Irradiation (GUV) to inform and protect the general public and to appeal for tighter regulation and labelling. It contains a detailed explanation of the uses and dangers of UV-C, and will soon be available online here:

The challenges of a light-sensitive life can sometimes seem insurmountable, and the tiny triumphs of others offer some hope and solidarity. Here are a few recent examples that we have received, where a 'light aware' business owner or official has made all the difference:

A big shout out to:  

Cruz Hairworks in Whitley Bay
"I go for my hairdressing appointments at 9 am as this seems to disrupt the salon least.  Bright spotlights in the entrance are turned off before I arrive and I am given a seat with minimal problems with lights for me.  I am particularly grateful as I am aware that Mark and the crew are concerned in case not having lights on means it looks like the salon is not open, and so this could lose them business."

Poppy and Pint, Nottingham
"James the manager is always accommodating, he lets me choose which table is suitable and turns lights off where needed. Philippa has often helped us too but all of the staff are equally as helpful and the food is delicious!"

Ryman Stationery, Cambridge
"I showed my LightAware card through the window. The shop assistant looked very puzzled but came to the door and once he'd read the card he couldn't have been more courteous and helpful - selecting the products I wanted, bringing them just outside to check them with me then taking payment by card and bringing my shopping and receipt outside."

Please get involved...

With LightAware in our 5th year as a charity, we are inviting applications for new Trustees to help guide our vision, direction and governance through an important phase of development.
We also have an Advisory Board of experts in relevant fields and a network of Ambassadors, representing different medical conditions and geographical regions. We welcome volunteers to assist with fundraising and campaigning.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the charity in any capacity, please get in touch

Support LightAware with your Christmas shopping - at no extra cost to you

LightAware is registered with Give As Your Live and Amazon Smile.

*** This Friday 27th November! You can generate donations whilst you shop the Black Friday sales which are happening now! ***

We have signed up to two online schemes which donate a percentage of takings to charity, with no extra cost to yourself. If our supporters shop regularly in this way, it would make a big difference to what we are able to achieve. All donations will strengthen LightAware’s capacity to raise awareness about the effect of artificial light on human health and wellbeing. Here’s how to do it:

Give as you Live
Give as you Live is an online fundraising platform allowing users to shop at over 4,100 top stores and raise free funds for charity. The store pays Give as you Live a percentage of your total purchase price in commission and of this, 50% is passed on to charity.

Bullet point action list:

  • Go to: Log in (or sign up free) on your device
  • Choose a charity to support (type in LightAware in the search box)
  • Select LightAware
  • Search for the store you want to shop at using the search facility
  • Once you’ve found the store, click on the ‘Shop & Raise’ button 
  • You will be then directed to the stores website where you can shop as normal
  • Once you’ve made your purchase, the store will confirm the transaction with Give as you Live
  • You’ll then receive an email confirming how much you’ve raised for LightAware!

Amazon Smile
When the customer shops with Amazon using Amazon Smile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the net purchase price (excluding VAT, returns and shipping fees) of eligible purchases to the charitable organisation of your choice - LightAware! So basically, 50 pence for every £100 can go directly to LightAware at no cost to the customer. It doesn’t seem a great deal of money, but it will soon add up, especially once the Christmas shopping frenzy begins.

Bullet point action list:

  • Go to: /
  • On the right hand side of the welcome page, type in LightAware in the entry field
  • Press Search
  • Select LightAware on the results page
  • Tick the box to say you understand to make use of the charitable donation, you must shop at Amazon via the SmileAmazon route
  • Then shop! It’s as simple as that!

Print copies of the LightAware Newsletter

We are very aware that some light-sensitive people struggle with computer and phone screens and that our online newsletter is not appropriate for all.

If you need a print version posted to you, or know somebody who does, please let us know on

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