As scientists discover more about the impact of certain environmental exposures on human health, additional issues are arising for school administrators. Two fo those issues, LED lighting and fragrances, are covered here.
LED lighting has quickly become the lighting of choice for many schools because of its potential energy and cost savings. Some studies have associated brightly-lit classrooms with improved test scores and student attention spans. But medical professionals are beginning to question the long-term impacts of exposure to LED lighting, especially for children.
The light emanating from most LED bulbs (those with color temperatures greater than 2700 K) includes a larger portion of blue light, which is part of the typical visible spectrum, than incandescent lights. Studies show that blue light encompasses shorter wavelengths and is a higher energy emitter, similar to ultraviolet light, except that ultraviolet (UV) light is invisible and blue light appears white to the naked eye.
Cumulative exposure to LED luminaires and the myriad of devices with LED screens that students use in school every day can cause both short and long term effects on eye health.
Short term effects include eye strain, headaches, and dry and burning eyes. More serious long term effects include retinal cell damage, cataracts and age related macular degeneration (AMD), which are typically related to aging, but are now being diagnosed in younger people.
Some LED manufacturers make "tuneable" lights which can be dialed down in intensity to reduce the amount of blue light. In fixed-temperature systems, the use of LED lights that are below 3,000 K is recommended for school classrooms.
Scented and fragranced products can be major factors in poor indoor air quality and create unnecessary and potentially harmful exposures for students, teachers, staff and visitors.
Symptoms or exposure to fragrances can include headaches, nausea, weakness, malaise, loss of appetite, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, upper respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath, and skin irritation in the case of dermal contact.
Scented products can trigger asthma attacks, and since asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism in schools, care should be taken to reduce or eliminate any unnecessary fragrances in schools.
See our draft policy on fragrances at school.