by: Ott, John, Sc.D.
Dr. John Ott is director of the Environmental Health and Light Research Institute in Sarasota, Florida, and president of John Ott Pictures, Inc. His hobby, time-lapse photography, which he began in 1927 led him to creating the time-lapse sequences in several Walt Disney nature films. The accidental result of this hobby was his discovery that different light sources have remarkable effects on the structure of life cells, both plant, animal and human.
As man has become more industrialized, living under an environment of artificial light behind window glass and windshields, watching TV, looking through coloured sun-glasses, working in windowless buildings, the wavelength energy entering the eye has become greatly distorted from that of natural sunlight. Much of the development of modern lighting has, unfortunately, been toward the use of light sources of increasing distortion.
THE LIGHT WHICH ENTERS THE EYE
I was able to observe in the course of my own experiments in time-lapse photography that cells perform in an established pattern when exposed to any natural sunlight condition. I soon found, however, that they broke the established pattern and displayed many variations when different filters were used in the microscope light. While plants were the first living things I worked with, my quest soon took me to cells from animals. Here again I found that I could create radical changes within the cells by changing the colour in the microscope. I could increase their metabolic activity; I could kill them. Working with live animals, laboratory mice, I discovered that various kinds of lighting conditions could affect them physically. The lights had a definite effect on their sex lives and life spans. The key to all this seemed to be the simple act of light entering the eye. I found many dramatic examples of changes in health when sunglasses were worn - or taken away. Ordinary eyeglasses, windows in homes and automobile windshields screen from the eyes most of the ultraviolet which reaches us in natural sunlight. And depriving the human of that ultraviolet can become a strong obstacle to improving health.
INCANDESCENT AND FLUORESCENT LIGHT LACK ULTRAVIOLET
The chart on the next page of the electromagnetic spectrum shows the continuity of the different wavelengths pictorially rather than to scale. As you can see from the chart, the ordinary incandescent light contains virtually no ultraviolet, is lacking in the blue end of the spectrum, and produces its maximum energy in the infrared wavelengths. The fluorescent light operates on quite a different principle, but again it produces light which is imbalanced in certain portions of the spectrum and does not emit the ultraviolet light. (for all charts see John Ott's books)
FLUORESCENT LIGHTING AND THE C3H MICE
I would like to review the results of the experiments showing the effect of different types of light on C3H mice. They were on a controlled diet, and different lighting conditions were the only variable used. We used the pink fluorescent (which is just a narrow part of the spectrum) to the more complete full spectrum of the natural outdoor sunlight. The best result of the experiments was that the life span of the animals was more than doubled under full natural light, as compared to those under the pink fluorescent light. Also there was a progression in their life span as the light spectrum was increased to that of the full spectrum. I had the assistance of many of the scientific research people of nearby hospitals and universities. In addition to increasing their life span, the mice under the artificial light sources had more and larger multi-lobe tumours.
EFFECTS OF COLOURED LIGHT AND COLOURED PLASTIC
It has been noted that work areas lit by the pink fluorescents for a "warm" effect have the opposite effect with the staff. Tempers flare, everyone becomes irritable and generally difficult to control. When the pink fluorescents are removed, within a week, congeniality and a spirit of working together redevelops. These results seemed quite in line with the preliminary reports on mink kept behind different coloured glass. Mink exposed to natural daylight through a deep pink glass became increasingly aggressive, difficult to manage, and in many instances actually vicious. Mink normally are quite fierce, but when some of the mink were placed behind deep blue plastic they became friendly and docile. The same results can be applied to coloured eye-glasses; pink tinted glasses can cause personality disturbances.
ULTRA VIOLET TRANSMITTING WINDOWS AND NATURAL LIGHTING
Obrig Laboratories was the first to design a new building using full spectrum lighting and ultraviolet-transmitting plastic window panes throughout the entire office and factory areas. They have approximately 100 employees. During the entire Hong Kong flu epidemic of 1968-69, not one employee was absent because of any flu type of ailment.
EFFECTS OF RADIATION
In our modern civilization, there are increasing amounts of man-made radiations present in far greater intensities than the natural background radiation. Serious consideration must be given to the cumulative effects of so-called "insignificant" amounts of radiation from TV sets, micro-wave ovens, micro-wave relay towers, radar systems, nuclear-generating stations, atom bomb tests, medical and dental X-ray machines, some types of computers, video display terminals, etc.
In a report in 1964, 30 children being studied exhibited symptoms which included nervousness, continuous fatigue, headaches, loss of sleep and vomiting. After further checking it was discovered that this group of children were all watching television three to six hours during the weekdays and six to ten hours on Saturdays and Sundays. The doctors prescribed a total abstinence from TV. In 12 cases the parents enforced the rule, and the children's symptoms vanished in two or three weeks. In 18 cases the parents cut the TV time to about two hours a day and the children's symptoms did not go away for five or six weeks. In 11 cases the parents later relaxed the rules and the children's symptoms returned. Little or no consideration was given in the conclusion of the report to the question of possible radiation exposure, the symptoms being attributed to lethargy from long viewing hours.
Consequently we set up an experiment with a large screen colour TV. One half of the picture tube was covered with solid lead, and the other half with ordinary heavy black photographic paper. Two rats were placed in each of two cages directly in front of the TV, and the set was turned on for six hours each weekday and for ten hours on Saturday and Sunday. The rats protected only with the black paper became increasingly hyperactive and aggressive within three to ten days, and then became progressively lethargic. At 30 days they were extremely lethargic and it was necessary to push them to make them move. The rats shielded with the lead showed some similar abnormal behavioural patterns, but to a considerably lesser degree.
It certainly raises questions about the multiple use of TV sets in hospitals, hotels and especially TV show rooms. The greatest hazard comes from the backs and sides of sets through which radiation penetrates from parts of the tube. Few people would sit with their faces a foot or so away from a set, but in countless motels and apartment buildings, a bed is placed against a wall with the back of a TV set just the other side of it. Television sets in hospitals are particularly dangerous. They are often watched for many hours at close range on a bedside table in order not to disturb other patients. Video display terminals pose the same kind of risk, with the operator seated directly in front of the set. I have not had a TV set in my home for a year since the results of my experiments.
Full spectrum fluorescent lighting was developed by John Ott in conjunction with Duro-Test company. They are called Vita-Light.
Ultra-violet transmitting plexiglass is manufactured by Rohm and Haas Company of Canada and is available at various dealers in Toronto.
Ultra-violet transmitting eyeglass, but not contact lenses are also available. For information, call Consumer Health Organization.