LIGHT AND HEALTH
by: Olszewski, David, E.E., I.E.

David Olszewski is an engineer from Seattle, Washington who holds patents on light therapy equipment in several countries. He is co-author of the latest book on light therapy, Light Years Ahead, which describes light therapy in medicine today. He is president of the Light Energy Company and has over 30 years of experience in the application of light and heat equipment in the health field and the effects of light and other electromagnetic fields on the body.

PART I - SUNLIGHT AND HOW IT WORKS IN THE BODY

WHAT IS SUNLIGHT? On this planet we have to have the full spectrum of sunlight to live. This is how we evolved as a species. Sunlight is not just a bright light; it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, best described as a rainbow. These 1,200 frequencies of light all act on some part of your body. They power the cells, regulate your biological clock and produce hormones in your body; they affect your metabolism; they give you the equivalent of vitamin C and vitamin D. When you're not getting enough light, all these functions start diminishing, and cause depression of your immune system. We need these frequencies on an ongoing basis.

TIME REQUIREMENTS Your body needs 30 minutes of sunlight a day. Two hours a day is ideal. However, in 48 hours all the energy you receive from the sun is depleted. The best thing to do when you have long cloudy periods when the sun doesn't come through is to use full spectrum light bulbs. A full spectrum light is the closest thing we have to real sunlight. Using a full spectrum light for about six hours a day is equivalent to 30 minutes of sunlight.

HEALTH COMPLICATIONS FROM LACK OF SUNLIGHT During the winter months, your normal incandescent and fluorescent lighting causes hyperactivity, stress and eyestrain. Incandescent light puts out a yellow-orange frequency, and your body becomes overdosed with this. You crave carbohydrates, you sleep longer, your menstrual cycles change, you get irritable and depressed. As the amount of sun that we consume is reduced, our immune system drops accordingly and we catch more colds and flues. Lack of ultraviolet during the winter is the single biggest reason for depression.

HOW SUNLIGHT ENTERS YOUR BODY Ninety-eight per cent of sunlight enters through the eyes, and 2% through the skin. The 2% on the skin is important because that is the only way your body can develop vitamin D which is essential for calcium production to make strong bones and strong teeth.

GLASS BLOCKS SUNLIGHT The windows in your home or car will block 100 % of ultraviolet light. Roll the windows down if you can. In L.A., I get people with seasonal depression who are in an office building all day. They take their car out of the garage of the building, never roll down the windows, turn their air-conditioning on, park in their garage at home, get out and go in the house. Tell me where they got their sun that day. They didn't. And then when they do finally get out, there is so much smog that it restricts the sunlight quite a bit. So, I am not surprised there is seasonal depression in L.A. (Note that it is possible to get UV conducting window glass.-ed.)

GLASSES AND CONTACT LENSES If you are wearing glasses, sunglasses or contacts, 100% of ultraviolet light is being blocked. Ultraviolet does not come through glass or plastic, so if you are paying for any kind of UV protection in your lenses, it's a waste of money. The artificial lenses that doctors insert after cataract operations will also block all the ultraviolet.

SUNGLASSES There are three reasons to wear sunglasses: glare, glare, and glare. Other than that, I would prefer you not to wear sunglasses, but if you have to I would recommend charcoal grey. Any charcoal grey, non-polarized lens is the best blocker of glare imaginable. And also, since it's charcoal grey, there will be no distortion of colours. They are literally full spectrum. And if you are lucky enough to find some manufacturers that produce lenses that allow some ultraviolet to come through, you benefit from that too, especially during the wintertime.

HOW LIGHT TRAVELS IN THE BODY Light enters through your eyes and follows two pathways, each of which has a different effect: (i) The visual pathway, which enables you to see, is the upper pathway, which goes up to the cortex. If you're blind, that pathway may be blocked, but the lower pathway continues to function. (ii) The lower pathway goes to the hypothalamus gland, an extremely important gland in the distribution of sunlight to the rest of your body.

MELATONIN AND SEROTONIN PRODUCTION The hypothalamus controls all the other glands. It also regulates your circadian rhythms, telling you whether it is day or night, June or December. The significance of this is that it instructs the pineal gland to produce the appropriate hormones. During the night, your pineal gland produces melatonin and you should get about eight hours of darkness. When you are in daylight, or sunlight, those same glands produce serotonin. In a normal day you usually receive eight hours of melatonin and 16 hours of serotonin. During the winter months you experience more darkness, so your body secretes more and more melatonin, throwing your body out of balance and creating those conditions mentioned above, especially the craving to sleep more. So giving a person who has seasonal depression melatonin will make it worse because their body is already producing too much melatonin. Don't take melatonin during the winter unless you have a specific sleeping disorder. Full spectrum light will also regulate your melatonin and serotonin.

SUNLIGHT AND ENERGY The hypothalamus has another important duty and that is converting light to chemical electrical pulses that follow the nervous system in the body, providing energy to every cell in your body. Your cells require nutrients from foods, and oxygen from the air, but what ignites energy in the cell is light. Sunlight is the spark plug, which provides the spark in cells to produce protein, and to replicate and repair. This is the mechanism of sunlight in the body. It regulates the body clock; it produces the hormones in your body and it produces the energy that goes to the cells, so it's important that good light enters your eyes.

ULTRAVIOLET A, B AND C There are three types of ultraviolet: A, B and C. People can get a sunburn during overcast skies because although the cloud layer blocks the A and B, ultraviolet C still comes through, and the C is what does the burning. Ultraviolet A and B are essential to your body, and unfortunately, these are the ones which are blocked. The cloud layers will also block a great many of the sunlight frequencies. The entire intensity of sunlight is diminished, as you know, when there are overcast skies. The ozone layer blocks UVC, which is very caustic. The cornea of the eye also blocks UVC, and the lens and the retina of the eye block the other two ultraviolets. So we have our own regulatory system going on in our eye on normal amounts of UV. When we use sunglasses, we completely block off the two good ones. Usually the brightness of light has more impact on cataract development than does the amount of UV, especially at a level as far north as Toronto.

PART II - ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING

This graph shows you the relative frequencies of the spectrum in sunlight, incandescent light, pink fluorescent and "daylight white" fluorescent, as well as their influence on tumour development in tumour-prone mice (from Health and Light by John Ott).

THE BIOLOGICAL IMPACT OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHT John Ott, who was a pioneer in analyzing the effects of artificial light on the human body was Walt Disney's time-lapse photographer. That is how he discovered the effect of light on plants and people. He found that fluorescent lights which were heavily skewed to the blue side of the spectrum caused virtually all male offspring in test animals; whereas if the fluorescent lighting was skewed to the red side of the spectrum, it resulted in primarily all female offspring. He also showed that six major types of fluorescent lights being used at that time caused a significantly higher mutation rate in offspring (mutated genes and birth defects), and he was responsible for causing those six types of fluorescents to be banned from the country. If light has that effect on reproduction in test animals, what impact is light having on you?

YELLOW PREDOMINANCE IN INDOOR LIGHTING Both an incandescent and a fluorescent light produce a yellow frequency. The incandescent light (that is, the ordinary light bulb) is high in the yellow, orange and red frequencies, and this makes your eyes squint because the yellow frequency of the light bulb is the single worst frequency for the eye. It was developed because it was the brightest of all the colours, and it reaches the cones first, but it also causes the eye to contract. In addition, the yellow that hits exposed skin causes a contraction in the muscles and the nerves. The yellow that comes from fluorescent and incandescent lights causes a low-grade stress condition in your body all the time. The cool white fluorescent is even higher in yellow. You will notice these lights have a yellow tinge in comparison with a full spectrum light. You will feel better if you actually keep a full spectrum light on in the general vicinity of your regular lighting.

GLARE AND EYESTRAIN When you read under an incandescent or fluorescent light, the yellow does not absorb into the paper, and it becomes glare. This glare from regular incandescent lights actually is what puts you into reading glasses earlier. The full spectrum is white. It has no glare, and the letters stand out. Basically you can read for hours on end under a full spectrum without even squinting or eyestrain. With regular lights, I start rubbing my eyes after about 20 minutes. Sodium lights are bad also. They also give out a yellow basis.

HALOGEN LIGHTS Halogen lights also produce a yellow frequency. If an incandescent light is a bad light, a halogen is a very bright bad light. Halogen lights were initially created without glass to protect them, and they produced more ultraviolet than any other device I have ever seen. But as long as the glass is over it, you are o.k., because the ultraviolet does not come through the glass.

PROBLEMS WITH ORDINARY FLUORESCENT TUBES: (1) They have the wrong light frequencies (or colour). (2) Radiation in the form of soft X-rays escapes out the ends of the tube. This causes a slow clustering of blood cells and restriction in oxygen flow which makes you drowsy. The only way to shield the radiation is to put lead tape on the ends of the tube. You can obtain small pieces of lead tape from security companies who use lead tape around the windows. (3) The third problem with fluorescent lights is pulsation or flicker, and that occurs not from the bulb, but from the fixture itself. The fixture pulsates 60 times a second - 60 Hertz, 120 power. By changing the power supply in the fixture to an electronic one, it will pulsate at 25,000 times a second and you will get no flicker. All the new type of fluorescents are flicker free, 25,000 electronic ballast.

RADIATION FROM TVs AND COMPUTERS TVs and computer screens have a similar effect to fluorescent bulbs. Not only do they give you radiation out the sides and back that clusters the blood, but it also has an optical effect that stops all healing. The pulsing refreshing rates on the TV and computer screens scramble the brain-wave patterns that are associated with healing and ceases healing in the body

FULL SPECTRUM LIGHTING Since full spectrum light requires a fluorescent tube, the full spectrum lighting manufacturers had to make all the necessary changes. They put in electronic ballast; they put in the right phosphors to produce all the frequencies of light, and they shielded them. John Ott showed in many school studies that when you can change the school lighting from incandescent or fluorescent to full spectrum, students' grade point averages will go up half a grade point, they will stay out of glasses longer, they will be less hyper, and strangely their dental cavities drop like a rock. And the reason? It stimulated vitamin D on the skin, resulting in more calcium to the teeth and less dental decay. Full spectrum light helps depression and the immune system during the winter, and it is the only natural colour to use for viewing artwork and other colour products.

FULL SPECTRUM EQUIVALENCE TO SUNLIGHT If you get six hours of full spectrum light in either fluorescent bulb form, fluorescent tube form or light box form, you are probably close to your 30-minute equivalent of sunlight. If you can get full spectrum lights in your working environment, you can boost that. You don't have to have direct light. Light will bounce off of floors and tables; it will go into your eyes. You don't have to be in direct sunlight when you are outside either. You can be under a shade tree and be getting your lighting. It is enough to have sunlight on your face in the wintertime because that will activate vitamin D, and more importantly, since 98% of sunlight comes in through your eyes, you are O.K. John Ott showed that if have full sunlight or its equivalent in full spectrum light in the vicinity of your computer, it would open up the blood stream and basically counteract the drowsiness. So it is really nice to have sunlight or full spectrum lighting within four to eight feet of your computer area, or your television. The outer glass or plastic on full spectrum tubes and bulbs is light conductive.

INCANDESCENT BULBS CANNOT BE FULL SPECTRUM A full spectrum light has a profile with 1,200 frequencies, and it is similar to sunlight, but it can only be produced in a fluorescent tube with a lot of expensive phosphors. You cannot mimic the full range of colour with a filament in an incandescent bulb. Certain incandescent light bulbs like Chromalux or Verilux are sold as full spectrum, but they are not fluorescent and they are not full spectrum. They are merely coated to absorb the yellow, and they certainly have no effect on things like seasonal depression disorder. It's false advertising.

FULL SPECTRUM TUBES FOR THE REGULAR LIGHT SOCKET You can bend small fluorescent tubes and put them into sockets that will go right into your regular lighting, and the beauty of full spectrum (besides health benefits) is that they are so cool and low-cost running that they use one-fifth of the electricity of a regular bulb. You have an 80-watt bulb that runs on 20-watt power. And because they run cool, the bulb usually lasts five or six years, and even longer. So basically, it is really worth the cost. Note that there is less ultraviolet light in the socket type fluorescents than in the tubes, and so the tubes are usually better for seasonal depression. The manufacturers wanted to get more brightness in the smaller 100-watt and 80-watt bulbs, and in order to do that they had to reduce the amount of ultraviolet.

"TOTAL SPECTRUM" BULBS A real full spectrum bulb contains a good amount of ultraviolet. "Total spectrum" bulbs have a reduced amount of ultraviolet so that they can increase the brightness. These are often known as "extra-brights".

SEASONAL DEPRESSION If you have severe seasonal depression, you should be using the full spectrum lighting, and you should replace them after every third winter season, because the UV will deteriorate. The full spectrum lighting will have most effect if it is used first thing in the morning. If you put a screw-in full spectrum bulb in your bathroom, that is the first light you will use in the morning, and it will stop the melatonin production right away. So basically, that is the least expensive way to treat seasonal depression. The other alternative is a full spectrum "light box".

WHERE TO BUY THEM Full spectrum bulbs are generally available in plant stores and pet stores because they never use anything but full spectrum lights on all their plants and animals. They are treated better than humans. On the other hand, there are a lot of mail order companies that market full spectrum. (Consumer Health also sells full spectrum bulbs.)

SUMMARY Full spectrum light provides sunlight indoors, reduces eyestrain when reading and counteracts drowsiness. The radiation coming out of fluorescent tubes causes drowsiness. Fluorescent tubes are identical to your computer screen and your TV screen. Therefore, your computer screen is doing the same thing to you.

* * *

For more information please contact David Olszewski at Light Energy Co., Seattle, Washington at 1-800-LIGHTCO (1-800-544-4826).

You may purchase full spectrum lighting at Consumer Health Organization. If you wish bulbs to fit into a socket, make sure you specify that you want the fluorescent tubing type rather than the incandescent bulb. They come in 17, 20 and 23 watts (equivalent to 65, 80 and 95 watts in a regular bulb). Other products available are full spectrum light boxes, desk lamps, etc.

Article Information
Volume 22 Issue 10
October,1999

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