Fluorescent lights as a Migraine trigger — a list of resources

1. The Irlen petition, which currently has over 2,000 signatures. We need to get it more widespread! As I mentioned before, I have tried to contact Helen Irlen to see if she’d be willing to have me, someone, anyone! host the petition on a bigger scale so more people could see it. She didn’t get back to me. The petition includes three other resources, which I’ve listed right here:

http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php?p=157
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7170246.stm
http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23000203-5006301,00.html

2. ABC News article entitled “Major Headache? 7 Common Migraine Triggers.” Lighting, including fluorescents, is the first item on the list.

3. A Washington ABC affiliate’s brief article & newscast called “Dealing With ‘Lightbulb Migraines’.”

4. MyMigraineConnection’s story, “Migraines at Work? Check the Lighting.

5. “No Joke, Bulb Change is a Challenge for U.S.”
by Claudia Deutsch at The New York Times.

6. U.K. paper The Daily Mail story called “Energy-Saving Bulbs ‘Can Cause Migraines,’ Warn Experts.” Definitely look at the comments that follow the story!

7. Energy Star CANADA’s page describing Canada’s legislation to improve bulb efficiency–interestingly, they are doing what one of my fellow bloggers recommended, which is requiring a minimum level of efficiency per bulb and not requiring that citizens use CFLs only. In the FAQs, they dispute the idea that the new, rapid-cycling CFLs will affect Migraineurs. They mention that new CFLs eliminate “the perceptible flicker” associated with headaches. The problem is just that: to many Migraineurs, the flicker isn’t readily apparent to the eye but is far from “imperceptible” to the brain. Chalk it up to our overall heightened sensitivity, but CFLs can and do trigger Migraine attacks.

8. Check out the following excerpt from what I take is a Sierra Club blog written by a “Mr. Green.” Here you’ll see Helen Irlen (yes, of Irlen fame!) remarking on the bulbs’ side effects as well as his response. I’ve included that excerpt here, but the whole page is interesting to see.

MAJOR HEADACHES

Hey Mr. Green,
While we understand the nation’s quest to better the environment, and we agree that much of the outcry regarding mercury in compact fluorescent lightbulbs is overzealous, we do want to point out another issue with CFLs that many people are not aware of. In the United States alone, 49 million people suffer physical effects from energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.For individuals suffering from Irlen syndrome, a perceptual processing disorder defined largely by sensitivity to light, fluorescent lights trigger headaches, migraines, stomachaches, fatigue, eyestrain, anxiety, and irritability. Fluorescent lights can also negatively impact the immune system, literally making these individuals sick.

Energy conservation is an important goal we should strive to achieve, but individuals who are sensitive to fluorescent lights need the option of incandescent lightbulbs in their homes and work environments. So we ask that you remain open to incandescent lightbulbs as an alternative for individuals suffering from Irlen syndrome and the physical difficulties triggered by fluorescent lights. –Helen L. Irlen, executive director, Irlen Institute International Headquarters, irlen.com

Hey Helen,
This is news to me, but a number of readers share your concern. Any proposed legislation mandating more-efficient lightbulbs should take the possible health effects into account. The LED lights mentioned by the EPA’s Wendy Reed may provide some relief in the future as well.
Environmentally,
Mr. Green

9. More from Ms. Irlen regarding oversensitivity, lighting, etc., especially as it relates to autism.

10. This Irlen.com page has a whole list of resources, some of which deal with fluorescents’ effect on sensitive individuals. Here’s another that’s migraine- and headache-specific. Finally, some brain research. I didn’t look through these articles, but there may be some good information in ’em. The Irlen page has other useful tidbits; look through and see what else you find!

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