Lighting for health science continues slow advance, warrants more trials (MAGAZINE)

Lighting for health

It seems as if we have some content in every issue of LEDs Magazine these days on lighting for health and wellbeing or human-centric lighting. The idea of positively impacting wellbeing or productivity simply by providing the proper lighting is just too enticing to ignore and that application is unlocked by LEDs. That said, I know we have sent mixed messages at times because we cover stories in which noted industry participants and researchers have cautioned that we don’t have scientific proof of the positive impact of light on wellbeing and we certainly don’t fully understand the needed recipes — spectral power distribution (SPD), intensity, dosage, and more that can deliver the desired effects. Still, I think I’m more convinced than ever that the solid-state lighting (SSL) industry has to continue to push forward with trials.

Again in this issue we have some interesting coverage on the topic. We have the second of a two-part series of articles that provide a firsthand look into what was considered a natural light project in a home retrofit. As with most case studies, there are positive outcomes associated with tunable lighting but no scientific proof.

What prompted this editorial, however, was the “Human centric light & health symposium” that Seoul Semiconductor held over a few-hour period during the Light+Building (L+B) event in Frankfurt. We covered some of the details from the symposium in our L+B feature article, but I want to reemphasize some of that information here and add to it.

Sitting through the symposium, you could easily have grasped vastly different messages. Professor Russell Foster from the University of Oxford essentially said we don’t understand the human response sufficiently to implement human-centric lighting. So perhaps we should just stop trying, right?

That wasn’t the message I heard. I heard “Proceed with caution.” And Dr. Octavio Perez from New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital convinced me of the need to move forward, saying, “We have to know what we don’t know. But we have to know that we know a little bit.” And in reality, we know quite a lot.

Perez did also convince me that we owe you the audience an article on metrics for human-centric lighting. There is debate there, and three or four disparate organizations have some different concepts in terms of how we characterize lighting for health. Without accepted metrics, it’s very tough to accurately and repeatedly conduct valid trials. And we will get to work on making sense of the metrics space.

Perez said one other thing I found interesting: Human-centric lighting is a translational science problem as opposed to a basic science problem. That characterization infers the need for more trials and for more research in areas ranging all the way from LED components to the complex controls that will be needed for more automated tunable lighting systems.

We will have speakers add to the lighting for health knowledge base at our own Lighting for Health and Wellbeing conferences. Coming July 18, we will have our US Lighting for Health and Wellbeing conference in Newport Beach, CA. Our European event will take place September 26 in London.