These flickering LED lights were immediately painful, causing a sharp pain behind my right eye, when I came onto the floor and traversed the hall for less than a minute while entering the room where my organization is based. I immediately went to the facilities office to alert them to the problem and sent an email cautioning about the potential danger not only to me, but also to the health of school children and their ability to learn. My email was forwarded to the higher-level facilities administrators elsewhere in the NYC Department of Education who were in charge of the light replacements. The next day, the lights on the first floor had also been replaced with the same LEDs, preventing me from safely reaching our classroom. I had brought a blindfold and had other people lead me into the building so I could collect materials to bring home. I have not been able to safely return to this school building since then. From my brief exposures to the flickering lights on 2/16/22, I developed a headache with pain and pressure in my right temple and a feeling of swelling in my right temple that was strong the next few days and lingered in a minor, slowly tapering way for weeks. I also had insomnia (early morning awakenings) in the 2 weeks following this, with sleeping extra hours for a few more weeks. Extra fatigue lingered for longer. After speaking with OSHA and then PESH, who said they couldn't do anything about children being at risk, I also called and emailed the New York State Department of Education to alert them to the danger to the health and learning of school children on 3/22/22. They said it's an NYC issue, not a state issue. I also contacted the FDA and EPA to try to figure out how to appropriately report health problems from LED lights. Initially, I was told by representatives of both organizations that I can't report health problems with LED lights either to the FDA or EPA because there are not yet federal regulations for LED lights that could have been violated. OSHA and PESH said they couldn't help with workplace safety issues if there weren't regulations being violated. They could only assist to help me get accommodations, which I didn't need because my current employer is already very accommodating. They said they couldn't do anything about the NYC Department of Education creating an unsafe workplace for me (and by extension and unsafe learning environment for children) since I am not an employee of the NYC Department of Education but just work in one of their buildings. Attempts to report the issue to the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene also failed, although a representative suggested contacting the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which never responded to me. In August of 2022, a report to the FDA made it to the correct office which said mine was the very first report of health issues they had received about LED lights and they indicated the correct way to report health issues with LED lights.
I am extremely concerned about the potential impact of flickering lights in schools on the health and ability to learn of children. While the flicker of the above lights being installed in NYC public schools is extreme, days of exposure to fairly low flicker at the school where I taught from 2008-2019 (LED lights with 0.7%, ~1000 Hz flicker installed in the fall of 2018) was sufficient to trigger all of my most debilitating symptoms. If I had been forced to attend a school with such lights when I was a child, I would have had constant headaches and severe pressure in my head, loss of any ability to use short-term memory, constant spatial disorientation, nausea, severe sleep problems, and tortuous pain when in the flickering lights. I would have been unable to read for comprehension or add numbers due to the loss of working memory. Perhaps I would have been misdiagnosed with anxiety or ADHD or a learning disability. I would have had no hope being repeatedly recognized for my scholarship and attaining a PhD. It's hard to know what kind of career might be open to a child like me if the lighting and screen situation stays the same as it is now. I couldn't expect to do any job that requires screen use or do any job requiring work under LED lights or work in the presence of automobile LED lights. In NYC, even a job in the parks would be out of reach, as the new flickering LED lamp lights are often left on in the daytime.
While I hope that few children are as severely affected by flickering lights as me, it is quite likely, given earlier research on the effects of the flicker of old magnetic ballast fluorescent lights (for example, Wilkins et al.), that a significant fraction of the general population may experience headaches or eyestrain due to LED flicker too, which of course also are significant health and learning concerns. Additionally, reports from sensitive individuals on LEDStrain.org and in the LED Sensitivity Survey indicate that LED lights and screens can trigger additional serious symptoms in some people than what I experience, including debilitating eyestrain, anxiety and depression.
Since there is not yet a test to screen children for LED sensitivity and children should be able to receive an education in a safe environment, I beg the lighting industry to start to make completely flicker-free LED lights appropriate for schools and other public places. The technology to do so already exists (see LED lights). I also beg computer hardware and software manufacturers to work with the LED sensitive community to figure out how to produce screens and software for controlling the images on those screens that are safe. In the meantime, screen use is a risk for children - and modern screen and image rendering technology seems to often be more triggering of health problems for sensitive people than earlier technology (many posts on LEDStrain.org and my own experience), so the risk now is much greater than in the past. The risk is also greater now because the flicker of ambient LED lights tends to exacerbate screen sensitivity (many posts on LEDStrain.org and my own experience).
Wilkins et al. Fluorescent lighting, headaches and eyestrain. Lighting Research and Technology, 21, 11-18 (1989). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258168086_Fluorescent_lighting_headaches_and_eyestrain