Let there be light–please

Studies show “light therapy” can help a variety of health problems, including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Of course, the best “light therapy” involves spending more time outside in Nature, as I often report. You can also benefit from sitting in front of a light box. In addition, make sure the light inside your home comes from “full-spectrum” bulbs.

You see, the good, old-fashioned incandescent bulb, originally invented by Thomas Edison in the 19th century, provides a full spectrum of light similar to what the sun provides. For a long time, this incandescent light bulb has been the most effective product for the most affordable price.

But almost a decade ago, the government swooped in again to “help us.”

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which requires roughly 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs. Actually, that requirement was just a “warm-up,” since light bulbs must have roughly 200 percent greater efficiency by 2020. But light bulb manufacturers phased in the first part of the new efficiency requirement between the years 2012 and 2014.

And things haven’t been the same since.

Several years ago, my family acquired a beach house in the New England nanny state where I grew up. The state government ever so graciously helped us out then too.

You see, our electric bills early on during the renovations on our new house were very high. All the power equipment used for the renovations caused this temporary bill hike. Of course, neither the contractor nor the electric company would ever admit that when I asked.

Instead, as new occupants, the electric company welcomed us with a friendly “energy audit” and warnings about our big “carbon footprint.” (Thankfully not delivered by Al Gore in his private jet or limo.)

Before long, construction wrapped up and our electric bills went back to normal. But the government came in anyway and installed almost $1,000 worth of new compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL).

If you’ve switched over to these CFL bulbs in your own home, you know how inefficient they actually are–at least in terms of practical daily living. It takes many minutes for these bulbs to actually provide light after you switch them on. They start out very dim and then slowly begin to provide the promised illumination. So in many cases, you stumble around in the dark trying to maneuver or locate something. By the time these lights really come on, you don’t need them anymore.

Of course, we already knew the government likes to keep us in the dark. But the problems associated with these CFL bulbs get much worse.

These bulbs emit unhealthy levels of ultraviolet radiation and can also reportedly catch fire and even burn the skin.

CFL bulbs also release chemical toxins, including naphthalene (“moth balls”) and styrene, both of which some other government agency classifies as likely human carcinogens. Some people have even observed a kind of electrical “smog” that develops around these lamps.

And to top it all off, they contain mercury, which is prohibited from being dumped in landfills. So, the government has created another problem that we literally can’t get rid of. (Too bad we just can’t rid of the biggest problem of all–the government itself.)

How’s that for safety and security from the Energy Independence and “Security” Act? While the nanny federal and state governments are busy improving outdoor air quality by reducing smog, they are busy creating it in indoors.

All of this indoor “light pollution” and air pollution makes it more important than ever to go outside and get some actual sun!

Light–as well as air and water–are fundamental to human life and health. The air we breathe contains oxygen, which fuels every cell in your body. Water is the fluid for your blood and tissues. Then, plant life takes the carbon dioxide from the air you exhale and, together with light, manufactures food. This process called photosynthesis puts oxygen back into the air.

It may sound like simple elementary science, but it’s truly a miraculous cycle of life. And, sometimes, modern medicine loses sight of these basic elements of good health.

On the other hand, light, air and water formed the foundations to more historical approaches to healing, such as to “Nature Cure.” The modern practice of Naturopathic medicine also focuses on these three basic healing elements.

Natural light provides the full spectrum of the sun’s radiation, which reaches the Earth and penetrates through the atmosphere. Not all solar radiation is hospitable to light. About 300 million years ago, the Earth’s atmosphere accumulated enough oxygen and ozone to filter out harmful cosmic radiation.

Before that time, life on Earth only flourished in the oceans, since the water blocked and filtered deadly radiation. But there was no such protection on the land.

Then, over millions and millions of years, marine plants produced enough oxygen through photosynthesis to increase oxygen levels in the atmosphere high enough (about 20 percent) to form the protective ozone layer. Deadly radiation was blocked–and life emerged from the sea onto the land–first plant life, then arthropods from the sea (insects). During this geologic era (Carboniferous), exuberant plant life and insect life covered the land for millions and millions of years. Then, they successively died, fossilized, and laid down the huge deposits of coal and oil (“fossil fuels”) still found on Earth today.

It makes sense that exposure to full-spectrum solar light would have numerous health benefits, since life on Earth flourished because of exposure to it.

First and foremost, exposure to natural sunlight activates vitamin D production in your skin.

But aside from the well-known benefits of vitamin D, exposure to full-spectrum light seems to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Studies show it improves attitude and performance in the classroom and the workplace. It also improves attendance and achievement.

So this spring, spend some time in the sun. And keep using old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs for as long as you can. A company named Chromalux still makes them and you can find them at major retailers. Of course, they will cost you about $5 per bulb. But the investment in your health is priceless.