Summary of website survey, April 2011

Context

It is reported that a high proportion of children and adults with autism show marked differences in their sensory profile and that this includes sensitivity and adverse reactions to certain forms of artificial lighting.

In line with EU directives it is proposed to remove old fashioned ‘incandescent’ light bulbs from sale in 2011.

Concern has been raised by groups of with individuals with medical problems affected by exposure to new forms of energy efficient lighting that their conditions are adversely affected by these new products and are asking that the government continue to allow the incandescent bulbs to be sold until safe alternatives are developed and tested.

These groups include suffers of lupus, migraine, epilepsy and other auto immune and skin problems - and autism.

Survey

Following a request for information an appeal went out via the NAS website asking how individuals with autism and their families would be affected by the removal of traditional light bulbs from sale.

The appeal ran for six weeks and produced the following response.

Results

In total there were 43 responses – concerning 20 adults and 23 children from across the whole spectrum of autism.

  • 41 of the 43 said they were severely affected by light sensitivity and had a seriously adverse reaction to new forms of lighting. 
  • One said they were moderately affected
  • One said not affected 
  • 35 said they were stockpiling supplies of the old style incandescent lighting.

 

Narrative accounts included the following verbatim statements from respondents.

I am unable to go into public places so have stockpiled supplies to use at home.

I feel physical pain if exposed to new forms of lighting.

The new lighting makes me feel sick and everything jumps about.

Our son will react with an immediate panic attack if exposed to the new form of lighting.

I cannot go to public buildings now – even the hospital is off limits.

Conclusion

It is apparent that some children and adults on the autism spectrum suffer severe reactions to new forms of 'energy efficient' lighting.

The government is being urged by campaigners to continue to make traditional forms of lighting available to those who need them because of medical reasons.

The low response to this survey does not confirm the widely held view that high numbers of individuals with autism suffer adverse consequences of exposure to new forms of lighting but neither does it suggest that only a small number are affected.

It is suspected that the true numbers are significantly higher than indicated by this survey. For those who are affected is clear that it has a very significant impact on their health and quality of life. For this reason it would seem prudent that incandescent light bulbs continue to be made available to those who need them, whilst research into safety is encouraged. It is suspected that affected individuals will wish to stock up on these products while they are still able to do so.
 
These results have been reported to Spectrum, the umbrella organisation that is campaigning for a government review of its position on lighting and is in discussion with government officials.

I would like to thank all who responded to this survey

Richard Mills

Director of Research
The National Autistic Society