An alarming new report indicates that something cities thought was a good idea may not be such a good idea after all.
You may be getting bad sleep and not even realize it — and it might be because of something that you will find all around the city: LED streetlights. These LED lights have become popular in cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and elsewhere due to the greater quality of light and lower energy costs than standard street lights, but the American Medical Association says they come with a hidden cost for citizens: a disruption of sleep.
These LED lights emit and invisible blue light that can actual interrupt sleep rhythms and therefore increase the risk of things like cancer and cardiovascular disease, so this isn’t a small consideration. In addition, the AMA said in a June statement that these LED lights might be actually making it harder to see at night, raising the risk of accidents, as recently noted by the Washington Post.
“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting,” AMA Board Member Maya A. Babu, M.D., M.B.A., said in the statement. “The new AMA guidance encourages proper attention to optimal design and engineering features when converting to LED lighting that minimize detrimental health and environmental effects.”
It’s not the first time such allegations have been made, but the AMA’s report is the first real respected study on the issue and could force localities to reevaluate whether it’s a good idea to have LED streetlights.
The AMA statement adds: “Recognizing the detrimental effects of poorly-designed, high-intensity LED lighting, the AMA encourages communities to minimize and control blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare. The AMA recommends an intensity threshold for optimal LED lighting that minimizes blue-rich light. The AMA also recommends all LED lighting should be properly shielded to minimize glare and detrimental human health and environmental effects, and consideration should be given to utilize the ability of LED lighting to be dimmed for off-peak time periods.”