Are LED Street Lamps Hazardous to Human Health? 1

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
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America’s peak body for physicians has issued an official warning about the potential adverse health effects of LED illumination, and called for local communities to exercise greater caution when installing the technology.

The official statement from the American Medical Association warned of the “adverse consequences” posed by the use of “improper LED technology,” as well as provided guidance for communities when it comes to choosing lighting options in order “minimise potential harmful human and environmental effects.”

The warning reflects strong concerns within the AMA about the potential health consequences of unchecked LED usage, and enjoyed the unanimous backing of the group’s annual meeting in Chicago on June 14.

LED lamps have emerged as an increasingly popular options for modern street lights, because of the strong illumination they provide in combination with their low levels of energy consumption compared to conventional bulbs.

Approximately 10 per cent of US street lamps already make use of solid state LED lights, with efforts currently ongoing to accelerate adoption of the technology.

According to the AMA however, certain types of LED lamps pose a significant hazard to human health when used for street lighting purposes, in particular those that emit high-intensity blue-rich illumination that can interfere with human visual perception and sleeping patterns.

“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used a street lighting,” said AMA Board member Maya A. Babu. “The new AMA guidance encourages proper attention to optimal design and engineering features when converting to LED lighting that minimise detrimental health and environmental effects.”

The AMA said that high-intensity blue light LED’s can increase the likelihood of road accidents by impeding the visual acuity of drivers at night. LED illumination can also have broader adverse health impacts for residents who are exposed to them at length during the evening, as the lighting wavelengths affect sleeping patterns by suppressing melatonin production and interfering with circadian rhythms.

“Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity,” said the AMA.

The AMA also expressed its concerns about the potential impact of strong LED illumination on the natural environment.

“Excessive outdoor lighting disrupts many species that need a dark environment,” it said. “Poorly designed LED lighting disorients some bird, insect, turtle and fish species.”

In order to counteract the potentially negative effects of LED lighting the AMA advocates the usage of proper shielding to minimise glare, as well as the dimming of lamp intensity during off-peak periods.

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  1. Kelvin

    Interesting information.
    However, this could have been improved with some technical data of wavelength rages from different light sources and a comparison and exposure periods would help in more clarity, for those who understands these data. Of course for general public, whatever you written is fine.

    Now, i think the existing source of light also emits different light beams having a mixture of wavelengths and might also contain the wavelengths you given the concern, but there might be of certain percentage differences in each source i.e. comparing LED with other prevailing sources.
    Hope, you bring out these technical differences and also the details of the survey you mentioned.

    Thanks again for the article.