Are Strong LED Street Lights Worth the Risk?

A few weeks ago, we touched on the problems of LED streetlights. Many of them, especially older ones, shine too intensely and feature too much blue content, causing insomnia and other health risks. Circadian rhythms, which effect a person’s sleep/wake cycle, among other processes, are behind this reaction. Blue content in light can keep people awake, so when they’re exposed to it and their circadian rhythms are disrupted, they run the risk of health problems. The American Medical Association has even published a statement decrying the use of LED streetlights. LEDs’ color temperature can be as high as 4,000-5,000 Kelvin, while the association advocates for nothing over 3,000K. Still, there are benefits to LED street lights. They are 50% more efficient than regular sodium lights, have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years rather than two to five and spread light more uniformly.

Certain cities that have already made the switch to LEDs do not feel the costs outweigh the benefits. Seattle, meanwhile, is keeping its 41,000 harsh LED lights. The spokesman compared the street lights’ glow to that of the moon and said it improves drivers’ vision at night. It also has an unexpected value for police, who now collect more detailed and accurate descriptions from witnesses.

On the other side of the spectrum, Gloucester, Massachusetts, heard about the health warnings as it was in the process of installing harsh LED lights. It has since switched to a newer type that shines at 3,000K.

Phoenix, meanwhile, has found a middle ground. In large intersections and parks, it will use harsher lights, but LEDs with a lower color temperature will illuminate residential areas. Mark Hartman, the chief sustainability officer of Phoenix, is weighing the health arguments but not convinced. After all, computers and TVs emit blue light and are commonly used at night, even if they disrupt our circadian rhythms.

Further research is required before scientists can truly tell whether the benefits outweigh the negatives, but either way, light measurement tools will be needed. Konica Minolta Sensing can help. The CL-200A Chroma Meter and CL-500A Illuminance Spectrophotometer both measure color temperature and are portable, so you can easily evaluate street lights. Before you invest in new LED lights, come to Konica Minolta Sensing to make sure you can measure them.

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