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AMA Says LED Streetlights Pose Health and Driving Risks

Jason Reese

Over the past ten years, many communities have turned to energy-efficient streetlights in order to create meaningful savings during difficult economic times. Unfortunately, those savings may end up having a higher cost that anticipated. Last week, the American Medical Association (AMA) used its annual meeting to warn communities about significant dangers associated with high-intensity LED streetlamps.

Concern is particularly high with regard to the LEDs that release mostly blue light. Blue-light wavelengths emitted by these lights can have serious health effects on individuals, including:

  • extreme suppression of production of nighttime melatonin;
  • reduced sleep time and quality;
  • impaired daily function;
  • excessive sleepiness.

Of equal concern is the increased glare caused by bright, blue-light LEDs. The AMA warns communities these lights can create road hazards by decreasing a driver’s visual acuity. Sufficient levels of blue light can even damage the retina.

Recommendations for Communities

Though the AMA supports the transition to energy efficient and fossil fuel-reducing LED lighting for communities, they believe proper implementation is critical for human health and safety. In their new policy statement, the organization makes a handful of recommendations beyond their affirmation of support for “proper conversion.”

First, they “encourage minimizing and controlling blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare.”

Second, they “encourage the use of 3000K or lower lighting for outdoor installations such as roadways.”

They recommend proper shielding for the lights in order to minimize glare, and they also recommend finding ways to use a dimming feature on LED lights during off-peak periods.

LED Streetlights in Indiana

Interestingly enough, GE and the Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) have partnered to transition 30 communities to LED streetlights over the past several years. IMPA was awarded a $5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which allowed the project to progress. Even in small cities such as Greenfield, the change has resulted in annual savings of nearly $70,000.

The bad news is that the GE Evolve LED Roadway Cobrahead fixtures used in this transition are typically 4000K and some are 5700K fixtures. This far exceeds the recommendations of the AMA and doubles the color temperature of incandescent lights, which come in around 2400K. The problems with these incredibly bright, blue-wave lights have created unrest in some of the towns in which they have been installed. In Davis, California, complaints about the harshness of the retrofitted lights resulted in residents demanding a complete replacement of the lights.

Lighting can play a huge role in causing or preventing car accidents. If you have been involved in a vehicle crash that you believe was caused by too-bright, too-dim, inappropriately placed, or nonexistent lighting, call the experienced Indianapolis attorneys at Wagner Reese today. Your initial consultation will be completely free and confidential, and our team will make you feel at home and ready to take on those who have wronged you. Call now: (888) 204-8440.


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