AMA Announces LED Streetlights Disrupt Our Sleep Cycle, Bad for Our Health


Bright, energy-efficient LED streetlamps distrubt our sleep cycles and have an adverse effect on our health, according to the American Medical Association.

In an official policy statement that was adopted unanimously at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago on June 14, the AMA declared that LED streetlights are a public health risk. When exposed to the bright bluish-tint of LED streetlight, the human body produces less of the hormone melatonin, otherwise know as the ‘sleep hormone’.

The AMA’s Dr Maya A Babu said: “Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting.

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.

In addition, the association claims that the blue light that LED lights emit appears white to the human eye and can create worse glare, which in turn affects our eyesight. As a result, replacing yellow tinted streetlights with LED lights will likely create more hazards on the roads.

The AMA’s announcement come in response to the increased number of LED streetlamps that are being installed all across the country. Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy has been encouraging municipalities to switch to LED lighting, citing cheaper energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint as they key benefits. As a result, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City and New Orleans, as well as dozens of smaller communities have already replaced at least some of their steetlights with LEDs.

A white LED at CT 4,000K or 5,000K contains a high level of short-wavelength blue light; this has been the choice for a number of cities that have recently retrofitted their street lighting such as Seattle and New York,” Professor Stevens from the University of Connecticut wrote in an article published by The Conversation.

In the past, the effects bright lights have on our natural sleep cycle have been explored by many researchers. Similar concerns over the effects of the blue light emitted by our smartphones and tablets have also been widely explored during recent years. In fact, multiple studies have shown that an increased exposure to brighter nighttime streetlighting “is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity,” AMA writes.

In its new policy statement, the AMA has made the following recommendations:

  • The AMA supports a “proper conversion to community based Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting, which reduces energy consumption and decreases the use of fossil fuels.”
  • The AMA “encourage[s] minimizing and controlling blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare.”
  • The AMA “encourage[s] the use of 3000K or lower lighting for outdoor installations such as roadways. All LED lighting should be properly shielded to minimize glare and detrimental human and environmental effects, and consideration should be given to utilize the ability of LED lighting to be dimmed for off-peak time periods.”

Image: Flickr, Raúl Hernández González

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