LED blue light wavelengths linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease and impaired vision
These concerns about the potential health risks of LED lights are not unfamiliar; similar questions have been raised over the last few years. But, the AMA's report provides much needed support to these claims. Their findings may even inspire cities and states to reevaluate the intensity of the light-emitting diodes they install, especially following the AMA's discovery that bright LED lights can actually impair nighttime vision for some drivers.
A report prepared by the Department of Energy last year revealed that almost 13 percent of streetlights and other roadway lighting relied on LEDs. However, many communities that have not changed over to LED lights plan on doing so, thanks to their superb energy efficiency. Light-emitting diodes are up to 50 percent more energy efficient than the standard high-pressure sodium lights they so often replace. LEDs also boast a substantially longer lifespan, lasting 15 to 20 years on average. Their predecessors, with their iconic yellow-orange glow, typically only last for a maximum of five years. Sodium lights are also not capable of dispersing light as evenly or efficiently as their new competitor.
Unsurprisingly, many cities are insistent that the health concerns associated with high-intensity LEDs are not strong enough to overshadow the benefits of these lights. There is money to be saved, so why worry about the consequences, right?
Among the cities that have put the first-generation bright LED lights to use in the last three to eight years is New York. While they too agree that the benefits far outweigh any currently perceived health risks, officials have responded to resident complaints by providing a lower-intensity replacement for the high-intensity LED bulbs.
In Washington state, Scott Thomsen, a spokesman for Seattle City Lights has dismissed the concerns over the risks of these "high-intensity" bulbs entirely. Thomsen claims that the LEDs emit a smaller amount of the problematic blue light than most televisions and computers. Of course, a key flaw with that argument is that those devices can actually be turned off, whereas people cannot simply turn off a streetlight that is keeping them awake at night.
Regardless, the advent of outdoor LEDs has led to a surge in their popularity. The federal government itself urged states to implement them as an energy efficient solution. Critics believe that the federal government provided their endorsement far too quickly and should have waited for more testing to be done. Certainly, if past actions are any indication, it would seem that our nation's government agencies do tend to act too quickly when it comes to harmful products, and not quickly enough on things that may actually be good for us.
Michael Siminovitch, director of the California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California at Davis, told The Blade that the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency put concerted effort into getting states interested in LEDs. He also commented that the light from these high-intensity diodes "really negatively impacts people's physiological well-being. "Mr. Siminovitch went on to say that, "As a species, we weren't designed to see light at night."
Because of this, the blue light from high-intensity LEDs may interfere with melatonin production. Melatonin is key to the balance of our sleep-wake cycles. The AMA made note of this in their warning, citing numerous studies that have linked bright light to reduced sleep, poor sleep quality and impaired function during waking hours. The warning also noted several studies which indicated that cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity risks could be increased by exposure to high-intensity light at night.
The AMA is urging cities to use a maximum light temperature (frequency) of 3,000K, instead of the 4,000K and 5,000K LED lights that were initially made available.