Know the Whole Context Before Contesting LED Street Lighting Projects
It’s been nine months since the American Medical Association (AMA) published a report that cited "significant human and environmental concerns" associated with the short wavelength (blue) component of LED street lighting.
Since June 2016, there’s been a steady stream of reactions. Across North America -- in cities, towns and villages, many LED street lighting projects that were installed, planned, proposed, designed and in some cases partially underway – were called into question for using products that could potentially have an adverse public health impact. Project leaders have been forced to react to a growing public voice of health concerns surrounding decisions to install LED street and area lighting.
One of the biggest challenges in defending municipal lighting projects has been ensuring that those who raise concerns cited in the AMA report are properly interpreting and restating its findings. It’s quite possible that concerned citizens are not reading the actual report and instead are simply repeating watered-down and possibly confusing report summaries from media outlets. As some esteemed lighting professionals have pointed out, many local media outlets have summarized the AMA report in a misleading or incorrect manner.
A sampling of some startling headlines:
"Doctors issue warning about too-bright LED streetlights"
"AMA Warns on LED Lights, Serious Health Concerns"
"LED streetlights can cause headaches, sleep apnea, cancer"
Armed with 8-word sound bytes, and a general news reporter’s take on the subject, well-intentioned citizens would inform local decision makers with what they believe to be “facts” about LED lighting in a potentially embellished or incorrect manner.
This website typically serves a community of lighting professionals which includes lighting specifiers, contractors, distributors, manufacturers and lighting agents -- among others. We believe that most lighting stakeholders have the end user’s best interest in mind. Lighting professionals expect their products to deliver a long list of benefits while having a positive (or, at worst, neutral) impact on public health and safety.
We don’t believe that it is our place to validate or dispute the dozens of points in the 9-page AMA report. In fact, we agree with the Lighting Research Center's sentiments that it is “...natural and appropriate for the AMA to question these advances in LED technology...”
At inside.lighting, we believe that we can be a service to the industry by providing a reservoir of information that helps lighting stakeholders educate themselves on the matter, so they can make the best well-informed decision based on their individual circumstances.
We have been inspired by the U.S. Department of Energy, which continues to issue helpful information that addresses concerns raised from the AMA report. We will list their information below and add to it many other credible resources that can help add fuller perspective to the matters raised by the AMA.
So long as there are people making decisions, there will be differences in opinion – and differences in the effusiveness of those opinions. We hope that in some small way the resources below help add a more complete context to the discussion that can assist decision makers to make smart, well-informed decisions about LED lighting projects.
American Medical Association
Read the actual report that sparked the most recent wave of elevated discussion. If this matter is important to you, we recommend that you carefully understand the report.
International Dark-Sky Association
The advocates for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting share their stance.
The well-reputed Boston-area lighting design firm shared some perspectives on the AMA report; professionally challenging parts of it.
Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
The LRC reviews many aspects of the AMA report in great detail. It recommends that combining one aspect of lighting, (like color temperature) “with just one type of biological response, must be strenuously avoided.”
U.S. Department of Energy
This 5-page white paper that explores many parts of the AMA report, including a breakdown of 21 light sources and their respective blue light characteristics. Written by Bruce Kinsey, MSSLC Director Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Read more...
An article published in LD+A. Written by Jim Broderick, the the lighting program manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, Building Technologies Office. Read more...
A set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) assembled in response to ongoing discussion of the June 2016 American Medical Association community guidance on street lighting, which presented a number of recommendations related to possible health risks of increased short-wavelength content of outdoor lighting sources. Read more...
This 2-pager makes a number of points including the notion that blue-wavelength light is not unique to LED sources. Read more...
During this October 20, 2016 webinar, Bruce Kinzey of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory examined key issues underlying concerns raised by the American Medical Association community guidance on street lighting, and their applicability to LED street lighting. The presentation also provided essential background context related to exposure to light at night and reviewed activities currently being supported by the DOE SSL Program to fill in existing knowledge gaps. View the webinar...