Are LEDs Harmful?

Nov. 22, 2016

High-intensity streetlights may negatively impact human health, the AMA says.

High-intensity LED streetlights like those commonly found on U.S. roadways may emit unseen blue light that can disturb sleep rhythms and decrease visual acuity and safety, according to a recent statement by the American Medical Association.

The organization also cautioned that LEDs can create road hazards by impairing nighttime driving vision. The report may prompt users to reevaluate the intensity of LED lights they install. Making the switch from conventional street lights to LED lighting can be more cost-effective, but if human health is affected, it may be time to change the bulbs. To combat “poorly designed, high-intensity LED lighting,” the AMA encourages minimizing the use of blue-rich lighting and choosing products with optimal design and engineering features.

But not everyone is on board with the AMA’s sentiments. The Lighting Resource Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute responded, saying that the light exposure metrics in the report were misused and over-simplified and that conclusions that LEDs cause circadian disruption, melatonin suppression and decreased vision are all unfounded.

“It is appropriate for the AMA to question advances in LED technology as they might negatively affect human health. Raising awareness is not enough, however,” says the LRC. “Professional responsibility must include rational and balanced discourse, whereby scientific and technical understanding lends insight into the social benefits as well as the social costs of In‐Ga‐N technology.”

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