Doctors warn use of LED street lights can be harmful to health

- Doctors are warning people across the country about the dangers of LED street lights. Although these lights are more energy and cost efficient, the American Medical Association (AMA) says they can cause glare for drivers at night and can also alter your circadian rhythm, which affects your sleep.

These new alarming guidelines by the AMA are urging cities that are adopting these new LED lights to dim them in order to not affect the health of its citizens.

“In addition to its impact on drivers, blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night,” said the AMA in a news release. “It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.”

“When it comes to sleep regulation, circadian rhythm, melatonin levels, blue lights seem to impact those things the most whereas some of the other wavelengths and more red color wavelengths seem to have less of an impact,” said Dr. Neal Maru, a neurologist who is board certified in sleep medicine and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Sleep Foundation.

But he also told us it is simply too early to tell what the long-term effects of these LED lights will be for the public's health.

Just recently, Apple created a sleep mode on their iPhones that dims the blue light your phone typically gives off and gives it an orange hue, which is supposed to help your brain unwind better than the brighter lights.

In Washington D.C., the city has started to install bright white and blue LED lights for safety purposes in neighborhoods. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) says there are roughly 300 LED lights installed and 6,000 more are coming. DDOT did not elaborate as to how bright these lights are or what the color temperature is for the lights. But residents say if it affects their health, they want them gone.

“These are very much brighter, so I don’t sleep,” said D.C. resident Chauna Butler.

When asked if she would sacrifice safety on the streets with these brighter LED lights, Butler told us, “I would rather go back to the old lights to secure my physical health. My health means more to me than anything.”

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