A local authority is to delay the introduction of some 26,000 LED street lights – after a protestor claimed they would ‘damage the brains’ of local residents and that they were an ‘untried and untested’ technology.
The £8 million roll-out of the luminaires in Altrincham, Cheshire, was halted by Trafford council after protest leader Simon Nicholas claimed the light from the LEDs could damage the brains of people living nearby.
Scientific research on LEDs has linked them to disrupted sleep patterns, alleges Nicholas, who says there is also a glare danger to drivers.
The protesters say the new luminaires are not in keeping with conservation areas and the heritage lamp-posts are unsuitable for LED light engines.
Trafford councillors were due to vote on the plans at a meeting – but the proposal was withdrawn until more research is conducted on the proposals to ensure their safety.
Birmingham and Bath councils have already been forced to ditch or delay the installation of LED street lights because residents said they 'looked like UFOs' – while Salford residents complained they were not bright enough when the lights were trialled in 2011.
Nicholas, a member of Bowdon Conservation Society, told the Manchester Evening News: ‘It’s an expensive solution to a non-existent problem. We have a perfectly fine street lighting system already. This is untried, untested new technology.’
This article must be setting alarm bells ringing around many councils that have plunged head-first into investing heavily in new LED streetlighting, because of the promised savings. That is certainly an attractive aspect, but in reaching this decision maybe they have not considered or even thought about the effect that this new technology could have on our health.
We all know that in the morning light makes us wake up and feel ready to face the day and when the light fades towards the end of the day, we start to feel sleepy.The human species and the animal kingdom has evolved under natural light and we have biolgical body-clocks which tell us when it is dark we should sleep and when it is light, we should go hunting or work as we call it nowadays. Circadium rhythms are triggered by not just the light, but the colour of that light. The early morning 'Blue' end of the light spectrum, stimulates the body to produce Seratonin and supress Melatonin.
Here's how it works in a healthy person: Morning sunlight falls on the eyelids; sensors in the eye signal the brain that it's about time to wake up; the brain responds by releasing serotonin; serotonin helps rouse the body from sleep, enter a state of alertness, and maintain alertness throughout the day.
The reverse process happens at night: Sensors in the eye signal the brain that it's dark and time to go to sleep; the brain responds by using serotonin to create melatonin, which creates a tired feeling and helps induce sleep. The sleeping brain then sets about producing serotonin, which it will release when the sun comes up.
Now in an effort to make LED streetlights seems like the best idea since sliced bread, companies selling these goods sell on the basis of much lower energy consumption for a given, comparable amount of light (Lumens per watt) This lower energy usage will of course give the shortest payback period for the investment, which is huge. LED lighting will give the most light output per watt at the Blue or cooler end of the lighting spectrum, which is typically above 6000k This will certainly give more lumens per watt than say a warmer white of 4000K, but of course, the body does not appreciate the 'Blue light' when you are trying to get some kip, as it keeps the sleep hormone Melatonin at bay, hence the claim that 'LED Streetlights could 'Damage The Brain'
A more accurate description would be that LED street lights could disrupt our Circadian Rythms or interfere with our sleep/wake hormone production.
Add to this the fact that poor fixture head design will create light pollution which allows the light to spill everywhere (including your bedroom window) and you have a recipe for some very disgruntled residents who blame the new LED technology, rather than better designed use of it. This same problem by the way is not confined to the UK many states in the US are having similar problems with dire financial consequences for local state authorities who have also been seduced by the promise of much lower electricity bills. It is costing more to put things right than the promised savings.LED technology is definately the way to go for our lighting needs but not all LED products are the same!
LED Streetlight in a UK street