Many cities have shifted to LED lights in a bid to be more energy and cost efficient, but LED lights have another price – and it comes at our health. This week, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued an official statement warning that cities need to consider residents’ health when installing the bright lighting because it can cause damage to our sight and disrupt our circadian rhythms. Think of it as living with a bunch of giant computer screens blaring around your neighborhood, and you get the idea.
The AMA unanimously adopted an official policy giving cities guidelines for installing lighting that takes human health into account. These guidelines include keeping lighting at a temperature of 3000 Kelvin – within the warmer spectrum of light that humans are accustomed to. The guidelines also call for dimmer lighting that isn’t so harsh on our vision.
It’s easy to forget about how much of an impact lighting has on our health because it is so ubiquitous. But bright LED lighting, particularly bright lighting in the cooler temperature spectrum, can actually damage our retinas and contribute to glare that can cause temporary, or even permanent vision loss. Blue-spectrum lights and lights above the 3000k recommendation can also impact our sleep by disrupting human circadian rhythms. Essentially, your body thinks it is morning even though you are trying to get some sleep, which can lead to all kinds of problems, from fatigue to even an increased risk for breast cancer.
These bright lights can impact wildlife as well, disrupting bird migration, feeding and sleep behaviors. And let’s not forget that the dark sky is vanishing at an alarming rate. The AMA calls for efficient lighting that minimizes the blue spectrum and that is shielded to protect against glare. It also calls for dimming during non-peak periods, like the early morning.