AMA Warns of Risks With LED Street Lighting

When I was doing my daily search of the news making headlines around the world, a story on last week caught my attention and forced me to look closer at the whole issue of Light-Emitting Diode (LED) and impacts on healthcare.

It all started with "community guidance" by the American Medical Association (AMA) earlier this month to reduce the harmful human and environmental effects of high intensity street lighting.  While many American communities, including Guam, are taking significant efforts to modernize  roadway lighting systems, it appears that converting to "improper" LED technology can have great impacts on health and the ecosystem near these lighting fixtures. 

The AMA cites the Blue Lighting, or the white light of an LED to the naked eye, can decrease visual acuity which can create a road hazard for drivers.  The AMA guidance also cites the impacts of LED lighting on species of animals that need a dark environment in which the related systems can disorient some birds and sea-life in and around the modern streetlight. The AMA guidance would imply that all Guam drivers and much of our mangrove ecosystems, in and around our main roadways, are at risk.  There were recommendations to utility companies to use among other things lower correlated color temperature fixtures, LED lighting shields to minimize glare and utilize dimming technologies in the street lighting during peak time periods as a way to reduce such risks. 

"The guidance adopted today by grassroots physicians who comprise the AMA's policy-making body strengthens the AMA's policy stand against light pollution and public awareness of the adverse health and environmental effects of pervasive nighttime lighting, " said the AMA in a news release.

The AMA did recognize LED street lighting does have energy efficiency benefits. Nearly 10 percent of the Nation's roadways feature LED lighting today. More of Guam's roads can expect to see more of this technology installed during these times of rising costs to manage this important public program as directed by the Guam Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

"The new AMA guidance encourages proper attention to optimal design and engineering features when converting to LED lighting that minimize detrimental health and environmental effects," said AMA Board Member Dr. Maya A. Babu.

University of Connecticut School of Medicine Professor Richard G. Stevens also noted that there is almost never a completely satisfactory solution to a complex problem-the impacts of LED Streetlights to human health. 

"We must have lighting at night, not only in our homes and businesses, but also outdoors on our streets, said Dr. Stevens. "The need for energy efficiency is serious, but so too is minimizing human risk from bad lighting, both due to glare and to circadian disruption. LED technology can optimize both when properly designed".

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