AMA: Proper LED steet light technology leads to environmental benefits

A LED street light in Tuscon, Arizona. (Bill Morrow/Flickr)
An LED street light in Tuscon, Arizona. (Bill Morrow/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | June 28, 2016

Proper LED – or light emitting diode – technology for street lights could benefit both human health and the environment, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

During its annual meeting earlier this month, the AMA “adopted guidance for communities on selecting among LED lighting options to minimize potential harmful human and environmental effects.” About 10 percent of existing U.S. street lighting has been converted to LED which often have economic and environmental benefits compared to conventional lighting. However, despite these benefits, officials with the AMA feel that certain forms of LED technology in street lighting may actually cause more harm than good.

“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting,” said AMA Board Member Maya A. Babu. “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.”

The lighting from high-intensity LED designs can harm some bird, insect, turtle, and fish species that are naturally accustomed to a darker environment. To avoid these potential ecological threats, national parks in the U.S. have utilized optimal lighting designs in an effort to minimize the effects of light pollution on the environment. In addition to harming the environment, high-intensity LED lighting can cause distractions for drivers and also disrupt circadian sleep rhythms in humans.

Specifically, the AMA recommends that communities use LED technology with the lowest emission of blue light possible. AMA also recommends that LED lighting be properly shielded to reduce glare and that LED lighting be dimmed during non-peak time periods

In 2015, MidAmerican Energy announced plans to convert more than 100,000 Iowa streetlights to LED over a 10-year period.

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