Might bright LED steetlights have adverse effects?

Posted 1/14/20

By JOHN HOWELL The city administration is looking for upwards of $750,000 in savings annually with light-emitting diode (LED) technology to replace about 9,000 streetlights. But a group known as Soft Lights warns there could be harmful side effects to the

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Might bright LED steetlights have adverse effects?


The city administration is looking for upwards of $750,000 in savings annually with light-emitting diode (LED) technology to replace about 9,000 streetlights.

But a group known as Soft Lights warns there could be harmful side effects to the lights.

Mark Baker, a member of Soft Lights, said Ban Blinding LED picked up on the Thursday Beacon story about the cost-saving measure. Baker emailed council members, “While LED lights have advantages, there are also serious health problems associated with LED and with over-lighting. Scientists have shown that artificial light at night has increased the risk of breast cancer by as high as 33 percent. Artificial light at night is also causing sleep disorders and severely impacting the ability of wildlife to succeed.”

Baker advises that if LEDs are used they should be set for cooler color temperatures lower than what the city is considering for a Warwick system.

Baker said he immediately received return emails from Councilmen Ed Ladouceur and Anthony Sinapi looking for additional information.

In his email, Baker said the city should set the light intensity for 2,700 Kelvin – a measurement of color temperature on a scale of 1,000 to 10,000 – for business districts, along with 2,200K for residential areas and 1,800K for sensitive habitats.

“Anything over 2,700K contains dangerous levels of blue wavelength light,” Baker writes. “The absolute maximum set by the American Medical Association is 3,000K, but we have found that anything over 2,700K is uncomfortable,” he continues.

In a response, the mayor’s chief of staff, William DePasquale, writes, “We are working with several experts in the lighting industry to design a system that maximizes vehicular and pedestrian safety, while minimizing negative impacts on natural systems to the extent feasible. We anticipate that much of the lighting in residential areas will range between 2,700 and 3,000K with the ability to dim wattages for later evening hours.”

AMA statement on LEDs

In June 2016 at its annual meeting in Chicago, the AMA issued a statement in response to the rise of LED street lighting recommending outdoor lighting at night, particularly street lighting, should have a color temperature of no greater than 3,000 Kelvin. Color temperature (CT) is a measure of the spectral content of light from a source; how much blue, green, yellow and red there is in it. A higher CT rating generally means greater blue content, and the whiter the light appears.

The light levels Baker recommends are lower than what was proposed for a citywide LED streetlight system. The city has been looking at 3,000K lights in residential areas and 4,000K on major arteries. The Kelvin can be adjusted with the system under consideration.

Baker said the danger of higher Kelvin settings is the level of blue light that is higher energy, produces glare and “kills the photoreceptors” of the eye. “It’s like a laser. The wavelength doesn’t change. This is terrible for us. It’s not what humans are designed for,” he said.

“All of the products we are currently reviewing have options for shielding to cut off light spill from unwanted areas,” DePasquale writes.

He continues, “In addition to evaluating light levels in our residential neighborhoods and sensitive habitat areas, we will be evaluating light temperatures and levels along our major vehicular thoroughfares, many of which are owned by the State of Rhode Island.  The Rhode Island Department of Transportation utilizes lights with a 4,000K temperature rating on major arterial roadways. These fixtures typically have advanced optics to reduce glare and improve overall rendering of objects.”

In response to an email inquiry about the safety of LEDs, a spokesman for the RI Department of Health wrote, “There is still a lot to be learned about LED lighting. At this point, we support efforts to convert to LED lighting that adhere to current recommendations and balance public and environmental health with public safety.”

If LEDs can be harmful for streetlights and automobile headlights – there is a group that is seeking to ban the use of LED headlights – what about lights in homes? Baker says 2,700K tungsten light “is a comfortable level for homes.”

What about LEDs causing cancer? Articles found on the Internet offered conflicting conclusions.

LEDlights.org, a company that sells lights, writes in response to questions about cancer, “The answer is a bit complex, but in general it is safe to say that there is no evidence to support this. LED Lights have not been found, in any studies, to cause cancer. The main cause of cancer in any light source seems to come from exposure to UV radiation and hazardous chemicals that may be found in incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs. LED lights neither contain mercury nor do they emit ultraviolet rays, making them a less likely candidate to cause illness, when compared to the light sources that do contain cancer causing attributes.”

A story appearing in the April 25, 2018, edition of the Telegraph – the online version of the Daily Telegraph published in London – reports that an analysis of more than 4,000 people living in 11 separate regions of Spain “established a link between heavy exposure to the LED lighting and a doubling of the risk of prostate cancer, as well as a 1.5-times higher chance of breast cancer.”

It goes on to say, “The nature of the study means researchers cannot prove a causal link, but they believe the ‘blue light’ emitted by the LEDs may be disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm, which in turn affects hormone levels.”

“Both breast and prostate cancers are hormone-related. The research team at the University of Exeter and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health said their findings may also implicate the nighttime use of mobile phones and tablets, which also emit blue light, in cancer development,” it reads.

The report talks about blue light emitted by LEDs and many tablets, phones and televisions.

“It has one of the shortest, highest-energy wavelengths and previous research has indicated that exposure to blue-spectrum light decreases the production and secretion of the melatonin hormone. Melatonin plays a key role in regulating the day-night cycles and has several other key functions – for example it is a powerful anti-oxidant and has also an anti-inflammatory function,” it reads.

French set light limits

According to the International Dark-Sky Association website, a new law came into effect in France the first of this year that sets controls on the emission of outdoor lights not to exceed 3,000K.

The city has received two bids for LED street lights. A preferred bidder has not been selected, but when that happens the City Council will vote on the award of a contract. Last Monday, the council gave second approval to borrow $3.2 million from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank for the project that involves the purchase of the existing lights from National Grid and their replacement with LED lights. According to the tentative schedule, the conversion would be completed in waves with the program completed by early next year.

The administration sees the cost-saving feature of the conversion as a critical component to Mayor Joseph Solomon’s “road ways” program to spend more than $10 million on road repaving over the next three years. As the administration is hopeful of a 1.3-percent interest rate for the street light and road bonds, the street light savings alone would pay for half of the debt carrying costs of the bonds, according to Michael D’Amico, financial consultant for the administration.


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  • melby0508

    As and Architectural Lighting designer I'd like to mention there are a great deal of incorrect statements in this article. I found it very under researched with old data from the AMA circa 2016. The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) reacted immediately to the AMA article posted on CNN's website in 2016. I suggest reaching out to their public policy contacts to discuss this topic in depth. Your article is mostly based off of internet sources and not from actual Lighting Designers. The Architectural Lighting Design community is very knowledgeable and always open to discuss LED's, Circadian Rhythm and CORRELATED COLOR TEMPERATURE (CCT) providing you with better facts other than citing "Articles Found on the Internet." I'd be happy to point you in the direction of a few firms located in Rhode Island. I have since moved out of the state but it is where I started my career and know of a few firms in the state that could provide you with a more accurate statement and study. This article is aimed with scare tactics that had my parents contacting me immediately at ask about the facts.

    Please see the link below for the rebuttal article from the IALD and IES as well as the contact information for the public policy officer. I will be forwarding a copy of this article to them as well. publicpolicy@iald.org



    Melissa Sparks LC, Associate IALD, Associate IES

    Tuesday, January 14, 2020 Report this

  • Justanidiot

    see, more fake news

    Tuesday, January 14, 2020 Report this


    There been a lot of FAKE news since the KING took over. Hold on will see if this works . The best to this mess.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2020 Report this

  • VoWarwick2017

    To say nothing about our currently under lighted roads which have contributed to quite a few hit or killed pedestrians along Warwick Ave, West Shore Rd, Narragansett Prkwy.

    Warwick needs to do better lighting the roads and keeping the lines on the roads refreshed and in good condition.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2020 Report this

  • StBrian

    How is a Lighting Designer qualified in any way to give advice on how the many aspects of Lighting can possibly have an adverse or positive affect on Human Health & Well-Being, as well as that of Wildlife and their respective fragile ecosystems ?!?

    A Lighting Designer is NOT a Medical Doctor

    A Lighting Designer is NOT a ChronoBiologist

    A Lighting Designer is NOT an Ophthalmologist

    A Lighting Designer is NOT a Research Scientist

    A Lighting Designer is NOT a Phycologist/Psychiatrist

    A Lighting Designer is NOT a Veterinarian

    A Lighting Designer is ONLY qualified to get Lighting right.

    And if all of these Lighting “professionals” were doing their job in the first place then, we wouldn’t be here discussing the potential hazards of LED lighting that is being poorly executed all throughout the world !!

    And think about how a Lighting Designer makes their money..., So, they have a vested interest in attempting to shut down internet articles based on many years of research by highly regarded & well-respected universities, medical & scientific research and specialists in the field of medicine, maladies & the environment.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2020 Report this

  • wwkvoter

    In 11 areas of Spain with LED street lights, Prostate Cancer DOUBLED and breast CANCER rose to 150% (both hormonal cancers) This is thought to be from the LED blue light interfering with melatoning and antioxidants, affecting hormones and other chemistry which kill cancer. Here is one example of many.


    The SOLUTION is simple. Use only lights with 2700 or lower color temperature (known as warm white). EASY SOLUTION.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2020 Report this

  • wwkvoter

    I misspoke, 2700k is not a cure all (but it usually reduces the blue). Lower than that makes the light too yellow (a candle is 2000k). BUT there are apparently blue-free led's with higher temperature, more white light.

    This should be sorted out before buying all these LED's or we may see a doubling of prostate and breast cancer if the areas in the article above are any indication. This is no joke.

    More info on getting rid of the blue component:


    Wednesday, January 15, 2020 Report this