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Cities are changing streetlights after learning that LED lights are too 'blue'


(NaturalNews) They help cut energy costs and make the nighttime street lighting around town a bit less orange and abrasive. But cutting-edge LED illumination is already on its way out in many cities following a warning by the American Medical Association (AMA) that low color temperature lighting, like the kind used in many LED bulbs, is bad for health.

The AMA claims that blue light emissions can cause eye damage and disrupt sleep patterns, particularly at color temperatures higher than 3000 Kelvin. In most major cities where LED lighting is used on streetlights, the average color temperature ranges from 5000K to 6000K, including in cities like Phoenix, Arizona; Lake Worth, Florida; and Los Angeles, California.

Blue light, which is also emitted from flat screen televisions, laptop computers, and smartphones, is the markedly "cooler" color spectrum that many people find difficult to look at, especially at night. It's similar in offense to the bright white fluorescent lighting commonly used in office buildings and at big box retail stores that lacks the "warm" and more soothing colors better suited for the eyes.

LED lighting itself isn't the problem, but rather the type of LED lighting being used in many areas. Mark Hartman, the chief sustainability officer for the city of Phoenix, is already working on a plan to develop a warmer LED light for use in streetlights that will range in color from between 2700K to 4000k, which experts say is much better suited for nighttime illumination.

"Ideally, we want low-Kelvin bulbs everywhere," Hartman told CNN about his plan. "But there is still a remarkable difference in appearance from 5000K to 4000K. The lights may be just as bright, but not as white."

Avoid 'blue' light at night to improve sleep
According to the group Eversource Energy, some 25 cities in Connecticut alone have already opted to follow the AMA's advice by installing LED streetlights with a color temperature of 3000K or lower. And many other cities across the country are likely to follow their lead, especially those that have yet to transition from the dark orange ones that have been a staple in cities for many years.

But the risk is still present in many consumer electronic devices, especially smartphones that people use late at night before going to bed. Like with streetlights, the blue light from these devices can be damaging to the eyes, and is known to disrupt the circadian rhythm, making it difficult to maintain a normal and healthy sleep cycle.

Bright white lights in general are problematic for health, especially in the elderly. Research shows that shortwave blue light scatters more in the eyes than red and yellow light, which in extreme cases can cause retina damage. Exposure to blue light has also been linked to more severe health conditions like depression and obesity.

"Really bright lights can be worse for aging people," says Travis Longcore, an architecture professor at the University of Southern California who studies artificial night lighting. "Our brains are particularly sensitive to light that peaks in blue. When overexposed to high-color temperature LED lights, our circadian rhythms are more likely to be disrupted."

Because it suppresses melatonin production, blue light is particularly hazardous to healthy sleep--perhaps even more so in consumer electronic products than in street lights. That's because most people don't stare directly into streetlights, but they most definitely stare directly into their smartphone, tablet and computer screens.

It is advisable to limit the use of such electronics before going to bed, or to alter the color temperatures of such devices at night to make them "warmer."

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