Surprising unintended consequence for LED lighting

AMA reports high-energy LED bulbs can suppress melatonin, altering sleep cycles.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has issued a warning that indicates high-intensity LED lighting, now being used in street lamps in a number of cities, may be responsible for disruptions of sleep rhythms associated with emission of blue light, according to an article on perfscience.com.

The AMA also noted the light-emitting-diodes could cause problems by impairing vision during nighttime driving.  The agency is recommending the high-energy LED lights be replaced by low-intensity LEDs, that don’t emit as much blue light as the current LEDs.  The low intensity lights produce a softer, more amber-colored hue than the high-intensity bulbs.

The federal government has been recommending the use of the high-energy LED for the past few years because of their lower power consumption when compared to the high-pressure sodium lights commonly in use, and the fact that the LEDs last longer and need replacing less often.

According to the article, a study published back in 2011 found that exposure to the “white” light of the LED bulbs suppressed the production of melatonin five times as much as the high-pressure sodium lights, which give off an orange-yellow light.  The light from the LEDs that appears to be white, is actually blue light on the spectrum.

Melatonin is partially responsible for the regulation of our internal biological clock, that controls our sleep and wake cycles, and when disrupted, can cause a myriad of health and safety issues.

A report from the Department of Energy has stated that as much as 13 percent of the nation’s roads and municipal areas are currently using LED lighting.

Professor Abraham Haim, from the University of Haifa, offered, “Just as there are regulations and standards for ‘classic’ pollutants, there should also be regulations and rules for the pollution stemming from artificial light at night.”

According to the study, there are a number of changes that could be made to reduce the impact of LED lighting, but added it will be necessary to be able to understand the issues that artificial lights create before addressing legislation and regulation of the industry.

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