Lawrence’s $4.4 million LED light installation raises health concerns

As light fixtures throughout the city shed their old bulbs for new LED lights, an unseen element of the new glow has some residents concerned.

Some research indicates the color of LED lights the city will be installing, white with unseen blue light, could be unhealthy. Last summer, the American Medical Association advised against the installation of “blue-rich LED streetlights,” and some residents want the city to follow that recommendation.

“There are towns in America where they are tearing out the LED lights they put in to put in lower-color temperature ones,” said Adrian L. Melott, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas. “We don’t want to get ourselves into that fix. It’s easier to switch now than to have to tear them out later.”

The city has allocated about $4.4 million for the new LED lighting in various facilities and along some roadways. The LED lights are more energy efficient and long-lasting, and are projected to save the city about $225,000 annually, according to city projections.

While the AMA report notes the cost and energy benefits of LEDs, it warns that some types of LEDs are harmful when used for nighttime lighting. Lights can be a range of color temperatures, and the AMA recommends that communities minimize blue-rich street lights and generally use LEDs no brighter than 3,000 kelvins. The report states that blue-rich light creates glare and suppresses the nighttime release of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep quality.

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