Look before leaping into the LED bandwagon

‘LED lighting is an absolute magic’, says LEDtronics, Inc., founder Pervaiz Lodhie (in a video posted in June). ‘But every LED colour is specifically meant for a specific application’, he adds. And this, for Lodhie (citing his 40-year experience on LED lighting), is at the bottom of the problems cropping up with the installation of LED lights in public places: Most organizations approach current lighting conversion to LEDs only with cost-savings in mind, not thinking of the costs the wrong LED lights exact on people’s health and comfort.

Lodhie’s says he is in agreement with the American Medical Association’s report and recommendations (also in June) on the use of LED lights in environmental lighting and outdoor installations: Using the lowest emission of blue light to reduce glare and employing 3000 Kelvin (K) colour temperature or less. This is because there are indications the blue light (present in lights with colour temperatures 4000K and above) in most installed LED lighting disrupts people’s sleeping patterns (circadian rhythm), causing them to lose sleep, lose productivity and, eventually, end up unhealthy.

The trend to replace traditional street lighting (usually yellow-orange sodium) with LED lights has increased in the last few months. While the potential cost savings are real, this has also led to many complaints about how the bright and harsh the new LED lighting replacements are affecting their sleep. One place that became famous for complaining about their new LED lights is the city of Davis, California. The complaints became so heated that Davis administrators halted the LED lighting conversion and instead opted for a place to showcase various LED street lights (with different colour temperatures and light coverage) so city residents could vote for their favourites online. This move quieted down the complaints.

Lodhie says LED lighting has become so lucrative that “every Tom, Dick and Harry, without background knowledge, has jumped into it” – referring to both manufacturers and end consumers. And it’s this rush to join the LED bonanza, without being armed with the proper knowledge that’s costing people money and their health. The impact of LEDs on people’s health was ignored from the very start. In fairness, very little was known about the adverse impacts of blue lighting on sleep when LED lighting entered the market. But, even before LEDs, people were already complaining about the cold, harsh glare coming from fluorescent lights – a trait shared by early LEDs. Could early LED technology have produced healthier, warmer colour temperatures back then, if developers considered their health impacts? Maybe, maybe not. But some loss of sleep or money wasted could have been avoided if health concerns were heeded from the onset. LED lighting maybe magic but, like any form of magic, LEDs should be applied with caution.

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