Surrey reviewing lighting plans in wake of warning over health effects of LED lights

Click to play video: 'Health warning about LED streetlights'
Health warning about LED streetlights
WATCH: They were billed as the more efficient and less expensive way to light the streets at night. But as Ted Chernecki reports, a warning from the American Medical Association is raising questions about cities converting to LED streetlights – Sep 27, 2016

The City of Surrey said it is reviewing its current plans to replace all of its street lights with LED lights in the wake of recent concerns raised by a prominent physicians association.

The LED lights are being installed in cities all over B.C. but Surrey is leading the way with plans to switch over its 28,000 lights within five years. Surrey’s transportation manager Jaime Boan said switching to LEDs could save the city around $1 million a year.

However, in June, the American Medical Association warned the use of high-intensity LED streetlights can negatively impact both sleep and safety.

“Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting,” AMA board member Maya A. Babu said in a statement.

“The new AMA guidance encourages proper attention to optimal design and engineering features when converting to LED lighting that minimize detrimental health and environmental effects.”

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According to the AMA, LED lighting gives off a large amount of blue light that appears white to the naked eye but can impair nighttime driving and possibly increase the risk of serious health conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Similar concerns have been raised in the past even though most cities prefer the energy-efficient LED lights over conventional lighting for the cost and energy savings. LEDs are more energy efficient (by 50 per cent or more) and only need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years versus every two to five years for conventional lights.

The AMA also said the negative impacts of high-density LED lighting are not limited to just humans but also many species that need a dark environment like some bird, insect, turtle and fish species.

The medical association said it isn’t against LED street lights per se, but rather just wants to warn about their intensity. It recommends lights should have a Kelvin reading of less than 3,000 because anything higher can impair vision and impair the human body’s ability to produce melatonin.

Surrey is now reviewing its plans. Lights used in the pilot project in Newton are in the 4,000-Kelvin range and the city said it hasn’t yet ordered the bulk of the 28,000 lamps it will need to complete the program.

“We’ve currently chosen the 4,000 Kelvin [light] and that’s because it’s giving a lot better clarity and visibility of pedestrians and cars on the road,” Boan said. “We think there’s a big safety benefit to that so we need to evaluate better what are the potential impacts to residents with going to the 4000-K.”
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– With files from Ted Chernecki

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