Disease Carrying Insects Attracted to LEDs

LEDs combined with solar energy are becoming a top choice in humanitarian aid missions to Africa, which aim to eliminate harmful pollution from burning kerosene lamps that has been the main cause of household air pollution and estimated to be the cause of death of 500,000 people in the continent each year, reported The Conversation.

Country donors are moving into this space, for example EnergyAfrica campaign driven by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is focusing on providing households with solar energy systems to power light bulbs. Yet, the move has resulted in unexpected consequences of attracting unwanted flying pests.

Even though LEDs do not emit harmful UV rays that many insects are attracted to, its vibrant blue light is still highly capable of attracting six legged pests.

LEDs tend to peak in the blue light wavelength spectrum, which can lure mosquitos, flies and sandflies— all insects capable of transmitting vector-borne diseases.

Mosquitos for instance are carriers of parasites that cause malaria, filariasis, and dengue. Domestic flies are also carry bacteria that could cause trachoma, while sandflies can cause leishmaniasis.

It will be important for LEDs delivered to developing countries, especially Africa where vector-borne diseases are prevalent to be tuned to emit low levels of blue light. More studies are required to ensure the lights are not the cause of luring insects.

Estimates are that household air pollution kills more than 500,000 people in Africa each year. Through solar energy, people can stop using dirty and extremely polluting fuels like kerosene in their homes. However, with domestic solar energy comes an unintended consequence. When the light bulbs switch on, they can attract disease-carrying bugs.

Given the health threats of kerosene and other indoor pollutants, a number of initiatives are driving the use of solar power for domestic uses. Organizations associated with the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative are promoting various programs.

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