DC Residents Complain about "Too Bright" LED Street Lights

With the merit of energy efficiency, better visibility and low carbon emissions, LED street lights have been embraced by cities around the world, and the shift toward them has accelerated. However, this does not come without a price. More and more instances of light pollution and light nuisance have been reported, causing much criticism from citizens.
For instance, in Washington DC, there have been complaints about LED street lights being too bright and upsetting, BBC reports. Citizens find it difficult to sleep at night due to the white ray shining on their faces and straight in the eye.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
One citizen even describes this as a “torture” and demands the city to replace the 4,000-Kelvin LED bulbs in the neighborhood by those with lower Kelvin ratings, referring to the color temperature of light. These are yellow lights that are similar to conventional high pressure sodium bulbs.
In response, the city says it takes these complaints very seriously and promises to use LED lights with lower Kelvin ratings and remote controls for adjusting intensity in the next phase of LED conversion. But LED lighting is a must considering its cost and environmental benefits.
Seth Miller Gabriel, the director of Washington DC's Office of Public Private Partnerships is quoted of saying LED lights last at least 50% longer than traditional light sources, so the city can save at least 50% solely on energy bills.
In addition, there are about 71,000 street lights in the District of Columbia; if all of them are upgraded to LED ones, the district can save an estimated 30 million pounds of coal per year.
The US Department of Energy further estimates that if the entire country converted to LED lighting over the next 20 years, it would save the country a total USD 120 billion.
The wide adoption of LEDs does not occur only in the US, cities across Europe and the Asia Pacific region are following suite. India and China, the two most populated countries, have also rolled out large-scale LED lights installation programs.
For those who oppose the use of LED lighting, they are not convinced by these worldwide procurements. Instead, they refer to a recent report by the American Medical Association, which points out the hazards of using high intensity LED bulbs that are installed in New York and other major cities. These include disturbing circadian sleep rhythms and the quality of sleep, leading to extreme fatigue in the daytime and obesity.
High-intensity LED lighting, the report says, emits a large quantity of blue light that looks like white light to the naked eye and create uncomfortable nighttime glare. Furthermore, blue-rich LED bulbs can decrease visual acuity, which is a serious threat to road safety.
In fact, debates over the pros and cons of LED lighting have emerged for many years. Since the savings in energy and cost are too great for city officials to resist, it is estimated that the global conversion to LEDs will continue. Under this trend, it is, and will be challenging for governments to find the best solutions to cater to the needs of different parties.
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