New streetlights health risk: Experts say LEDs could damage your retinas
Modern streetlights could be disrupting people’s sleep and even causing lasting damage to their eyesight, health chiefs have warned.
Councils are switching to LED lighting because they are cheaper to run and result in lower emissions.
But Public Health England (PHE) said many people found them “uncomfortable” and said in the long term they could cause damage to the retina of the eye.
PHE also raised concerns about the increasing use of LED lights on new cars and warned they risked dazzling oncoming drivers.
The worries came to light in the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report which pointed out councils are increasingly replacing mercury and sodium lamps with LED alternatives.
Kent County Council is installing 118,000 LED streetlights, Leicestershire 68,000, Manchester 56,000, Gloucestershire 55,000 and Surrey 40,000.
Around 30 percent of the roads under Highways England control – which include motorways and A roads – have already been converted to LED lights.
Public Health England said: “Local authorities have been replacing mercury and sodium street lights with LEDs.
“If this is done purely on the basis of energy efficiency and cost, it is possible to end up with installations that may not be fit for purpose.
“Some streetlight luminaires have LED sources that can be seen physically projecting below the luminaire, becoming a glare source or light pollution.
“The light spectrum may be enriched in the blue, which may be beneficial for keeping drivers alert, but many people will find the light uncomfortable.
“High levels of blue light are known to cause damage to the retina in the eye.”
Officials also raised concerns about the use of LED lights on new cars, warning that they risk dazzling older drivers.
The lights are turned on in the daytime in a bid to improve road safety, but can cause problems if they are not dimmed at night.
Public Health England said: “An extreme example is daylight-running lights on cars. These are clearly visible to other road users and pedestrians.
“At night, if they do not dim, they can be very dazzling and more so for young children (who have higher transmission of light through to the retina) and older people (who will suffer from scattering of the light, particularly in the lens of the eye).
“This means that older drivers, in particular, will be dazzled by oncoming vehicles with the risk that they may not see hazards until too late. The problem is exacerbated by fog.”
A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils have switched to LED street lights to help the environment and manage funding pressures while ensuring street lighting can be be maintained.
“LED street lighting luminaires are carefully designed to make full use of the light that they generate by directing it only to those areas that need to be illuminated, which in itself is one way of reducing energy consumption and related emissions.
“Both natural and artificial light has the potential to damage the eye.
“It’s best to avoid looking at any light source directly for any length of time.”