. — Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

. Ten or so years ago, cities and towns across America began swapping out HPS (High Pressure Sodium) streetlights for LEDs.  (Malone did not fall for this fad.  We currently have HPS streetlights — and pray to God we keep them!)  LEDs became the municipal rage.  After all, said the hucksters selling them, they’re cheaper in the long run and use less juice, thus cutting down on the electric bill — except they are very expensive to buy. . . The uproar was swift and, frankly, predictable, if municipal officials had done their homework.
When my city of Newton, Mass., announced plans to install LED streetlights in 2014, I was optimistic. I’m all for energy conservation, and I was happy with the LED bulbs in my home office. But months later, returning from a week’s vacation in rural Maine, I was shocked to find my neighborhood lit by a stark bluish blaze that washed out almost all of the stars in the night sky.1

In the meantime, human beings are making their own displeasure known based on health, environmental, and quality-of-life concerns. Some residents of Brooklyn, Seattle, and Houston have joined the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in fighting installations of blue-rich LED street lighting. And in Canada, public outcry over the city of Montreal’s $84 million plan to replace existing streetlights with LEDs centered on light pollution and health impacts.2

In interviews with the media, my fellow experimental subjects have compared the nighttime environment under the new streetlights to a film set, a prison yard, “a strip mall in outer space” and “the mother ship coming in for a landing” in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Although going half-blind at 58, I can read by the beam that the new lamp blasts into our front room without tapping our own Con Ed service. Once the LEDs went in, our next-door neighbor began walking her dog at night in sunglasses.3
. I have published a photograph, at the top of this page, from one such community. Here are several more, all taken at nighttime, believe it or not. . . What you’re looking at is called “light trespass.”  Two other terms worth learning are “glare” and “light spillover.”  Drive by Franklin Academy some night; you will see what I’m talking about.  The other day I got an email from a man living next door to FA:
The proposed 2,000 new LED lights may be a big problem. Take a look at the high school at night, where they have over-lamped the area with LEDs.  It looks like a . . . prison camp. Medical problems with them, too.
. Hmm.  Light pollution.4 . “It looks like a prison camp,” wrote the poor soul living next door to FA’s “Yankee Stadium.”  “Medical problems with them, too,” he added. (“Circadian,” in the paragraph below, is pronounced “sur-KAY-dee-un.”  It refers to a 24-hour biological cycle.)5 . . Why am I bringing up LED streetlights?  Because of this article in the Malone Telegram last June.  (Click on the arrow icon in the lower right corner to expand the document to full screen.) . . The  Telegram article prompted this response from me to Mayor Joe Riccio and the Village Trustees. (Click on the arrow icon in the lower right corner to expand the document to full screen.) . . Pay close attention to this portion of my email to Riccio et al. (“et al.” means “and others”): . . Consider this:6 . . How about seeing the Milky Way at night?7 . . The takeaway being, LED streetlights are a tricky business! They can mess up your hormonal system in ways insidious and difficult to comprehend, driving people nuts. . It would be a huge expense to swap out our streetlights for LEDs — a financial burden that might well be accompanied by ruinous consequences for our quality of life, not to mention wildlife such as birds and bats.  Yes, there have been improvements in both indoor and outdoor LED lighting in the past several years, but it’s far from clear whether LED manufacturers have invented the right light for human physiological requirements.  Till then, we must not allow Malone to become a guinea pig for the LED industry and its reckless and aggressive salesmen. . . Click here for a superb editorial in the NY Times on the subject.  It’s a fun “read” and a sobering one.  (If you find the article has been removed by the NYT, you can read it here in PDF.  Click on the arrow icon in the lower right corner to expand the document to full screen.) .   References:

1. https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/conservation/led-streetlights-are-giving-neighborhoods-the-blues

2. https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/conservation/led-streetlights-are-giving-neighborhoods-the-blues

3. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/opinion/sunday/ruining-that-moody-urban-glow.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&_r=0

4. https://www.delmarfans.com/educate/basics/lighting-pollution/

5. https://www.delmarfans.com/educate/basics/lighting-pollution/

6. https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/conservation/led-streetlights-are-giving-neighborhoods-the-blues

7. https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/night-lights-have-dark-side


7 thoughts on “Beware of LED streetlights in Malone (or anywhere else)!”

  1. Avatar

    I hate LEDs for outside lights. It’s so artificial and overwhelming. I’ve been eyeing the neighbor’s massive LED outside light, thinking I should offer buying an alternative, such as an amber sodium light.

    I used to be able to see the night sky in full clarity from my bed. Now I see the glare of his LED light high on a pole. I prefer the night to be NIGHT, and don’t understand why anyone would want daylight 24/7?

    Take in God’s gift of the night sky. De-stress from the day by indulging in the wonder and beauty of the stars.

    We don’t want these bright, artificial lights blocking our view of serenity!

  2. Avatar

    I am all for making our downtown look “open” for business. And it’s safer. We must have brighter lights. However the color of the LED matters to me. 3000 kelvin is preferred. 4000 will do but absolutely no higher. 5000 k is ridiculously irritating to me. Perhaps there are bulbs that are diffused enough to not make it seem so intense. Or perhaps the large lens that we have in the Main Street area will diffuse the light enough. (Maybe this needs to be tested.)
    Editor’s note: Thanks, Tom, for your input. Readers should know that Tom owns one of the buildings in the Historic Downtown district, close to the courthouse. I assume his reference to the “Main St. area,” above, is more specifically to the Historic Downtown area.

  3. Avatar
    Joni Riggle, RN

    Thanks for the heads up. Just another unnecessary expense and insult to our natural environment and, likely, health.

    Click here for an editorial in our local paper today, highlighting the same concerns, written by a local physicist and an astronomer from the State University of New York at Fredonia. Here are some sobering points from the editorial:

    Low pressure sodium is the best for astronomy, as it is monochromatic. White-light LEDs can actually make the light pollution problem much worse, since the simplest white-light LEDs contain significant amounts of light at the blue end of the spectrum. It is well-documented that nighttime blue light is harmful to human and animal health, increases glare (increasing the risk of traffic accidents), and leads to increased levels of light pollution even if shielded light fixtures are used (the light might initially be directed down, but it reflects off the ground back up).

    The AMA [American Medical Assoc.] recommends color temperatures below 3000K (warm white). Unfortunately even these have harmful levels of blue light, so should be provided with a blue-blocking filter (FLED). Another alternative is using amber LEDs such as PC-Amber (phosphor-converted amber) which have spectra similar to the high-pressure sodium they will be replacing. This would have the least impact and, as the public is already used to the amber lighting, perhaps the least objectionable from an aesthetic standpoint.

    Although some people imagine the better color rendition of white light might improve safety, that has not been borne out in research studies.

  4. Avatar
    Kevin Sigourney

    Yeah … National Grid is pushing these LEDs at a lower cost on homeowners as well. I hate LEDs … the color and “washout” is harsh! I will not put them in my house or trade them for my spotlights outside.

  5. Avatar
    Patricia GREENSTEIN

    I love LED lighting in my kitchen and other work areas…that I can control with a switch…meaning I can turn it off…I thought I was the only one bothered by the LED streetlights!

    We live in a very rural area. For years we had an outside light with a sensor that would turn on at dark over one of our outbuildings. About 10 years ago we flipped it to a manual switch so that it didn’t go automatically at dusk. It is so much more pleasant having it truly dark at night and it’s saved us a lot of money on our electric bill.

  6. Avatar

    There are bad LED installations. And there are badly designed installations of other types of bulbs.

    There are also friendly LEDs, generally ones that emit light equivalent to 3000 degrees kelvin or lower. And there are fixtures that direct the light where it is desired with minimum leakage to where it is not. For more on the subject, click here. Especially this page.

  7. Avatar

    I would like to add the following to this article. In recent years we have had a few strings of LED colored Christmas lights in our home. One of them hangs next to a doorway between rooms. Also in that doorway is a circulating fan. I noticed that, as in an experiment in HS physics class, when something is in motion in the presence of a strobe light, it appears to move in tiny jumps, timed with the cycling of the strobe.

    The fan in the doorway is clearly, obviously in the presence of a strobe light. In fact, just swinging an arm, or any movement near these light demonstrates a strobe effect. I presume the lights are strobing – switching on and off – at 60 cycles per second, the rate of oscillation of alternating current in the grid. More modern fluorescent lights and incandescent lights (with filaments) do not strobe this way.

    I don’t know if this effect happens with LED street lights, I would expect it does. The question it brings up: along with the challenge to our natural circadian rhythms, what effect does being in a rapidly strobing environment have on our nervous system health, our hormonal system, our brain function, our emotional health?

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