Beware of LED streetlights in Malone (or anywhere else)!

March 20, 2019

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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

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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.
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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

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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.
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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.

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Hmm.  Light pollution.4

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“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
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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.)
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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.)
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Pay close attention to this portion of my email to Riccio et al. (“et al.” means “and others”):
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Consider this:6
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How about seeing the Milky Way at night?7

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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.

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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.
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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.)
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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