Letter to the Editor: Harsh LED streetlights have myriad risks

Some residents of Volta Place NW in Georgetown have complained about the LED streetlights installed there. However, Judah Gluckman, an official with the District’s Office of Public-Private Partnerships, said the lights will be dimmable and their brightness can be tailored to the neighborhood. The technology will also notify the District Department of Transportation immediately when a light bulb goes bad thanks to remote control features. (Brian Kapur/The Current/February 2017)

The Current’s Aug. 2 article “Push for LED street lighting sees resistance” stated that a growing number of advisory neighborhood commissions and citizens associations have adopted resolutions “based on concerns that high-Kelvin LEDs cast a bright, harsh light that can interfere with sleep.” This is true, but greatly understates the concerns.

This is a safety issue for drivers and pedestrians, which is why the American Medical Association recommended “the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare.” The association has further warned that blue-rich LED lights are potentially harmful to human health because of their impact on circadian sleep cycles. Interference with circadian sleep cycles is implicated in higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This isn’t simply about some lost sleep but is a serious and significant public health and safety issue.

Lastly, the blue-rich (4000 Kelvin) LED lights proposed are incredibly ugly and have all the ambience of a prison yard. Our energy savings and lighting goals can be safely achieved with warm-white LED streetlights that are 3000 Kelvin or less (ideally 2700 Kelvin).