My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why AMA recommending sub-3000K LED Lamps as excess Blue Light bad for Humans

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why AMA recommending sub-3000K LED Lamps as excess Blue Light bad for Humans

Looks like LED lights affect more than just the taste of milk.

Back in June 2016, the AMA (American Medical Association) issued a policy Guideline on LED Streetlights and their impact to human health and the environment as reported in the article “Doctors issue warning about LED streetlights”, published June 21, 2016 By Richard G. "Bugs" Stevens, CNN Edition.
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In that policy Guideline on LED Streetlights entitled “AMA Adopts Community Guidance to Reduce the Harmful Human and Environmental Effects of High Intensity Street Lighting”, the AMA recommended a color temperature of no greater than 3000 Kelvin (K).

The AMA announcement after a recent publication of the “World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness” by the International Dark Sky Association as reported in the article “New Map Shows the Dark Side of Artificial Light at Night”, published June 10, 2016 By Lee Billings, Scientific American.

The groundbreaking study points out that 80% of humans are being affected by 4000K lamps which could result in a 2.5-fold increase in lighting pollution, disrupting human sleep as well as ground based astronomy as noted in the article “80% of World Population Lives Under Skyglow”, New Study Finds, published JUNE 10, 2016, International Dark Sky Association.

This is interesting to me, a research by the Cornell University’s Department of Food Science suggests that Blue light in LED affects the taste of milk as explained in my blog article entitled “Cornell University’s Department of Food Science and How Blue LED Affecting Food Freshness”.

It also validates the years of research being one by the International Dark Sky Association to raise awareness of the impact of our increasing use of higher temperature lightning in outdoor settings.

So what effect does LED have on humans?

Blue LED and Light Bulbs - A quick primer on color temperature for light bulbs

For those unfamiliar with Light bulbs, color temperature is a numerical value representing of the spectral content of light from a source. To the layman, this is a measure of how much blue, green, yellow and red light that composes a light source.

There are three (3) primary types of color temperature for light bulbs:

1.      Soft White (2700K – 3000K)
2.      Bright White/Cool White (3500K – 4100K)
3.      Daylight (5000K – 6500K)

The higher the Degrees Kelvin, the whiter the color temperature; the lower the degree, the more yellow-orange the light appears, matching that of our natural source reference for light, the sun.

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As a way of comparison, an incandescent bulb has a color temperature of 2400K, as it has less blue and more yellow and red wavelengths. The AMA is basically recommending Bright White/Cool White, which is already the level of LED lighting used in offices by fluorescent bulbs, but more on the lower side i.e. Cool White.

This as higher colour temperatures, usually generated by smartphones screens, lighting as well as HDTV's is mainly generated by LED's now the standard since their invention by a Japanese trio of scientists as described in my blog article entitled “2014 Nobel Prize for Physics Blue LED's are excellent Flourescent and Incandescent Replacements”.

We've had LED's for the past twenty years, but LED lighting is a recent phenomenon thanks to the developement of Blue LED, which make White light LED lamps possible. So why is the AMA upset with the increasing level of colour temperature in LED lighting?

The American Medical Association and LED's - Blue light bad for eyes and human sleep

The AMA argues that humans have shifted away from burned wood and candles, which has a colour temperature of 1800K; mostly yellow-red wavelengths devoid of blue light.

Now our modern works is a glare inducing world that can cause serious damage to your eyes. This is due to the human eye reacting rapidly to reduce the level of light entering the eye by rapidly narrowing the pupils of the eyes, causing strain on the eye muscle.

This pupillary constriction weakens the eye muscle over time and due to the increased scattering effect of the increasing amount of blue light found in LED sources, it can permanently damage the retina of the eye.

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More reason for me to wear glasses at night; those vehicles with their Halogen lamps and LED lamps are so bright that they are painful to my eyes; so too is any job where you work around a computer or in a LED lit room for extended periods of time.

The AMA also point out that brighter LED lighting also affects our sleep patterns as LED lights affect the production of Melatonin at night. Due to the increased level of blue light in smartphones, people have trouble sleeping, which the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has already declared is a public health problem as noted in the article “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem”.

Already excessive smartphone usage, basically an addiction as described in my blog article entitled “How to deal with Smartphone Addiction – Trend towards Wearables indicates Smartphone Addiction getting worse” has been demonstrated to have an effect on sexual interest and human cognition.

This may be due to the fact that the blue light, which is already bad for you eyes, keeps you awake at night and makes it harder for you to go to sleep. It’s also known to affect animals and ultimately affects the work of astronomers as reported in the article “AMA report affirms human health impacts from LEDs”, published June 22, 2016, PhysOrg.

But with the efficient nature of LED in terms of power usage, what can be done to avoid LED used for outdoor lighting becoming a problem?

Smart LED Streetlights - Adaptive LED Lighting that tracks human presence

Governments and Business need to plan how they install LED lights, particularly Streetlights.

Already plans for Smart LED Streetlights are in the works for the parish of St. James as noted in the article “Smart LED street lights for St James”, published Thursday, August 04, 2016 by Anthony Lewis, The Jamaica Observer.

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These streetlight addresses this problems of LED's being too bright by adapting to the presence of humans activity based on audio, video and motion detection inputs. If it detects no movement or the present of humans, it powers down the lights, reducing electricity consumption.

Only when humans are present does it brighten and their status is controlled via a Server located in a NOC (Network Operation Center), effectively making it an application of the IoT (Internet of Things). The LED light even have built in GPS modules, making them trackable once stolen, or at least until the thief removes the battery.

The inclusion of filters to lower the colour temperature and intensity will make LED lights more human friendly. Certainly something the rest of the LED crazy first World can follow!

Here's the link

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