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Dark Skies (or not)... LED Health Hazard

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Anthony Rodda's picture
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Dark Skies (or not)... LED Health Hazard

Following Dr Mario Motta's presentation on the health effects of high intensity LED lighting I submitted a Freedom of Information question to Northumberland County Council regarding the type of LED lights they're installing.

Now, in the light (no pun intended) of Dr Mario's statements, I understand that the higher the temp of the LED the 'bluer' it is and the worse the health effects are.  That is, he was successful in reducing LED installations in the US from 4000K (very bad) to 3000K (tolerable).

Imagine my surprise when I received this response from NCC...

Thank you for your enquiry. 
I enclose a document which may be beneficial in answering your enquiry. 
The lanterns we use are the 5700K Version, however in Dark Skies national parks we use the 4000K. 
I do hope this helps.​ 
Is this as bad as it sounds?  How can I get in touch with Dr Mario and/or acquire another qualifying view before getting hysterical?
I've posted this in the General Discussion forum too in order to reach a wider audience.
Regards
Tony
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Mario Motta

That's a bit of a shock Tony!  I'm now wondering what Brum's LED's are.  My skies haven't been the same since they started installing them!

If you get to the end of Mario's presentation video, he includes a contact e-mail address.

Gary

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LED colour

The LED streetlight change over is complete in my area. I understand the LED type in the lanterns are a mixture of 5700K and 4000K. Most LED manufacturers refer to 5700K as cool white, 4000k as natural and 3000k as warm white. I wasn't aware of the implications of blue rich light when the change over first started in my area, by the time I became educated it was too late.  Unfortunately the LED street lights have a service life of about 25 years so they will probably see me out!!

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It's never too late...

Hi Peter, the health issues seem to be quite severe, so much so that several US cities reversed their iimplementation programme.  If you haven't watched Dr Mario's presentation (available on the BAA website) I urge you to do so. 

Regards 

Anthony Rodda's picture
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It's never too late...

Hi Peter, the health issues seem to be quite severe, so much so that several US cities reversed their iimplementation programme.  If you haven't watched Dr Mario's presentation (available on the BAA website) I urge you to do so. 

Regards 

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LED lighting

Last year - I forget precisely when - I had the telescope out on some land jutting into the sea, a great dark spot if winds are light. A curious member of the public came over and we had a good talk and I showed him some bright DSOs. He then proceeded to tell me that he was the person primarily responsible for installing the LEDs all over Tynemouth, and wasn’t it just wonderful ....

Peter Carson's picture
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Person responsible for LED lighting in Tynemouth

So David, after he owned up what did you do........push him over the nearby cliff!

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Response

LOL. It all ended amicably and I'm sure well reasoned arguments will - in the long run - lead to downward-directed, low colour-temperature, and proportionate-intensity lighting nationwide.

Anthony Rodda's picture
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Very true...

Yes David, there are substantial benefits.  Even better if you use the right LEDs.

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LED lights

I must admit I am rather surprised that it has taken so long for the general BAA membership to wake up to this as it has been known for a long time that there are issues with the blue rich lighting and the colour temperature of installed LED's. I would have thought the CfDS would have been banging this drum for quite a while. Of course if they have then the message has not been getting through. It is bad not just for humans but for most nocturnal species.

It is certainly going to destroy visual deep sky observing as the filters that have helped us so much over the years will be dramatically reduced in effectiveness by this change.

Owen

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CfDS

As a new CfDS committee member (and BAA member) I can confirm that the CfDS raises various issues surrounding light pollution, including ones not related to astronomy, with relevant government bodies (local and national), MPs, stakeholders etc., on a regular and frequent basis. I believe the message from us and our partners is getting through at the highest level, as evidenced by the Westminster Hall debate of late last year, held in relation to the dark sky status of Exmoor National Park. Nevertheless, lobbying by astronomers and other concerned persons will continue to be required in order to turn the tide.

LED technology, as with many technologies, comes with potential benefits and dis-benefits. One of the potential benefits of this technology is that its light output can be varied as required, as is done in Gloucestershire with regards to its recently installed LED streetlights.

However, it is undoubtably the case that the lighting of factory and business premises continues to be a significant, possibly the most significant, contributor to skyglow in general. Here too LED technology is becoming more widely used. However by my judgement, LEDs or not, the operating costs of external lighting must typically be ~30% greater than they need be because of the amount of mis-directed light emitted (wasted) directly into the sky. Why businesses (and ultimately customers) tolerate this unnecessary cost is presumbly because of a lack of awareness.

Individuals are of course free to raise this kind of issue, as well as ecological issues, astronomical issues etc., with such businesses, if moved to do so, and CfDS will support such individuals with evidence-based advice so far as time and 'resource' permits (one such request for support arrived in my in-tray just this evening). At the same time, CfDS will continue to make the case for darker skies to organisations that are in a position to influence the sitution for the better.

Regards,

Nick

Anthony Rodda's picture
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Quick update...

I've had an excellent response from the Northumberland National Park's Visitor Development and Marketing Manager, who'd received assurances from NCC that harmful LED lights would not be used.  At that time 4000K was thought to be OK for wildlife locations and that's why a concession was made for the National Park. (We now know its not and the target should be 3000K).

Which begs the question "If they knew 5700K is unsuitable in some way for natural environments, why has it been installed across all NCC residential areas?". 

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LED’s in Oxfordshire

Here’s what Oxfordshire Council are saying:

Many thanks for your enquiry,  our current lighting policy is to use 3000K colour temperature LED’s on residential roads and 4000K on traffic routes (which is currently being reviewed as part of this project).

Anthony Rodda's picture
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Dr Motta's reference papers

Please observe the usual practices if used.