Responding To LED Street Lighting Issues


By C. J. Abraham

In the past few weeks, Village of Great Neck residents have had discussions and raised issues involving the proposed installation of the 800 LED streetlights. I would like to reply to the complaints brought up at prior meetings.

Daylight-like lighting and blue-white lights can have an impact on circadian rhythm and health in addition to decreasing melatonin.

While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so much more to suppress melatonin and shift circadian rhythms.

The proposed LED lighting supplied by Philips will be set at 3,000K for most of the installations except for the main streets which will be set at 4,000K.

Philips has installed more than 57,000 installations without one reported medical incident or negative medical effect.

Phosphors are added to the diode to produce a mix of different wave lengths, which result in producing white light. The lights that are going to be installed will have phosphors yielding white light, essentially eliminating all blue light.

Installations using the LED lighting have been utilized in classrooms, offices, industrial buildings, office buildings, main thoroughfares, side streets, hospitals, private residences, public buildings and medical offices throughout the U.S. To date, there has not been one recorded or documented medical complaint regarding any of those installations.

On the issue of breast cancer, I ask:

How many of you dye your hair, watch TV past 9 p.m., use mobile phones or have fluorescent lights in your homes?

Not one person attending any of the prior meetings was told to stop watching TV or using their computer or mobile phones because more blue light is emitted by those products than the proposed LED lighting system.

Research performed at Harvard found that reading electronic readers, iPads and computers or watching TV before bed can disturb the body’s circadian rhythms. Decreased melatonin production can make it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up.

Daily rhythms are influenced by light.

Everyone has slightly different circadian rhythms but the average length is 241/4 hours. The circadian rhythm of people who stay up late is slightly longer while rhythms of early birds fall short of 24 hours.

Dr. Charles Czeisler of the Harvard Medical School reported in 1981 that daylight keeps a person’s internal clock aligned with the environment.

Even a dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythms and melatonin. A low level of brightness, which is exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light, also has an effect. Any light at night is part of the reason so many people do not get enough sleep. Researchers have linked short sleep cycles to increased risk for depression as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Lights cannot be dimmed.

The proposed lighting system will be set at a color temperature of 3,000K. Lights along the main cross streets may be set, as required, at 4,000K. All of the installations will be set at safe settings that have been tested out in thousands of other installations. The board members have had, at their disposal for review, many of these other installations as a reference.

Note: The digital controls that accompany installations have settings that allow the lights to be dimmed at any time.

The Harvard study and health letters:

The Harvard study did not include the incorporation of phosphors eliminating and/or substantially reducing the amount of blue light.

The board has not consulted the community about its plan to install LED lights throughout the village:

That is not the protocol that is used or followed by town boards, city councils, large corporations, small companies or organizations that create safety standards such as OSHA, NIOSH, ANSI, ISO and ASTM. A select group of qualified people are always assigned to create the basis for a project and then perform due diligence before the results are presented to the proper audience. The village board followed that protocol with reference to the installation of the LED lights.

In spite of the technically accepted protocol the board had taken, many village residents expressed unwarranted fears without a proper technical or scientifically acceptable foundation from many of the people attending the meetings and subsequently reading the letters to the editor and write-ups in the local newspapers. A doctor from another town expressed his opinion which did not meet the basic requirements involving the technical specifications of all of the parts that went into the installation of the streetlights.

Has the board performed due diligence about the conversion to 800 LED streetlights?

The board has had five meetings with the residents discussing LEDs, reviewed a number of studies of other installations and invited the public to hear presentations from the board’s expert consultants.

From a technical standpoint, they more than met their burden performing due diligence regarding the installation and choice of installing 800 LED streetlights.

What are the safety issues and benefits of LED streetlights?

• For older people, brighter light is more important because we tend to see less at night.

• There is an enhancement of public spaces.

• The city of Seattle, WA, has installed 41,000 LEDs and reported a sharp different between the brightness of the old sodium lights and the LEDs. They reported that even at 4,100K, the blue light is much lower than most computer screens, laptops and TV screens.

• LEDs are up to 50 percent more energy efficient than yellow-orange high pressure sodium lights.

• Unlike sodium lights, LEDs spread illumination evenly.

• LED lighting exceeds other sources in putting the amount of light where and when you want it.

LEDs allow individuals to distinguish colors at night.

• The digital nature of the proposed LEDs offer advantages in light distribution and cutoff, plus dimmability with timers.

• No warm up is necessary; light comes on instantly when turned on.

• Keep drivers alert and pedestrians safer.

• Seattle and other cities that have installed LEDs have found energy costs as much as 80 percent lower.

• The light from the new LED fixtures will be comparable to moonlight
and will provide excellent visual acuity to drivers.

• LEDs consume 75 percent less energy than incandescent lighting.

• LEDs last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent lighting and about 2 to 5 times longer than fluorescent lighting.

• Light output remains constant over time, only decreasing toward the end of the rated lifetime, which is at least 35,000 hours or 12 years based on use of 8 hours per day.

• Brightness is equal to or greater than existing lighting technologies, and the light is well distributed over the area lighted by the fixture.

LEDs provide excellent color quality. The shade of white light appears clear and consistent over time.

• By enabling people to distinguish colors at night, police in cities with LEDs have reported better witness descriptions.

Based on my extensive experience in safety engineering and design, and with scientific certainty, I believe the board has done its due diligence. Village residents should accept this decision without further objections. We should start addressing other important issues with a more positive approach and we should all treat each other with respect and positive energy.

C. J. Abraham consults for OSHA, was a paid consultant for the research arm of OSHA-NIOSH, was a U.S. representative for 10 years creating safety standards around the world for ISO and has been a member of more than 35 committees for the ASTM since 1964 that have been involved in the creation of hundreds of safety standards used throughout the world. View his background at


  1. I agree with the opinion of this writer. The Village and the consultant seem to have applied lessons learned from prior installs of others and best practices developed. The new fixtures that are installed will be made for specifically for LEDs and will better place the light as opposed to the scatter of lighting in sometimes random directions that we have today in the utility existing fixtures that leave dark areas and shoot light into windows. I believe better control of the areas lit will also ease concerns about color.

    Further, given the storms we have had in past recent years, our current lighting is inconsistent at best. Some lamps are installed too high, others too low, others crooked, some are frosted, some are not frosted, some are brighter than others, some missing their diffusers, there are wires sticking out, some lamps are completely missing from utility poles, and some street lamp posts are missing. The new technology to be installed, in terms of fixtures and controls, are standard at this point. It is a great opportunity to hit reset at this point and make our Village distinctive from a lighting perspective, if done right. It’s like changing all the really old worn light fixtures in your home.

    Bottom line… It is really about ensuring that the implementation of the new lighting is consistent, follows standards for height and distance placement, is lasting quality work, and fixes any anomalies with existing (missing lights or pre-existing wiring issues). One has to be able to look down any street and see neat even spacing and height on all street lamps that evenly illuminate the roadway / sidewalks without dark spots. Lastly, we need to ensure that labor and materials are warrantied, maintenance contracts are at a fair cost, and the new implementation is completed quickly on budget.

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