micronotes: On LED and Sodium-Based Lights
“Mankind is proceeding to envelop itself in a luminous fog,” wrote the authors of a paper on artificial night-sky brightness in 2001. This “perennial moonlight” that we’ve created enhances our safety and security, but it also dims our view of 10,000 stars and destroys the dance of light and dark.
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.
Dr. Davies added: “While these approaches helped to reduce the number of ground dwelling spider and beetle species affected by LED lighting to varying degrees, our study also shows that avoiding these impacts may ultimately require avoiding the use of LEDs and night-time lighting more generally.”
To gauge the approximate difference in brightness between the two, I pulled out my camera and took a light meter reading on the pavement beneath an LED lamp and then under a high-pressure sodium lamp. The LED was brighter by more than more than one camera “stop” or more than twice as bright.
The American Medical Association (AMA) sent shockwaves through the industry a few months ago by stating in a report that the blue light emitted from LED street-lighting could cause sleep problems as well as adverse risks when driving, guidelines the respected body has since officially adopted.
It’s hard to imagine that just fifty years ago, the United States was much dimmer, with electrical infrastructure slowly building out since the 1930s or 40s. Baby Boomers through Millenials have been bathed in streetlight their whole lives; do we naturally develop an avoidance of darkened streets?
Right outside my bedroom window is an light that has more than once fooled me into thinking it was still day time at 9 pm. I have issues falling asleep, but I can blame that on bad sleeping practices in general. But what if it’s the light that we’ve built around ourselves? And what is going to happen to future generations as they are bathed in even more light?