In a new study, researchers have discovered that the more energy efficient and higher visibility LED lights that are rapidly replacing the old school sodium lights for outdoor use in Europe are bringing with them some unintended but drastic consequences. The study was researching the spectral composition of the continent’s lighting using images captured from the International Space Station.
Focusing on the suppression of melatonin — the hormone that regulates sleep cycles — star visibility, and insects’ response to light, the researchers found that all categories were negatively affected. Since 2013, the degree of melatonin suppression in humans has increased, stars are less visible, and insects’ responses to light have been altered unnaturally.
“This trend of replacing old school sodium lights with LED is significantly raising the likelihood of adverse consequences on ecosystems,” the researchers write.
Indeed, blue light is often suspected of suppressing the body’s melatonin synthesis. And, with it strewn throughout the environment, it’s easy to see how LED’s blue light may have negative consequences on humans as well as animals, or, as the paper puts it, “severe biological implications.”
But what of LED’s supposed benefits? Are they worth drenching the night in a clinical white? The researchers don’t think so.
“The benefits that LED technology may provide, particularly for street lighting over already highly efficient sodium lights, are “extremely context specific,” citing various studies.
It appears that using yellower, warmer lights to brighten the night would be preferable than damaging the local ecosystem.
Reference- Science Advances, Futurism, Popular Science, Interesting Engineering