New York City has announced plans to replace all of its streetlights with LED fixtures. Unfortunately, the fixtures that have been selected will cause a massive increase in light pollution in the City and beyond because they will not be adequately shielded and because their light contains too much blue.
Why is light pollution bad?
Light pollution wastes energy and money and causes glare that makes it difficult to see well at night. Misdirected light crosses property lines and intrudes into homes, disturbing sleep. Hundreds of studies have documented the adverse effects of light pollution on the environment, and more than 1,600 investigations into the impact on human health have been reported:
An excellent summary of the medical issues was recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The fixtures that have been selected will clothe our entire City in a harsh ugly light. And of course light pollution is obliterating the stars–a source of inspiration and information to diverse cultures across the centuries.
What’s wrong with blue-tinted “white” light?
The LED fixtures the City has chosen will produce about three times as much skyglow as the existing high-pressure sodium streetlights. And compared to light with a warmer hue, blue-rich light also causes more glare, poses greater difficulties for older eyes, has more damaging ecological impacts, and more readily disrupts human circadian rhythms. For further information please see this Seeing Blue article and the White Paper on which it is based.
What should New York City do?
The City is to be commended for taking steps to reduce the energy consumed by its 250,000 streetlights. However, its transportation “design manual” states that the standard new LED will be a “semi-cutoff” fixture, defined as emitting up to 5% of its light upward and up to 20% of its light at or above 80 degrees. The City needs to stop sending light into the sky and use only “fully shielded” fixtures that direct all light downward!
Furthermore, the City is specifying that the new fixtures have a “Correlated Color Temperature” of 4300 degrees Kelvin–much too blue! Although the first “high brightness” LED’s for outdoor use had a high blue content, many are now available with warmer color that produce the same (or nearly the same) amount of light per watt consumed. As recommended in the Seeing Blue article, the City should not install any streetlights with Correlated Color Temperature greater than 3000 Kelvin.
How can you help?
Please help persuade New York City to revise its plan to install unshielded streetlights with damaging blue-rich “white” LED’s! The best way to do this is to write to our Mayor:
Hon. Bill de Blasio, Mayor
New York, NY 10007
You can also contact the Mayor via this online message form:
If you live in New York City, please send a copy to your representative in City Council (http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml). Last year more than 20 Council Members co-sponsored a bill that would require all New York City streetlights to be fully shielded.
Your letter can be very brief: You just want to tell the Mayor that all new streetlights must be “fully shielded” and have a “Correlated Color Temperature” of no more than 3000 Kelvin.
Finally, please send a copy to us at nycinfo(at)selene-ny.org so that we can keep track of how the battle is progressing.
Suffolk County on Long Island recently enacted legislation limiting blue content of outdoor lighting done by the County. Shouldn’t New Yorkers have similar protection?
Thanks for your help!
See below for updates on 2014 New York State legislation!