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.
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 4500 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 LED’s! The best way to do this is to write to the head of the Department of Transportation
Hon. Janette Sadik-Kahn, Commissioner
NYC Department of Transportation
55 Water Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10041
and please send a copy to
Hon. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor
New York, NY 10007
You can also contact the Mayor via this online message form:
If you live in New York City, please also send a copy to your representative in City Council (http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml). More than 20 Council Members have co-sponsored a bill that would require all New York City streetlights to be fully shielded.
Finally, please send a copy to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can keep track of how the battle is progressing.
Your letter can be very brief: You just want to tell DOT that all new streetlights must be “fully shielded” and have a “Correlated Color Temperature” of no more than 3000 Kelvin.
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?
Stay tuned for updates on the upcoming 2014 New York State legislative session!