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 impacts on human health have been reported. The American Medical Association is sufficiently concerned to have voted to “support light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts” and to “support efforts to ensure all future streetlights be of a fully shielded design or similar non-glare design to improve the safety of our roadways.”
And of course light pollution is obliterating the stars--a source of inspiration and information to diverse cultures across the centuries. WAA's "dark" site at Ward Pound Reservation, only 40.1 miles north of Times Square, is already light pollution-challenged.
What’s wrong with blue-tinted “white” light? The LED fixtures the City has chosen will produce 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 the Seeing Blue article and the White Paper on which it is based on the International Dark-Sky Association web site.
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 in the “glare zone” 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.
An online petition has been started to demonstrate public opposition to these lights: http://tinyurl.com/lnct9n7. Although of course signers from the City will have the most impact, out-of-town signatures can also help--especially if accompanied by comments pointing out that (a) light pollution travels great distances from the source and/or (b) what the City does will most likely serve as a model for other municipalities.
Please sign the on-line petition and consider writing a letter
Larry Faltz, WAA President