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The Bulletin

LED streetlights yanked for alleged brain damage risk

Posting in Architecture

Look out! Here comes the light!

This is new to me: LED streetlights can allegedly damage people's brains.

So says one person from the north of England, and his claims were persuasive enough to convince the city of Trafford to suspend plans for replacing 26,000 conventional streetlights with LED lamps.

"Trafford council's u-turn came after ... resident Simon Nicholas claimed the new eco-friendly lights could damage the brains of people living nearby," reported the Manchester Evening News. "Mr. Nicholas said research on the 'too bright' lights has linked them to disrupted sleep pattern and that the beams could dazzle drivers."

Mr. Nicholas could be conveniently skewing his neuroscience. He is a member of a local conservation society that preserves old architecture and green spaces. He has been fighting against new street lamps ever since the council replaced a 1920s model outside his house a few years ago.

Many of the heritage swan-neck lamp posts in the area are reportedly not compatible with LEDs.

Street lighting has been an active market for LED vendors. LEDs are more efficient than other street light sources and they are easy to control from a central location, which helps to further lower electricity consumption because towns and cities can turn them on, off, up or down as needed. A report last summer said LED street lights could save up to 85 percent in energy. Trafford was targeting 70 percent.

LED lighting has also been linked to crime prevention and safety.

Pike Research forecasts that the LED street lighting market will grow to $2 billion by 2020. Pike might be $12.4 million short if Trafford decides to permanently halt its £8 million LED project.

Trafford - technically a "metropolitan burrough" of 227,000 people near Manchester - is expected to consider new plans next month.

Image of Brain Damage DVD cover from Wikimedia

NOTE: A couple days after posting this story I heard from campaigner Simon Nicholas, who had some level-headed insights and clarifications on his objection to Trafford's LED scheme. Check back soon for my update.-MH

A sampler of SmartPlanet's many LED stories:

— By on May 8, 2013, 8:54 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure