Stop Harsh LED Street Lighting in Duluth

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The installation of 4000K harsh white street lights (right side of photo) will have negative consequences for the next 25 years, which residents and businesses will have to live with if the City and County continue their current installation program.

In 1998, Chicago experienced very high levels of crime and decided to increase street illumination and light alleyways.  To the contrary, where “enhanced lighting” was installed, incidence of crime increased.  Studies in the United Kingdom found that increasing lumen output on street lighting has no significant variation in rates of crime.

We propose the following reasons for not installing 4K LED lights:

1.  Aesthetics. Instead of a warm inviting feeling that a 2700K LED light would provide, Duluth will look like an industrial zone. You have seen the cars with the new LED white lights that blind you. This is the same color of harsh white light that is being installed throughout the City and County and is continuing to be installed. The warm amber glow twinkling lights that provide a pleasant evening environment are being quickly replaced with 4000K lights that produce a cold, harsh evening environment.

2.  Safety.  More harsh white light will not increase our safety.  Some light at night can improve safety, but too much bright light can actually reduce safety.  We see best at night by having lighted objects stand out against a dark background, rather than by lighting everything as brightly as possible.  A good example is a green highway sign lit by headlights.  In creating such a bright nighttime atmosphere, we create glare and cast shadows that actually make it more difficult to see.

3.  Health Concerns.  The American Medical Association released their findings, and they recommend the installation of lighting with no more than a 3000K temperature.  

The AMA warns in its new guidance for communities selecting LED lighting, “LED lights emit large amounts of blue light, which appears white to the naked eye, but can cause severe nighttime glare, more so than conventional lighting.  This can create discomfort and disability causing pupil constriction, decreasing visual acuity and safety, damaging the retina and causing more road hazards. LED lights also operate at wavelengths that suppress melatonin production during the night.  

Researchers estimate that white LED lights have five times greater negative impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps.  Brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning, and obesity.”

4..  Environment and Wildlife.  Sixty percent of invertebrates and 30% of vertebrate species are nocturnal.  Many of these are insects that pollinate flowers on the plants that provide the protein foundation for the entire ecosystem.  Now, instead of having 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime, we are bathing them in 24 hours of daylight.  Artificial light destroys their habitat; the new blue LED lights, which include the 4000K lights, are the most destructive.  Migrating birds are attracted to the unnatural lighting, which often results in injuries or deaths when they collide with reflections on buildings.  Duluth is a major migration highway for so many species of birds and 4000K lighting confuses them during their migration.  High Kelvin rated lights have been linked to low survival rates in hatchling sea turtles and inhibited migration rates for salmon and other fish.

5.  Light Pollution. 4000K lighting greatly increases light pollution, glare and our ability to see the stars.

6.  Efficiency & Savings.  The argument of efficiency and savings does not hold water.  A 3000K bulb is within 2% efficiency of a 4000K bulb, less than 1/3 a penny per day per fixture, and this is changing monthly.  LED technology is rapidly advancing and the efficiency will balance out very soon. 

7.  Obsolete technology.  Other cities that have not yet installed new lighting will be using lower Kelvin rated bulbs, while Duluth will be locked for 25 years into a level of lighting which will soon be obsolete. Many cities are installing 2700K lighting because they understand the negative consequences of installing 4000K lighting.

We are requesting the City and County to proactively solicit public input to develop a comprehensive lighting program that benefits the City, County, citizens, businesses, guests and tourists.  Also, they should follow the guidelines of the International Dark-Sky Association:

          1.  Only be on when needed
          2.  Only light areas that need it
          3.  Be no brighter than necessary
          4.  Minimize blue light emissions, and use lighting with a color temperature of no more than 3000 Kelvin
          5.  Be fully shielded

Information Sources
Bogard, P., “Replacing streetlights, we must get it right” ama/index.html a-dark-side
Lapp, C. & Larson, R., “Design Duluth”, Meteek & Co., Sept. 8, 2016 human-health-led-risks-highlighted.html

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