LED streetlights: Still time to choose wisely

To the Editor:

Soon the amber-hued high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs in Milford’s street lamps will be replaced with bright white, high blue-spectrum 4000 kelvin (4000K) LED bulbs as United Illuminating (UI) rolls out installation in its territory. These lights are 50% more energy-efficient than the lights they are replacing and will last 15-20 years instead of 2-5 years.

We embrace the move to energy-efficient, money-saving LED bulbs, but we are concerned by the potential harm to human health and the environment that studies have tied to the use of 4000k bulbs – especially because adverse effects will be experienced by Milford’s citizens for decades. Milford has options. We can achieve energy efficiency and avoid harmful health effects by choosing the right LED bulbs – 3000K bulbs.

Here is why it matters for our citizens’ health and the environment:

The American Medical Association (AMA) released a report in June 2016 that recommended 3000K or lower bulbs. The reasons were:

1) Safer driving because the blue-wavelengths of light found in higher K LED lights (like the 4000K proposed by UI) scatter in the human eye causing discomfort and disability glare for some drivers;

2) Sleep disruption because the high-blue light disrupts circadian rhythms that control our sleep-wake cycles by suppressing production of melatonin at night.; and

3) Disruption of wildlife behavior because the high K LED lights illuminate the landscape in bright white daylight-like light that disrupts bird and fish migrations, mating of light-sensitive animals like sea turtles, and feeding by nocturnal animals.

After release of the AMA’s recommendation Eversource announced it would stop installing 4000k bulbs and instead install 3000k bulbs in Connecticut. To date, United Illuminating has not made the switch.

Milford can receive 3000K lights only if our mayor tells UI that is what we want. Mayor Blake has met with concerned citizens and indicated that he is in favor of moving ahead with UI’s proposed 4000K lights, citing higher energy efficiency for the 4000 K bulbs and a desire to quickly start the cost savings.

We believe this is a mistake not only because the AMA recommends against 4000K bulbs but also because the difference in energy efficiency between new 3000K bulbs and 4000K bulbs has shrunk from 20% to 2-3%. Another reason this could be a mistake is that many communities that installed 4000K bulbs have replaced them with 3000K bulbs after complaints from citizens. For example: Cambridge, Mass; Davis, Ca; and New York City all spent extra tax dollars to replace already installed 4000K bulbs.

Requesting 3000K bulbs from UI might delay Milford’s installation and energy savings by a few months, but this is a 15 to 20-year decision that we need to make wisely. Don’t make Milford citizens become subjects in a 20-year lighting experiment. That is an unnecessary risk.

If you share our concern about UI’s planned installation of 4000K LED lights throughout Milford, please let Mayor Blake know. Ask the mayor to request 3000K LED lights in our city.

Janet McCallister and Stacy Clark

Environmental Concerns Coalition/Milford Speaks Out