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PHE moves to quell LED streetlight fears

The next generation of neighbourhood lighting poses "no risk of eye damage"

Street lights

Public Health England (PHE) has emphasised that LED street lighting does not pose a risk to eye health.

The response comes following media reports that PHE cautioned the public about the effect of the low-cost, low-emission lighting on sleep, retinal health and the potential for glare to dazzle motorists.

A spokesperson for Public Health England clarified that the source of the reports is a Light pollution and health section submitted as part of the Chief Medical Officer’s 2017 annual report.

John O’Hagan, senior scientific group leader of PHE’s radiation dosimetry department, told OT that the risk of glare from LED streetlighting is minimal.

“While the chief medical officer’s article highlights a theoretical risk of glare to motorists from LED street lighting if it is not installed correctly, PHE anticipates that a vast majority of this type of lighting will be installed with the LEDs recessed or with an appropriate balance of blue light so it does not dazzle drivers,” he shared.

He added that references to high levels of blue light damaging the retina refers to blue light in general rather than that emanating from street lights.

“Exposure to blue light in excess of internationally agreed exposure limits may result in retinal injury,” he shared.

“Most people are unlikely to experience blue light levels that are anywhere near the exposure limits,” Mr O’Hagan added.

In conclusion, Mr O’Hagan emphasised: “There is no risk of eye damage from LED street lighting.”

 AOP spokesperson and optometrist, Farah Gatrad, explained that looking at blue light for extended periods of time can increase eye strain and affect sleep patterns, but there is no evidence to suggest that it can cause permanent damage to the eye.

“If you are concerned about your eyes or your vision, your optometrist should be your first port of call. They can recommend solutions to help reduce discomfort and offer advice regarding your eye health.”

The AOP's position on blue light can be found on its website.