To me the new lights seemed harsh. First they installed them along the street, replacing the warm orange sodium glow of the old ones with a bluish glare. More energy efficient we were told, with less of the light pollution overspill that was spoiling the view of the stars. So as it was with energy saving lightbulbs, hand and head torches, the replacement of traditional incandescent bulbs with LEDs continued apace throughout the town. All good, yes? I’m not so sure.
It seemed the correct, environmentally thing to do. Yet still the light is harsh, and almost physically hurtful to my eyes. The light is always intense under its glare, yet creates shadowed areas of darkness between them. Avoiding pedestrians stepping out of the shadows and into the road in winter, whilst I’m driving, has become somewhat of a seasonal sport.
All artificial light is about mimicking the sun of course, illuminating the hours of darkness within the narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum in which we reside, extending our activity from mere daylight hours. I did some research; LEDs -light emitting diodes - bathe us in wakefulness inducing blue light, as the sun does. Other sources emit blue light too, such as phones and computers etc. which is why we are encouraged into having a down time from our devices prior to sleep. Blue light has a short wave length and can damage the photoreceptors in the eye; it is why we wear sun glasses in summer. Unlike the sun and incandescent bulbs however LEDs do not emit long wave length red light. Red light has health benefits, stimulating the retina to repair blue light damage, penetrating the skin and stimulating the production of mitochondrial ATP; crucial for providing energy in every cell of the body.
It’s not surprising that we have evolved to rely on the sun, that the ill effects of blue light can be countered by the benefits of the red. That’s the nature of real light and the universe in general; all seems perfectly balanced. But LED illumination isn’t natural and I suspect isn’t “real” light either.
Now it might be my prejudice against LED light but to me its the natural world that shows it for what it is – a synthetic light. Whilst walking the dog through an area of the park, the LED shone from the light from amid the branches of a silver birch. The light on the ground was shown for what it was, the leaves breaking it up into its digital components of lines. LEDs are here to stay, but do I like them? No I don't. As to whether they actually cause real harm biologically, we are all an experimental work in progress.