This summer, my evenings of sitting on my porch enjoying the lightning bugs in my front yard came to an abrupt end. That’s when the District’s Department of Transportation put up new LED streetlights on my street in the Woodridge area of Northeast. Intense blue-white lights, like the lights we see in prison yards in movies, now flood my street.
I tried to find anything on DDOT’s website about the change in the lights. I found nothing there, but elsewhere I found many posts that confirmed that my negative reaction to the very intense lights paralleled what was happening all across the country. In fact, in Davis, Calif., residents were so upset about the new LED streetlights that the city had to go back and retrofit them with different and more pleasing LED bulbs, at a cost to the city of $350,000.
But my most startling find was a post from the American Medical Association. On June 14, the AMA released a guide for communities converting to LED lights to help them avoid detrimental effects on humans, especially on circadian sleep cycles. Without adequate, high-quality sleep, daytime functioning is impaired, the AMA warned.
Quality-of-life issues are very important to me. I want to enjoy my porch in the summer. I want to be able to sleep at any time of the year without having to install dark shades. I want my tree-lined street to look like the friendly neighborhood it is, not a prison yard. I do not want to harm urban wildlife, including my lightning bugs. A study underway at the University of Virginia suggests that LED lights may affect their behavior.
Relatively few streets in my ward, Ward 5, have had LED lights installed, but I am told that DDOT will be removing the high-pressure sodium streetlights and installing LED lights throughout the city, including, eventually, in alleys.
These energy-efficient lights do save money. I am not objecting to all LED streetlights, just the very intense, glaring ones that are being pushed on us. They are inappropriate, unhealthy and invasive. Expense should not be the only consideration. I have to live with these blinding lights every night, and I can’t dim them.
I contacted DDOT, the mayor and my ward’s D.C. Council member to ask for a moratorium on installing LED streetlights until DDOT responds to the health and environmental issues and considers the wishes of their constituents. Thus far, my elected representatives are unwilling to commit to that.
The Sept. 27 Health & Science article in The Post “Cities take a second look at LED streetlights ” warned about these lights. Unfortunately, the District doesn’t seem to be one of those cities taking a second look, even though there is ample data to suggest it should.