With rising sea levels, extreme weather events and increased risk of damaging wildfires, climate change has been a growing issue of concern around the globe. The effects of climate change seem to be everywhere in the news. Since January, in the U.S. alone, we’ve seen tornadoes in the Southeast and Midwest, record snowfall in Seattle and a major storm in Hawaii. We also saw flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers from rapidly melting snow in the Northern Plains.
This blog will discuss how reducing electricity usage – including switching to LED lighting – can help address these climate issues, and how using the right type of LED lighting can avoid potential blue light health issues in humans.
And we’ve just been talking about the impact of climate change in the U.S. If global warming continues unabated, glaciers could continue to melt until there is no more ice in the arctic, which could threaten the polar bear and other species with extinction. Heat waves are expected to increase in intensity and water supplies would be reduced. Additionally, agriculture, trees, fisheries, wildlife and humans may all be negatively impacted. Some insects, such as ticks and mosquitoes could multiply substantially, damaging vegetation and impacting humans through the spread of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases like Zika.
The dangers to the planet and all life have prompted commitments from nations around the world to sign the Paris Climate Accord in 2015, which will be implemented in 2020. Recognizing that people are emitting greenhouse gases that are trapping heat and resulting in global warming, these nations pledged to help keep global temperatures from rising to under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this Century, and to strive further to reduce it to under 1.5 degrees Celsius. And just this May, the UN announced that about 80 countries said they wanted to increase their efforts to reduce climate change even before the 2020 target date.
Playing our part in reducing electricity, LEDs can lead the way
So, what can each of us do to make a difference? One of the ways we can help is to reduce electricity consumption. It is alarming to consider that worldwide electricity use is on track to increase 85 percent in the ten years between 2010-2020. And in the process of generating electricity, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming are typically released into the atmosphere.
Technology developments in lighting over the years have resulted in more energy-efficient bulbs, such as LEDs and compact fluorescents (CFL). Many countries, recognize the environmental benefits of these new technologies and have banned or are phasing out the traditional, and inefficient, incandescent bulbs.
LED lights, which are the most popular of the energy-efficient lights, reduce energy usage by 75 percent over incandescent bulbs, while at the same time, typically lasting 25-50 times longer. This impact of switching to LEDs can really make a difference to the environment. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes: “By 2027, widespread use of LEDs could save about 348 TWh (compared to no LED use) of electricity: This is the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants (1000 megawatts each), and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today’s electricity prices.”
With the major environmental benefits that they provide, and the fact that they emit very little heat, are compact and the light can be focused in a specific direction, it’s no wonder that LEDs are so popular.
But before we all jump head first into LED technology, there are some health tradeoffs that need to be considered.
The health risks of blue light
LED lights – as well as CFLs – emit a lot of blue light, which is radiation with a short wavelength, between 400 and 500 nm. Light with shorter wavelengths emit the greatest amount of energy, making blue light ideal for the environment, but unfortunately there have been negative health issues associated with blue light, especially at night. In addition to eye strain, and potential retina damage, which can lead to macular degeneration, blue light can impact our circadian rhythms – or internal biological clock that regulates our sleep/wake cycle and the production of hormones. And, more than any other light, it also reduces the production of melatonin, a hormone which prepares us for sleep.
A Harvard study found that too much blue light at night – resulting in disrupted sleep cycle – could contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other diseases. It is believed that the higher risk for cancer might be caused by the role that blue light plays in suppressing melatonin production, which in turn negatively impacts our circadian rhythm, resulting in less or diminished sleep. And, because the quantity and quality of sleep is reduced, blue light might also negatively impact mental health issues, such as mood disorders.
What’s the right choice?
So, what are we to do? How can choose between protecting our planet or our health? That requires a Solomon-like decision that fortunately, we really don’t have to make. Lighting manufacturers have been working on ways to maintain the energy benefits of blue light without the negative consequences to our health. Some have been trying to filter out blue light, but their solutions have been complex, more expensive and have lost some of the energy efficiency.
At Aurea, we’ve been focused on converting the wavelength of blue light, rather than filtering it. Our approach combines a patented energy conversion film that contains organic dyes with a high-efficiency blue LED source that is converted into a healthy light which minimizes melatonin suppression at night and circadian rhythm disruption.
These lights meet both the mood-based psychological and biological needs of the human body – and at the same time, maintain the energy efficiency of LED lighting. Our solution provides healthier LED lights without degrading energy efficiency, a typical drawback of solutions that filter out blue light.
So, now when it comes to the environment or your health, you can say “yes” to both – a win-win solution that is significantly better for you and the planet.