Some environmental and health activists are on a mission to reform... (checks notes)... LED lighting?

Some environmental and health activists are on a mission to reform… (checks notes)… LED lighting?

As you can probably imagine, clean tech sites and the people who write for them get a lot of weird emails and DMs. The supposed inventors of perpetual motion machines (including some very weird ones that use lard) like to reach out once in a while. There’s also right-wing jobs who hate us because we’re going to hurt oil company profits, left-wing scatterbrains who think we’re not engaged enough in micromanaging people, and all the other interesting sorts of people. who to tell. at. We receive many links to websites that almost put TimeCube to shame and have similar “navel logic”.

So, it’s not hard to get unconventional ideas that may have some merit to fall through the cracks amid the flood of crackpottery. And that’s what we’re looking at today. Last year, a group of activists contacted me to tell me about LED bulbs. Specifically, they wanted to tell me that their “non-uniform light” was a problem. The email had a ton of links, but didn’t really summarize the issue, so I didn’t really dig into it.

It might sound a little mean, but an email with hard-to-understand claims against technology that has saved a lot of energy and money over the years doesn’t carry much weight. Given the widespread adoption of LED bulbs and the good they have done, any claim really has to be extraordinary and clear to grab attention.

But, they were persistent and kept reaching out to Clean Technicaand I finally decided to give them a chance and see what they were talking about.

The problems they encounter with LED lighting

I have to admit that their webpage, titled “LED Fraud” was not named big. Calling widespread technology a “fraud” sounds like something a crackpot would say. But, I decided to dig deeper and see what they are talking about.

One problem they identify is that LED light is difficult to compare to light from other types of bulbs. Why? Because LED light comes from small, flat sources instead of coming out evenly in all directions, it leads to a lot more light coming from some angles than others. So when you use light metering methods designed for other types of lights, you end up massively underestimating the actual light coming out of the LEDs.

The result is probably quite obvious: it blinds people. Light notes say it shouldn’t, but it doesn’t really work that way in the real world.

Another problem they run into is the color of the light. The LED lights can come in different colors (including soft white, which is slightly yellow), but even when they do, the band says most of the energy is still in the blue. Many mobile devices and computers can be set to emit less blue light at night to help with sleep issues, so you can imagine that LED lights emitting blue light that’s hard to consciously notice could be problematic.

The final question they address is how light works over time. You’ll notice that LED bulbs flicker and flicker on the camera a lot, and that’s because they don’t really glow continuously like regular bulbs. In some cases, they will appear to flicker at certain angles or move in a certain way, which can trigger motion sickness, migraines, and even epilepsy in people. When the bulbs go out, the flickering may become apparent to the naked eye.

A claim against energy efficiency

Another page, “Why don’t LEDs save energy?” makes a claim that I think has less merit. The basic idea is that LED lamps cannot technically be called energy efficient because they consume less energy, but do not provide comparable service to other types of bulbs. If their other claims are true (and some may be), that’s technically correct.

But, the widespread use of LED lighting in a variety of applications has led to almost everyone getting the light they want at a fraction of the energy cost. So I don’t think this technical argument, absent a stronger showing of harm, is really going to fly.

Do these claims have any merit, however?

I’m not a scientist, but from what I could find, it’s something that’s still being researched. This 2019 CNN The article explains that the known problem of blue light (especially at the wrong times of day or night) is real, and some LEDs make it worse. From a health perspective, the issue is still being investigated, but it doesn’t look good for brighter, whiter LED lights like those currently found in automotive headlights.

So while the website could probably use some improvements in how it communicates concerns, there are some legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.

Concerns about light pollution are also very valid, but it’s not really an issue specific to LED bulbs as much as a Dark Sky issue. The cheap availability of light probably leads to misuse of this light, which I have written about in the past.

What do they want?

This is where we see the organization asking for things that are not the domain of crackpots. There are no calls to jail or execute the people behind the plot, and no one is trying to blame the international bankers (code word for the Jewish people in many cases). They are actually asking for something quite reasonable.

Basically, they want the feds to reconsider LED lights, especially in cars. If they take a closer look, they’ll likely find that LED lights are often much brighter than other light sources, and could pose real safety risks.

My point of view on this

I think the Soft Lights Foundation needs a public relations officer. They have ideas that should be explored, but they don’t present them in a way that makes them sound legitimate. Using words like “fraud” and “discriminatory” and making claims of efficiency that most people would find unbelievable at first glance (we’ve all saved money on electricity bills) makes it hard for people to want to engage more.

Featured Image: A painting of Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (1775).

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