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Academic research question validity of LEDs

9 December 2010 12.30 GMT

(International) - Three separate studies have questioned the visual safety and energy saving credentials of solid state lighting.

Two of the research papers have questioned the energy efficiency credentials of solid state lighting. The first, by Dr. Jeff Tsao at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, actually makes the claim that the introduction of LED lighting could lead to an increase in energy consumption in homes and buildings by a factor of ten within twenty years! This paper was published in the ‘Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics’ but was then picked up by The Economist on August 26th with the headline ‘Not Such a Bright Idea’ immediately setting the tone for a negative article. It’s actually based on some ludicrous assumptions that Henrietta Lynch duly criticises in her blog.

Then, in September, the National Lighting Product Information Program (NLPIP), administered by the Lighting Research Council in the USA, published a report, ‘Streetlights for Collector Roads’, that claimed that LED street lights have an inferior distribution and higher cost per mile than HIgh Pressure Sodium lighting. Again, it turns out that the methodology used was flawed and the LED luminaires used were, in most cases, underpowered and not appropriate.

Most seriously was a paper, reported by Le Monde on October 25th, by the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) that states that high-power LEDs can be detrimental to human health, particularly children. Apparently the high blue content in High power white LEDs exerts ‘toxic stress’ to the retina.

While this is a legitimate concern (see Deborah Burnett’s article on page 96 of mondo*arc 58) the report was immediately picked up by sceptics that LEDs are a certain health hazard. However, if you look more closely at the detail you can see that the report relates to conditions where you would need to stare into a HB LED light source with no diffuser and / or reflector for a very long time in order to cause damage - something that would be a health hazard whatever the light source.


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