Energy-efficient LED street lights are so bright they could be a health hazard, according to new medical guidelines.
Research released by The American Medical Association in June warns that the high amount of blue/white glare emitted by LED street lights is increasing night-time glare, ruining sleep patterns, disorienting wildlife and contributing to light pollution.
The night brightness created by the roll-out of LED street lighting in New York has proved controversial – author Lionel Shriver described it as "mass civic vandalism" in TheNew York Times, and locals are petitioning mayor Bill de Blasio to halt plans to convert all the city's 250,000 plus streetlights to LED.
But Victoria, too, is an enthusiastic adopter of energy efficient lighting. In 2014 the state's target of 232,000 lights was second only to New York's, and more than 60,000 had already been installed, according to Ironbark Sustainability, a consultancy working with councils to switch on energy efficient light.
Now more than 190,000 LED light bulbs have been replaced in Victoria, and 72 out of 79 Victorian councils have signed up to make the switch.
Ironbark Sustainability is setting its sights on replacing every street light in Australia with an LED, a total of 2,303,896 lights across the country, which would amount to a reduction in greenhouse gases of 2.2 million tonnes.
But while LED lights are championed as a environmentally friendly option, Professor Andrew Hopkins, head of Research and Outreach at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, said LED lights are creating more light pollution than their predecessors.
"LED lights are much brighter than more traditional sodium lighting, the colour of the light is also much bluer. This has a bigger impact on the potential for light pollution," he said.
Professor Hopkins said LED lights should be properly shielded.
"Urbanisation is probably the major effect [on light pollution]. But the LED lights are brighter that the sodium lights, so it's important that they're shielded well, because if they're not they'll have a compounding effect."
The City of Moreland, which includes the inner-city suburbs of Brunswick and Coburg, has already replaced 5750 lights across the municipality, with the remaining 2750 lights to be changed by mid-August.
Safety was a consideration, said councillor Meghan Hopper, following a petition from women in the community for an immediate upgrade to the lighting on Sydney Road, Brunswick.
The petition, which received 624 signatures, followed a number of attacks along the road, including the rape and murder of Jill Meagher.
"By moving to LED you get a brighter, whiter, more crisp pool of light that makes people feel that little bit safer when they're walking home at night, because it is a brighter environment," she said.
Cr Hopper said that although overall feedback has been "overwhelmingly positive", there were some residents who had complained about the bright lights infringing into their houses.
"We've certainly had some people that border laneways that have noted that by us replacing light bulbs in laneways it has made the lighting brighter into their windows ... sadly, it is a little bit unavoidable," she said.
In September, the City of Melbourne will start replacing 16,000 street lights with the energy efficient lights, with the project expected to be completed in three years.
Councillor Arron Wood, chair of the Environment portfolio, said they planned to minimise the effect of light pollution.
"With any new technology, getting the technology right is really important. A portion of these lights will actually be able to be dimmed, and we're also looking at smart lighting and upgradable technology as part of this lighting upgrade."
Cr Wood said the project will save the council at least $1 million a year in electricity usage.