CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Bright Street Lights Can Be Bad for Your Health, Doctors Say

iStock
iStock

LED technology is cost-effective and energy-saving compared to other lighting options, but it may not always be the best choice for street lights. The cool, bright lights that have recently been installed in cities like Seattle and New York can be harmful to human health, a new statement from the American Medical Association argues. The group just released new policy suggestions on the subject, as Inhabitat reports.

"Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful when used as street lighting," Maya Babu, a neurosurgeon and AMA Board Member, says in a press release.

Most LEDs emit mostly blue light, which is problematic for several reasons. The high contrast of the light—which appears bright white—increases glare and can be uncomfortable for the eyes, making it a road hazard.

It’s also bad for people who want to get to bed at a decent hour. Blue light suppresses melatonin, making it hard for people to fall asleep. Doctors and sleep experts recommend that you turn off your electronics before bed for this reason, but you can’t exactly turn off the street lights in your whole neighborhood.

Bright city lights are harmful to animals and plants, too. Light pollution can encourage trees to bud earlier and disrupt the sleep cycles of birds.

The AMA estimates that about 10 percent of existing street lighting in the U.S. has been replaced with LEDs. The organization doesn't recommend staying away from LED street lights altogether, but recommends using lights that emit as little blue light as possible, reducing glare. They also suggest that street lights could be dimmed during off-peak hours. Bulbs should also be shielded so that the light shines where it’s supposed to, rather than into the bedrooms of neighbors or up into the sky.

There’s a reason we call bedtime "lights out."

[h/t Inhabitat]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
iStock
iStock

We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
iStock
iStock

In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios