Health & Environment

The IEA 4E SSL Annex is working to help policy makers track and understand the latest science and research on how LED lighting impacts human health and the environment.

Health Impacts

Starting in 2011, the SSL Annex launched a study to review all of the major health-related literature associated with LED lighting. In 2014, the SSL Annex published a comprehensive review (download the Health Aspects Report) of the current literature on health-related impacts of energy-efficient LED systems in our homes, buildings and outdoor areas.

The study evaluates electrical risks, exposure to electromagnetic fields, glare, photobiological hazards, light flicker and non-visual effects of light. It provides a detailed review of these topical areas, and thereby gives decision makers important information that they can apply in the policy context of LED lighting.

The report found that SSL technology is not expected to have more direct negative impacts on human health with respect to non-visual effects than other light source technologies. Furthermore, for electromagnetic fields, human exposure emitted by SSL products does not appear to be a critical issue as their magnitude is generally much smaller than those corresponding to discharge lamps or certain household appliances. The report also provides advice on flicker and glare.

Lifecycle Assessment

Starting in 2011, the IEA 4E SSL Annex launched a research project to review of all the available literature associated with life-cycle assessments of LED lamps and luminaires compared to conventional light sources. The purpose of this work was to provide policy-makers with answers to important questions like ‘what are the environmental impacts of LED products over their whole life cycle?’ and ‘what are the strongest contributors to the environmental impacts of LED products?’

The report focuses on nine life-cycle assessment (LCA) reports published between 2009 and 2013 that compare LED lamps and luminaires with conventional sources. The report uses the data presented in these reports, including research by the US Department of Energy (DOE), the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other recent studies. The study found that on average, 85% of the environmental impact is linked to the use phase, while the remaining 15% is shared mainly between manufacturing and end-of-life treatment. Thus, the ‘energy in the use’ phase of an LED lighting system is the phase that has the largest environmental impact. Promoting more energy-efficient LED systems represents an opportunity to significantly reduce the impact of illuminating our buildings and outdoor areas.