LED bulbs could protect people from malaria

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Sanofi Pasteur

LED bulbs have always been one of clean technology's biggest stars because of the potential for energy savings they carry. If every incandescent and CFL around the world was switched out for an LED, the energy savings, costs savings and slash in emissions would be pretty substantial.

They're also an increasingly accessible technology. Where they were once too expensive for anyone to have in their home, they're now affordable and easy to find at your local hardware store. Yet lately, it's felt as if LED bulbs are really having a moment. Not only are they taking the place of more energy-hogging light bulbs every where you look, but they're also at the core of an urban farming revolution and, now, they could help prevent the spread of deadly diseases like malaria.

Malaria is still one of the leading causes of death in Africa and other areas, with 655,000 people dying every year from the virus that is spread by mosquitos. Insects carry other nasty diseases too like dengue fever, West Nile virus and more.

While researchers are working to find better cures and ways to prevent contracting the diseases and hopefully a vaccine for malaria, there is still more work to be done.

A team of researchers has been looking at ways to repel insects and cut down on the spread of these diseases by experimenting with how different hues of light affect their behavior. Working with scientists from the Philips lighting group in Holland, University of California researchers discovered that LED bulbs that emitted less utlra-violet and blue wavelengths of light, attracted far less insects than those that emitted the more traditionally blue-toned light.

"The research provides proof in concept that LED lamps can be customized to avoid specific areas of the spectrum that could have adverse environmental consequences, while still providing light for indoor use," lead author Travis Longcore, a professor at the University of California, said to FastCoExist. "For places in the world where glass windows and screens are uncommon, reducing insect attraction to indoor lights is a big deal."

The study compared insect reactions to the customized LED bulbs with traditional LED bulbs (with blue wavelengths), CFL bulbs and a control that used no bulb at all. The blue-free LED bulbs attracted 20 percent fewer bugs than the other bulbs, which is a major difference, even though they actually emitted a more intense light.

Distributing these types of bulbs in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are common could help people have illumination at night without the risk of attracting more insects.

The bulbs may be beneficial to all of us those since scientists keep finding more evidence that blue-toned lights at night, like from our computers and smartphones, are harming us. Not just keeping us from sleeping well, but heavy use of blue light devices at night has also corresponded with an increase in cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

LED bulbs could protect people from malaria
Using LED lights with specific hues has proven to keep biting bugs at bay.

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