Manitoba Hydro downplays seizure concerns about strobing street lights
Bright, rapidly flickering LED lights blamed on cold, faulty wiring
Manitoba Hydro is downplaying concerns malfunctioning LED street lights could trigger seizures in people living with epilepsy.
In December, the provincial Crown corporation received 57 reports of strobing or blinking LED street lights across the province. One of the Winnipeg complaints involved a rapidly blinking light in River Heights that created a strobe-like effect at Grosvenor Avenue and Elm Street.
Motorist Fatima DeMelo captured video footage of the light and posted it to Twitter because she was concerned it could trigger a seizure in a friend who lives with a light-sensitive form of epilepsy.
If you're driving down Grovenor tonight, please watch out for the flashing streetlight at the corner of that street and Elm. It has a strobe effect, something not good for some neurological conditions. Pls fix it <a href="https://twitter.com/cityofwinnipeg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cityofwinnipeg</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Winnipeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Winnipeg</a> <a href="https://t.co/OkfYXlW0na">pic.twitter.com/OkfYXlW0na</a>—@stacksandranges
People with epilepsy can take active measures to avoid strobe lights at socials or clubs, but may not expect to encounter bright, flickering lights on city streets, she said.
The Epilepsy and Seizure Association of Manitoba said there is validity to this claim.
"If somebody is photosensitive, is that likely to trigger a seizure? Yes," executive director Sara Bettess said Tuesday after viewing DeMelo's video. "It is a concern, especially if people are unaware and come upon it."
Manitoba Hydro does not share the concern about the potential for strobing street lights to harm people with epilepsy.
"The medical science suggests it is not at an intensity that would cause someone to go into a seizure," Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said in an interview.
'It could be the wiring'
He said faulty electronics led to the malfunctioning light on Grosvenor Avenue. But when a truck was dispatched to fix the problem, the light in question was working properly on its own.
A Hydro technician said cold weather over the weekend led the LED light to malfunction. But Owen said there are a number of reasons LED lights can fail to work properly.
"It could be the wiring. It could be the ground. It could be the installation itself," Owen said.
Manitoba Hydro is in the process of converting about 130,000 street lights to LEDs, which use less than half the power than conventional bulbs use and last longer, Owen said. Nearly half of the lights have already been replaced, he said.
The increased brightness of these lights have spawned complaints about glare as well as praise about improved public safety.