Light Pollution – Types, Impacts, and Solutions

AHave you ever heard the word light pollution? Well, for me, it’s something new and shocking at the same time. How could my room light be a source of pollution or a billboard contributes to light pollution? According to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), Light pollution is the presence of excessive, unwanted, or inappropriate use of artificial light such as street lamps, advertising boards, and sports venues. According to Wikipedia, an estimated 83 percent of the world’s population live under light-polluted skies, which inhibits their ability to see the stars in the sky.
Light is one of our most basic needs, like air, water, to sustain our life. It is used to help us to live productive lives, keep the darkness away, and meet practical needs like providing warmth, a method of cooking and even a measure of security. So light is the essence of life, and we evolved to need it.


An estimated 83 percent of the world’s population live under light-polluted skies


Excessive use of light causes light pollution. And this pollution has various impacts on people, wildlife and the environment. This writing will give an insight into the impacts of light pollution. Before getting into the topic, let’s learn the types of light pollution.

 

Thank you to Alena Darmel and Pexels for the image.
Thank you to Alena Darmel and Pexels for the image.

Types of Light Pollution:

Light pollution can be of three types depending upon its effects. Urban sky glow, light trespass, and glare are its types.

Urban skyglow:

Skyglow could occur from both natural and artificial activities. Excessive grouping of light sources such as at Time Square, New York, cause urban sky glow. Electric lightning increases the sky’s brightness, and it is one of the prominent human-made sources of sky glow. The light that emits directly from the source towards the sky or is scattered by trapped dust particles in the atmosphere causes glare and reduces one’s ability to view the sky. More particles are present in the atmosphere in poor weather conditions, increasing the urban skyglow.

Light trespass:

It is a phenomenon when light is cast where it is not wanted. For instance, when a streetlight enters a window and illuminates the indoor environment.

Glare:

Glare is caused by unshielded luminaires or, sometimes, the light background against bright light. The excessive brightness causes discomfort, such as during driving, reduces the ability to see the objects clearly and causes eye irritation. Thus, appropriate lighting with an ideal optical system is necessary.

Impacts of Light Pollution:

Following are the impacts of light pollution on humans, wild animals, and the environment. 

Artificial light, also known as light pollution, alters the body’s internal rhythm that guides day and night activities and affects physiological processes. 

An increase in light at night has severe consequences on human health. Light at night reduced melatonin production, resulting in sleep deprivation, stress, headache, and nausea. A recent study has shown a relationship between light pollution and cancer development in humans. This study shows us how light pollution can affect human health. Blue light, in particular, that has high energy, and less wavelength is dangerous. Blue light is also found in cell phones and LED (energy-efficient light bulbs). 

Impacts of light pollution have also been seen on animals. The biological activities of animals depend upon the day and night cycle for billions of years. Introducing artificial light has affected this natural cycle. It affects animal behaviour such as sleep patterns, migration patterns, and habitat formation. Before artificial lights, sea animals and birds were guided by moonlight. Because of the light pollution, these animals get confused, lose their way, and often die during migration. Insects largely die when they come in contact with a light source. Furthermore, female turtles lay eggs in dark places. Hatchlings then look for bright places, which is ultimately their final destination – The Sea. However, the hatchlings now move towards city lights and eventually die. IDA has reported that millions of turtles’ hatchlings die each day from light pollution. Light pollution has affected the activities of nocturnal animals as well. Predators need dark to hunt while prey needs dark to keep itself safe. These activities have completely altered. 

Since insects are food sources for many animals, it disturbs the food chain. A study conducted on Blackbirds in Germany has shown that artificial night lighting causes the birds to get up earlier than the birds living in natural areas – almost five hours earlier than their fellows. Artificial light from oil rigs, passing ships, and harbors affect even animals living in the deep sea.  

The combined effects of light pollution on humans and animals change the environment. Increased production of artificial lights has increased air pollution. Emissions from the manufacturing of lights contribute to global warming. The natural environment is maintained if living things function properly. An irregularity in behaviours of living things alters the environment, and a vicious cycle has formed. 

Ways to Reduce Light Pollution:

It is the need of the hour to reduce light pollution to protect wild animals as much as humans. The following steps could be helpful in this regard:

Keep the lights OFF at night.

Several organizations are working to reduce light pollution and bring back the night sky. For example, The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is educating the public in this regard. By keeping the lights OFF at night, people could reduce the impacts of light pollution, particularly on their health. Individuals must use outdoor lights only when they need them. Keep the outdoor lights properly shielded. Also, shut the windows and doors at night to minimize the chances of trespass. 

Use Sodium bulb

Sodium bulbs have less light and are ideal fit for use at night. So, keep the sodium bulbs ON when light is needed at night time.

Conclusion:

Light pollution is one of the dangerous sources of pollution. However, there is almost little to no literature about it compared to other pollution sources. Light pollution is of three types named night skyglow, glare, and light trespass. Light pollution affects humans by altering their sleeping patterns and increasing the chances of cancer also. It affects the behaviour of animals regarding habitat formation, predation, mating, and sleeping patterns. A significant way to reduce light pollution is by consciously taking action and using the alternative of LED bulbs to be lessened the severity of problems.         

 

 

                               

 

 

References:

 

 

                               

 

 

  • https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/light-pollution/
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285056237_Urban_city_lights_Light_pollution_as_one_of_the_effects_of_incorrectly_designed_external_illumination_How_can_a_successful_lighting_masterplan_diminish_its_impact
  • https://pepperdine-graphic.com/glowing-cities-light-pollutions-effects-on-health-and-the-environment/