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Lighting Cons: A Guide to Light Pollution

Light pollution involves the unwanted accumulation of artificial light in the night skies, especially above densely populated urban areas. Light pollution occurs when humans construct artificial light structures that continually beam in their nearby environments. Environmentalists contend that the unnecessary use of artificial light has impacted the planet negatively. Light pollution manifests itself in several identifiable types, including sky glow, light trespass, and over-illumination. In recent decades, educational institutions, governmental agencies, and supporting organizations have come together to enforce regulations, laws, and safety codes to minimize the use of artificial light. Many light pollution proponents agree that artificial light contributes towards the safety of city residents; however, a large portion of office buildings, strip malls, sporting venues, and night clubs abuse their lighting. As a result, proponents have launched awareness campaigns to mitigate the unnecessary abuse of artificial light in commercial and residential establishments.

The Types of Light Pollution

Light pollution manifests itself in many different ways, including light trespassing, glare, clutter, energy waste, over-illumination, and urban sky glow. Light trespass occurs when artificial light shines from an unshielded fixture intended to illuminate the ground, but casts light into the night sky. Unshielded lighting fixtures wastes light and money. In addition, unshielded fixtures can compromise visibility for drivers, which can cause serious automobile accidents. Bright glare also produces shadows, which become hiding places for criminals. In metropolitan areas, companies pay to advertise their goods and services on billboards illuminated with bright flashing lights. These light sources can cause problems for pilots. Astronomers complain about urban sky glow, or artificial lights obstructing their view of nearby galaxies, planets, nebula, and stars.

The Effects of Light Pollution

Researchers have discovered that light pollution carries multiple adverse health effects on the human body. For instance, over-illumination tends to increase the frequency of headaches, worker fatigue, decreased sexual function and desire, increased anxiety, and stress. Artificial light also produces severe effects on alertness and mood. Studies have attributed light pollution as a major cause in circadian and hormonal disruption by suppressing the body's ability to produce melatonin. Light pollution also increases the chance of people getting into automobile accidents. Not only does light pollution hurt the human body, it disrupts entire ecosystems, especially nocturnal wildlife. Biologists have noted that artificial light confuses animal navigation, alters interactions among other animals in the wild, and changes predator-prey relations. Studies also suggest that light pollution prevents zoo-plankton growth around lakes, which affects species that thrive on algae. Light pollution also obstructs the nighttime view of the nearby solar system, galaxies, nebula, and stars.

Prevention and Solutions

Proponents against light pollution suggest that governmental, commercial, and residential establishments need to work together to reduce unnecessary artificial light exposure. The main problem lies with unshielded lighting fixtures, especially street lamps. City ordinances need replace outdated street lamps with fully shielded sodium lights. Commercial owners can reduce their overall light consumption by turning off their lights when everybody leaves the building, or moderately shinning lights on billboards. Residential owners can replace their light structures with lower wattage bulbs, and turning off their lights when they go to sleep at night.

Professional Organizations and Associations

Many organizations and associations have launched public awareness campaigns to reduce the impact of light pollution. Many have devised solutions and devices that will help control light pollution, while still providing the necessary artificial light sources to all of the local business establishments. Artificial light has its perks; however, it has proven to cause detrimental effects in areas that tend to abuse it.

Retrieved from on October 8, 2012


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