The Health Effects of Light Pollution and How to Reduce It
Can you imagine life before the discovery of light?
Life must have been more limited after the sun sets. Restricted, but not uneventful. The milky way could have been seen in all its glory with only the night sky illuminating the horizon. What a breathtaking sight that must be!
Fast forward to today, there is an overabundance of illumination due to an excess of artificial light. Sometimes we barely see the stars on the horizon. We now have light pollution.
What is light pollution?
Light pollution is the excessive and unwanted use of artificial light at night. It is a growing problem affecting the health of humans and the whole ecosystem.
It is predominant in urban areas where artificial lighting has taken over. Artificial light may come from light bulbs, candles, street lights, vehicle lights, and skyglow (the glow in the night sky) from buildings.
Though invaluable in preventing accidents and allowing better illumination for work, comfort, and convenience, too much artificial light could be damaging.
Here are some of the harmful health effects of excessive artificial light and how you can reduce light pollution.
The Health Effects of Light Pollution and How to Reduce It
The health effects of light pollution on humans
The light emitted from street lamps, traffic lights, computers, tablets, and phones harm the body.
It can lead to:
- Extreme daytime sleepiness
- Diminished motor skills
- Reduced alertness
- Poor memory and decision-making
- Stress and anxiety
- Decreased attention span
The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is disturbed by artificial light at night.
The circadian rhythm controls the sleep-wake cycle and affects vital functions like hormone production, body temperature, metabolism, and digestion.
If this rhythm is erratic, you will experience health problems like weight gain and disrupted metabolism. It has an impact on the development of type 2 diabetes.
A recent study shows that exposure to artificial light for as short as 1 hour can cause necrosis (death of tissue) and apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Harsh artificial light can cause eye strain and blurred vision. It can make your eyes more sensitive to light and result in macular degeneration, which can result in severe loss of central vision.
A research found that fluorescent lighting may increase UV-related eye diseases by up to 12%.
The health effects of light pollution on animals
The health of animals is also at risk from artificial light at night.
Excessive artificial outdoor lighting can affect the behavior of wildlife.
It is natural for animals to be attracted to the bright lights. Organisms like moths and other insects, sea turtles, seabirds, shorebirds, and frogs are drawn to the light.
Bright lights confuse the animal’s navigational systems.
Species that migrate or hunt at night can wander off. Migratory birds might migrate prematurely or too late because artificial light can disrupt the natural cues they depend on.
It can hinder the animals’ capacity for long-distance migrations and lower their breeding success. A decline in insect populations has been linked to artificial lights at night.
Artificial light leads animals to where they should not be, posing danger to their safety by exposing them to predators. Baby turtles might get confused, and the light could draw them away from the ocean after hatching.
Some animals hide from the light, such as opossums, because it exposes and stresses them. Like humans, the animals' circadian rhythm can also be affected by light pollution. It changes night into day for nocturnal animals.
It suppresses melatonin production for some species, resulting in a lack of sleep and even cancer.
The harmful health effects of light pollution on plants
Sunlight plays a vital role in photosynthesis (food production). That’s why natural light is better for plants to grow healthy. Some artificial lights can be so bright that they can cause photo-bleaching in plants.
Plants need periods of darkness because it impacts their metabolism. It gives them a break from photosynthesis and from using up all the energy they stored.
Non-natural light coming from street lights or headlights can disrupt the natural cycle of plants. This disruption affects their growth and development and impedes flowering for some wild species.
How to reduce the usage of artificial light
Switch it off when not in use.
Invest in a motion light sensor. There are also occupancy sensors that automatically turn off the lights when the room is empty. Better yet, remember to turn off the light every time you leave the room to save on electricity costs and help reduce light pollution.
Don’t use decorative lighting unnecessarily.
Most people use decorative lighting to celebrate holidays. Some home gardens and cafes use fairy lights to soften the ambiance. It may look aesthetic, but it contributes to light pollution.
- Use warm lights outdoors.
Warmer colors outdoors do not only create a welcoming atmosphere; they are more pleasant to the eyes and do not affect our circadian rhythm. They have less impact on light pollution as there is less blue light—a critical contributor to the skyglow.
Switch to LED lights.
LED lights are energy-efficient. They use 75% less energy and last 25% longer than incandescent lighting. It uses 18% less electricity than CFLs and 85% less electricity than conventional lighting.
Use covered bulbs because they do not reflect light and illuminate the sky.
- Choose glare-free lighting for cars. The streetlights are already bright enough, so unless necessary, dim your car's lights while driving. This light is less harsh for oncoming drivers and causes fewer wildlife accidents.
Light pollution is harmful to the health and safety of humans, animals, and plants. It damages the environment by increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Help reduce light pollution today to lower your health risks, keep the animals safe, and protect the environment. As a bonus, you might get to see the magnificent beauty of the Milky Way that not even a thousand artificial lights can duplicate and outdo.
Wine Cellar HQ is dedicated in minimizing the light pollution. Contact us to learn more about how to reduce your light usage for your wine collection.