WTF Fun Fact 13337 – Light Pollution

Usually, when we think about pollution, we’re worried about smelling it or ingesting it somehow. Simply seeing it isn’t thought of as dangerous. But did you know light itself could be a sort of “pollutant”? Light pollution is a growing problem that is affecting us and our planet in many ways.

What is light pollution, and how does it hurt us?

Light pollution is the use of artificial light that is excessively bright or misdirected. For example, when streetlights or buildings shine light upwards into the sky. Sure, we need a lot of our street lights to keep us safe on roads and sidewalks, but so many lights and lights that are shining so broadly or brightly can really mess up our sleep and our ecosystem.

For starters, excess and misdirected light has serious consequences for nocturnal animals. It can disrupt their migration patterns, feeding habits, and breeding cycles. And as we know, everything on earth is interconnected in some way.

But light pollution also has a direct negative effect on human health. Our exposure to artificial light at night can interfere with our circadian rhythms. So think about how much light you can still see in your room when you shut off your light fixtures. Can you still see lights from streetlamps? Billboard? Store signs? Neighbors’ holiday decorations?

Exposure to light can lead to a range of health problems, including sleep disorders, obesity, and depression. It can also disrupt our hormones.

A waste of energy

Light pollution also requires energy consumption. And as we know, this can produce greenhouse gas emissions. So by reducing light pollution, we can help our ecosystem, ourselves, and reduce the energy consumption that negatively impacts our future.

What can we do to address the problem of light pollution? One solution is “dark-sky friendly” lighting. This means using lighting fixtures that are designed to minimize the pollution. It wouldn’t involve installing all new light fixtures. Rather, it involves the use of shields or hoods that would direct light downwards (which is where we need it to see roads and sidewalks anyway) instead of upwards. Using these fixtures can reduce the amount of excess and misdirected light while keeping us safe.

Most people don’t even know about light pollution and how it affects them. But once they do, they generally take steps to reduce their own contributions to it. (And we bet the neighbors are grateful!)

Reducing your light output might mean turning off unnecessary lights at night, using lower-wattage bulbs, and making sure outdoor lights only shine downwards.

If you’re seeking some darkness in order to see the stars at night, check out the International Dark-Sky Association. It’s a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and protect the night sky, and it has designated more than 100 Dark Sky Places around the world, including parks, cities, and communities that are committed to reducing light pollution and preserving the beauty of the night sky.

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Source: “Light pollution” — National Geographic

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