Light Pollution: Definition, Causes, And effect

What is a light pollution?

Light pollution is the presence of anthropogenic and artificial light in the night environment. It is exacerbated by excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive use of light, but even carefully used light fundamentally alters natural conditions.

The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light known as light pollution can have serious environmental consequences: it washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects, and wastes energy. Components of light pollution include:

  • Glare: excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort
  • Skyglow: brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas
  • Light trespass: light falling where it is not intended or needed
  • Clutter: bright, confusing, and excessive groupings of light sources

Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Sources include outdoor and indoor lighting, advertising, commercial real estate, offices, factories, street lights, and illuminated sports venues.

The fact is that outdoor lighting used a lot at night is inefficient, too bright, poorly targeted, not properly shielded, and in many cases completely unnecessary. This light and the electricity used to create it are wasted by spilling it into the sky instead of focusing it on the actual objects and areas that are supposed to be lit by people.

Definition of Light pollution:

“Light pollution is a brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planets..”

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Light pollution is also known as photo pollution or bright pollution. Thus, this is an explanation for those who search for photo pollution or luminous pollution.

Light sources must be planned, designed, and placed in locations where they are of maximum use. These should be focused on what to lighten. A street light should concentrate on the street. A display light should concentrate on the information that is on display. Any light that is not falling on the desired object then causes light pollution on the far and upstream.

Light Pollution

Where can you see the night sky without light pollution?

Less than 100 years ago, everyone could look up and see a spectacular starry night sky. Now, millions of children across the globe will never experience the Milky Way where they live.

The increased and widespread use of artificial light at night is not only impairing our view of the universe, but it is also adversely affecting our environment, our safety, our energy consumption, and our health.

At night, places with dense human habitation are easy to spot from space. In some extremely light polluted places, like the tiny countries of Singapore, Kuwait, and San Marino, the sky is so filled with light that 99.5 percent of all-stars that people can see are completely invisible without optical aid.

More rural areas tend to have darker skies. According to “The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness”, the inhabitants of Chad, Central African Republic, and Madagascar are the least affected by light pollution. In these areas, the band of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is clearly visible.

Light Pollution Map USA

light pollution map usa

What is the main cause of light pollution?

The main causes of light pollution are:

  • Poor Planning: The placement of signage and street lights is planned by engineers, and if they do not take into account the effect placement has on the surrounding environment, they can create glare, light trespass, and light clutter.
  • Irresponsible Use: You may love Christmas lights, but leaving them on all night is a form of pollution, as is leaving a room with the lights still on or setting the timers on streetlamps and not adjusting the timer for the season. Not actively choosing to minimize energy waste is a huge source of light pollution.
  • Overpopulation: That is really a zoning issue. Too many businesses or too many residences, grouped in one area can cause light pollution of many kinds.
  • Excessive Use of Light: One significant cause of light pollution is the excessive use of electric light. Electricity has become quite cheap over time; therefore, people do not care too much about their electricity consumption. This leads to an over-consumption of electricity and also in excessive use of light, especially at nighttime.
  • Smog and Clouds: Smog and clouds can reflect the light emitted by cities and thus make the surrounding environment look much brighter, causing light pollution.
  • Lights From Cars and Other Motor Vehicles: Cars and other vehicles contribute to the problem of light pollution, especially at nighttime. The lights of vehicles shine quite bright in areas without any other light sources.
  • Streetlamps, Light From Houses: Streetlamps that are built too near to houses may also cause light pollution and may affect people. Due to poor street planning, this may impact people’s sleep in an adverse manner.
  • Garage lamps can be an additional source of light pollution, reaching nearby houses and affecting people when a neighbor turns on the garage lamp at nighttime.
  • Nighttime-lighting: All kinds of nighttime-lighting can affect people in an adverse way, and therefore cause light pollution. A good example would be the illuminated advertising spaces at nighttime that may cause light pollution to the surrounding houses.
  • Downtown Areas: Since downtown areas with skyscrapers usually are quite illuminated, they emit an enormous amount of light. Since many of the lights will stay on 24/7 for traffic but also for commercial purposes, they contribute to light pollution in a significant way.

What are the types of light pollution?

When people talk about light pollution, they tend to mean one of five specific types:

  • Over-illumination
  • Glare
  • Light Clutter
  • Skyglow
  • Light Trespass

Over illumination

This is caused by the misuse of lights. Lights on, or even street lights that are not set for daylight saving time, can result in millions of barrels of oil being wasted. This can immediately lead to an increase in operating costs in an area and disrupt natural sleep patterns.

Glare

Glare is a twofold problem in which light reflects off surrounding surfaces, scattering the light and causing visual problems. It doesn’t interfere with night vision, but it makes it difficult to identify and place objects.

Light Clutter

Light clutter is a unique man-made problem that results from poor placement design. A group of shop lights or street lamps can create contrast lighting that interferes with night vision and lighting.

It can also be strong enough to shed animals’ natural nocturnal systems.

Sky glow

This is a term used to refer to the almost dome-like cover of light to city areas. The light that is escaping from street lamps, signs, homes, and businesses goes up to change the quality of light in the atmosphere, and it bounces back down to the city from the atmosphere.

It can affect natural growth patterns and the ability of planes to navigate at night too.

Light trespass

Not only is it a form of pollution, but it is also a crime in many areas. Light transgression refers to unwanted light entering a person’s property. It could be light from a sign coming into a residential area or similar circumstances.

What are the effects of light pollution?

Too much light pollution has consequences: it washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects, and wastes energy.

  • Effects on People
  • Effects on Animals
  • Effect on the Earth and Ecosystem
  • Sleeping Problems
  • Effects on Traffic
  • Air Pollution 
  • Waste of Resources

Effects on People

The wrong kind of light or too much light has been shown to have detrimental effects on health and impair the quality of life. People who live on earth have a specific circadian rhythm programmed into their DNA that requires a regular pattern of light during the day and darkness during the night.

When these natural circadian rhythms are disrupted, they can have negative health effects and cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and insomnia.

Effects on Animals

Lights can attract or repel animals and insects. Most animal species function in a day or night system that is no longer synchronized due to light pollution. This can endanger entire species.

The effects of light pollution fall heavily on regions previously untouched by humans. Animals in these areas can be very sensitive to changes in their natural environment. They may move to other places with less light pollution or unwanted species may be attracted to human areas.

Effect on the Earth and Ecosystem

The earth’s ecosystem is dependent on natural light cycles. Because these ecosystems are usually very sensitive to changes in their environment, they may not be able to adapt to new artificial conditions created by man-made light pollution.

Skyglow alone can lead to a loss of growth protection as the light reflected from the atmosphere prevents the natural UV rays from reaching the earth. This disrupts the growth and decay cycles on which our food, air, and water supplies depend.

Sleeping Problems

People usually prefer to sleep in dark surroundings, and getting enough sleep is critical to our physical and mental health. Many people feel uncomfortable with light distractions while sleeping.

When the surroundings are brightened up, people can experience sleep problems that can lead to serious health conditions.

Effects on Traffic

Too much lighting or the wrong angle caused by light pollution may also have an adverse effect on traffic as it may cause temporary blindness. This can be dangerous when it comes to driving a car. If the driver’s sight is adversely impacted through excessive light clusters on certain streets, the probability of accidents may increase.

Light pollution even increases the danger to people as it can interfere with critical navigational systems for trains, planes, and even automobiles.

Air Pollution 

Light pollution also leads to air pollution that affects the atmosphere. Since large amounts of electricity are used for nighttime lighting, this leads to high CO2 emissions and other harmful gases.

Waste of Resources

Excessive use of light means the increased use of many fossil fuels. For example, lights need electricity, and to generate electricity, large amounts of coal are used in industrial processes. This means that we also contribute indirectly to the depletion of natural resources like coal.

What are some Solutions to light pollution?

Here are five ways you can reduce light pollution and help preserve Dark Skies in your area of the world.

  • Use Core Glow stones for all your Outdoor Night Lighting
  • Only purchase IDA Approved light fixtures
  • Talk to your local representatives and support Dark Sky initiatives
  • Set an example – Turn your lights off!
  • LEDs and compact fluorescents (CFLs) can help reduce energy use and protect the environment, but only warm-colored bulbs should be used.
  • Dimmers, motion sensors, and timers can help to reduce average illumination levels and save even more energy.
  • Outdoor lighting fixtures that shield the light source to minimize glare and light trespass help prevent light pollution.
  • Switching to LED lighting allows for reduced illuminance without compromising visibility.
  • Turn off unnecessary indoor lighting – particularly in empty office buildings at night.
  • Avoid blue lights at night

FAQs.

What is Light pollution?

Light pollution is the presence of anthropogenic and artificial light in the night environment. It is exacerbated by excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive use of light, but even carefully used light fundamentally alters natural conditions.

What is the main cause of light pollution?

The main causes of light pollution are:
1. Poor Planning.
2. Irresponsible Use.
3. Overpopulation.
4. Excessive Use of Light.
5. Smog and Clouds.
6. Lights From Cars and Other Motor Vehicles.
7. Streetlamps, Light From Houses, and Garage Lamps.
8. Nighttime-lighting

What are the effects of light pollution?

Too much light pollution has consequences: it washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects, and wastes energy.
1. Effects on People
2. Effects on Animals
3. Effect on the Earth and Ecosystem
4. Sleeping Problems
5. Effects on Traffic
6. Air Pollution
7. Waste of Resources

What are the types of light pollution?

When people talk about light pollution, they tend to mean one of five specific types:
1. Over-illumination
2. Glare
3. Light Clutter
4. Skyglow
5. Light Trespass