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Featured Articles   30 May 2023

 

Light pollution: facts, issues and solutions for public lighting

 

Light pollution is the excessive or misdirected artificial light that can negatively affect the environment and human health

 

With the increasing use of artificial lighting in urban areas, light pollution has become a significant problem that needs to be addressed. Light pollution not only wastes energy and increases costs, but it also disturbs the natural patterns of life for humans, animals, and plants. This article will explore the facts, issues, and solutions related to public lighting and light pollution.

Pollution lumineuse des villes

What is light pollution?

 

In this article, we will first define light pollution and discuss its types, causes, and effects on human health, wildlife, and the environment. We will also present statistics on the extent of light pollution in different parts of the world. We will then discuss the issues with public lighting, such as over-illumination, poorly designed lighting fixtures, excessive use of lighting, and light trespass and glare.

 

Light pollution comes in different forms, including skyglow, glare, light trespass, and over-illumination. It is caused by the excessive and inefficient use of artificial lighting, which can have significant negative effects on the environment, human health, and wildlife.

 

Types of Light Pollution

 

  1. Skyglow: Skyglow is the brightening of the night sky caused by artificial light sources. It can be seen as a dull glow over urban areas and is caused by the scattering of light in the atmosphere.
  2. Glare: Glare occurs when light from artificial sources is directed towards the eyes, causing discomfort and reduced visibility.
  3. Light Trespass: Light trespass occurs when artificial light spills over into areas where it is not intended or needed, such as into neighboring properties or wildlife habitats.
  4. Over-Illumination: Over-illumination is the use of excessive or unnecessary lighting, leading to wasted energy and increased light pollution.

 

 

Causes of Light Pollution

 

  1. Urbanization: The growth of cities and urban areas has led to an increase in the use of artificial lighting, resulting in light pollution.
  2. Inefficient Lighting: The use of inefficient lighting sources such as incandescent bulbs or poorly designed lighting fixtures can contribute to light pollution.
  3. Lack of Regulations: The absence of regulations or guidelines for lighting practices can lead to excessive lighting and light pollution.

 

 

Effects of Light Pollution

 

  1. Human Health: Exposure to artificial light at night can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, leading to negative health outcomes such as insomnia, depression, and an increased risk of chronic diseases.
  2. Wildlife: Light pollution can disrupt the natural behavior and migration patterns of wildlife, leading to negative impacts on their reproduction, feeding, and survival.
  3. Energy Consumption: Light pollution contributes to wasted energy and increased carbon emissions, leading to environmental damage and higher costs.

 

 

Statistics on Light Pollution

 

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, over 80% of the world’s population lives under light-polluted skies, with a third of the global population unable to see the Milky Way. In the United States alone, the annual cost of light pollution is estimated at over $3 billion, with more than 20% of energy used for lighting being wasted due to inefficient and excessive lighting practices.

In summary, light pollution is a significant and growing problem that affects the environment, human health, and wildlife. By understanding the types, causes, and effects of light pollution, we can take steps towards reducing its negative impacts and promoting sustainable and responsible lighting practices.

 

 

 

Issues with Public Lighting 

 

Public lighting is essential for providing safety, security, and visibility in urban areas. However, poorly designed or excessive public lighting can contribute to light pollution and cause issues. 

 

While public lighting is critical for providing safety, security, and visibility in urban areas, poorly designed or excessive lighting can cause several issues. These issues include over-illumination, poorly designed lighting fixtures, excessive use of lighting, light trespass and glare, and high energy consumption and costs.

 

Over-illumination occurs when lighting levels are higher than what is necessary for the intended purpose. This can lead to wasted energy, increased costs, and light pollution. Poorly designed lighting fixtures can also contribute to light pollution by directing light upwards, causing skyglow, or towards the eyes, causing glare. Additionally, outdated or inefficient lighting technologies can exacerbate light pollution problems.

The excessive use of lighting is another significant issue, as public lighting that remains on during daylight hours or in areas with low traffic or pedestrian activity can result in wasted energy and increased light pollution. Light trespass, which occurs when artificial light spills over into areas where it is not intended or needed, such as into neighboring properties or wildlife habitats, is also a concern. Glare, caused by the directed light from artificial sources towards the eyes, can cause discomfort and reduced visibility, leading to accidents.

 

High energy consumption and costs associated with public lighting can contribute to environmental damage and increased expenses for municipalities. Public lighting accounts for a significant portion of energy consumption in urban areas, and inefficient or outdated lighting technologies can exacerbate the problem.

 

To address these issues, responsible and sustainable lighting practices are essential. This includes using energy-efficient lighting sources like LED lights, which consume less energy and last longer than traditional lighting sources. Proper placement and design of lighting fixtures can also avoid over-illumination, light trespass, and glare. Implementing light control measures such as timers, motion sensors, and dimmers can reduce the excessive use of lighting, while collaboration between lighting designers, policymakers, and stakeholders can develop and implement lighting standards and regulations that prioritize sustainability and responsible lighting practices.

 

Finally, education and awareness campaigns for the general public can promote responsible and sustainable lighting practices and encourage the adoption of energy-efficient lighting technologies. By addressing the issues with public lighting, we can reduce light pollution and promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly urban environment.


The Milky way rises over the bright lights of Tucson, Arizona.

 

 

 

Solutions for Public Lighting

 

Impact of lighting pollution from public lighting can be reduced through several solutions

 

Using energy-efficient lighting sources: The use of energy-efficient lighting sources, such as LED lights, can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs. Compared to traditional lighting sources, LED lights have a longer lifespan and use less energy, making them a more sustainable and cost-effective option for public lighting. This solution can be applied in public areas, such as parks, streets, and public buildings.

Proper placement and design of lighting fixtures: The placement and design of lighting fixtures play a crucial role in reducing light pollution. Properly designed fixtures direct light downward, reducing skyglow and light trespass. As a result, communities should prioritize the design and placement of lighting fixtures to minimize glare, over-illumination, and light trespass. This solution can be applied in public areas, such as streets, buildings, and public spaces.

 

Implementing light control measures: Motion sensors and timers can reduce excessive use of lighting in public areas. By turning off or dimming lighting when it is not required, these measures can reduce energy consumption and minimize light pollution. This solution can be applied in public areas, such as parking lots, streets, and public buildings.

 

Collaborating between lighting designers, policymakers, and stakeholders: A collaborative approach between lighting designers, policymakers, and stakeholders can help develop and implement lighting standards and regulations that prioritize sustainability and responsible lighting practices. By working together, these groups can identify and address the issues associated with public lighting and develop solutions that promote a more sustainable and environmentally friendly urban environment.

 

Educating and raising awareness among the general public: Education and awareness campaigns can help raise public awareness about the negative impacts of light pollution and the importance of responsible lighting practices. By educating the public on the impact of light pollution and providing information on sustainable lighting practices, communities can encourage individuals to take action to reduce light pollution. This solution can be applied through various platforms, such as social media, public campaigns, and educational programs.

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