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Unveiling the Dangers of Light Pollution

Human activity has been a continuous danger to the environment and all living things. Right now, mounting research has put the spotlight on light pollution – the unrestrained and unnecessary use of artificial light. This type of pollution affects more than 80% of the world's population, with Singapore taking the lead.

Scientists have reported four main types of light pollution: sky glow, clutter, light trespass, and glare. Sky glow is the excessive brightness of the urban night sky caused by streetlamps, car lights, and factories. Living with high levels of this type of pollution makes it difficult to see stars at night, as it redirects their light and can obstruct the views of stars for astronomers and observers. Clutter is the unnatural grouping of lights, which are normally bright billboards and flashy tourist attractions. Since moonlight leads animals to their migration patterns, this often confuses animals and causes them to stray from their normal patterns. Light trespassing is light that reaches into an undesired space; such as light from a streetlamp seeping into a bedroom window. Lastly, glare is light that can cause discomfort and annoyance while driving, walking, or doing other daily tasks.

Beyond everyday tasks, light pollution is detrimental to human health and behavior. Light trespass, in particular, can disturb sleep and melatonin production, which requires surroundings to be fully dark to work properly. If not, many health issues develop, including fatigue, anxiety, stress, and sleep deprivation. Blue light, found in cell phones, computers, and even in popular LED light bulbs, also exposes people to the same damaging threats. Furthermore, studies reveal lower melatonin production is linked to cancer. As a result of this study, the American Medical Association advocates to control light pollution and discover the additional risks of nocturnal light.

Humans are not the only ones exposed to its destructive effects, as light pollution also poses a great danger to animal and environmental life. For instance, large populations of insects are guided to light and immediately killed. If this continues with no interruption, it can change wildlife, since insects play a vital role in the food chain. Even marine life can be affected by excessive underwater lighting coming from oil rigs, ships, and underwater equipment. Several organizations intend to further prevent light pollution in parks and natural habitats, such as the International Dark Sky Association and the National Park Service. These organizations keep a close eye on and limit brightness in public spaces.

States across the U.S., including Connecticut, Minnesota, and Texas, have all approved laws to restrict outdoor lighting. People can make a difference by using light when it is necessary and keeping light inside homes or buildings to avoid it escaping and adding to the pollution outside.

[Source: National Geographic Society]

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