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Unintended side effect of LED lighting
December 11, 2017, 4:32 pm

Energy saving LED lights have grown in popularity in recent years so much so that they have become ubiquitous, even in places that were previously left in the dark. With light pollution increasing worldwide, it is increasingly becoming an environmental problem.

A new report on light pollution finds that artificially lit outdoor surfaces grew at a pace of 2.2 percent each year between 2012 and 2016.

Using a specially designed radiometer mounted on a satellite, researchers were able to identify night time lighting around the world. "We'll light something that we didn't light before, like a bicycle path though a park or a section of highway leading outside of town that in the past wasn't lit," said physicist and lead author Chris Kyba.

Researchers noted a few rare declines in war-torn places like Syria and Yemen; while Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the US, which make up some of the world’s brightest areas, remained relatively stable. The growth in lighting noticed in South America, Africa and Asia is attributed to the increase in grid coverage to areas that were previously not connected to powerlines on these continents.

Environmental concerns drove the move into adopting long-lasting LED lights, but now there is the risk of too much light which leads to a new set of problems. The paper notes that artificial light emission into the environment will “continue to increase, further eroding Earth’s remaining land area that experiences natural day-night light cycles. This is concerning because artificial light is an environmental pollutant.”

The report cites external research that shows how light pollution threatens nocturnal animals, plants and micro-organisms and is “increasingly suspected of affecting human health.” Light affects our body clocks and affects our sleeping patterns, and a lack of sleep is known to make us more susceptible to a range of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.

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