Rising light pollution increases the risk of illness - what can be done about it
Right now in the dark winter months, most cities are brightly lit by artificial light. The lighting has a negative effect on the natural day-night rhythm and increases the risk of sleep disorders, infections and also cardiovascular diseases.
Since the invention of electric light, the darkness has decreased continuously. Although the consumption of electricity continues to decrease according to the Consumer Service Bavaria, the permanent illumination of the night by artificial light sources creates another environmental problem: light pollution. This also has a negative impact on our health.
Rising light pollution despite falling energy consumption
As the Consumer Service Bavaria explains in a recent announcement, light pollution and light smog refer to the brightening of darkness by artificial light.
According to the experts, an annual increase in nighttime lighting of 2.2 percent per year was measured from 2012 to 2016 alone. In Bavaria, the illuminated area increases by four percent annually. At the same time, however, the final energy consumption for lighting is steadily falling.
This situation can be attributed to the significantly more energy-efficient LED lamps, which often shine brighter than the previous incandescent lamp with lower power consumption. This makes it worthwhile for communities to use brighter street lighting, for example, and homeowners are increasingly illuminating exterior facades and gardens thanks to their low power consumption.
Effects on the production of the hormone melatonin
Artificial light can have a negative impact on people, animals and the flora and is considered a form of pollution. Flora and fauna have always been based on the natural day-night rhythm. The organism, the sleep-wake cycle and the behavior of humans and animals are tailored to this.
"The increasing brightness at night is not without consequences for us," said Marianne Wolff, environmental consultant at Consumer Service Bavaria at KDFB e.V. (VSB). "If there is no darkness, this affects the production of the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for the rest of our body and the organism gets out of rhythm," said the expert.
Internal clock gets out of step
A study by researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) also shows that artificial light from urban night lighting gets the body clock out of step.
In the journal "Sustainability", the scientists reported that light pollution suppresses melatonin production.
Melatonin has the important function of putting our body into a state of rest. The body temperature drops, we get tired, the heart and lungs work less and our body begins to regenerate, the Consumer Service Bavaria explains on its website. At the same time, the immune system is activated.
Higher susceptibility to infections and sleep disorders
And how does light pollution work? “Evidence is that sleep disorders, higher susceptibility to infections and an increasing risk of cardiovascular diseases, for example,” explained Marianne Wolff.
In addition, an increased risk of diabetes and breast and prostate cancer was found among shift workers in brightly lit areas.
What you can do yourself
There are now technical measures that can help to reduce nighttime lighting without endangering safety. A good example of this are street lamps that are directed exclusively downwards.
But private individuals can also do something. The Consumer Service Bavaria has summarized some tips:
- Avoid illuminations in the private garden. Upward-pointing white LEDs in particular contribute to light pollution.
- Darken your bedrooms. Children often have a night light on all night. Children usually get used to sleeping well in dark rooms.
- Think about whether outdoor lighting for your home is really necessary.
- Use warm white LED light. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Consumer Service Bavaria: The end of darkness, (retrieval: 28.01.2020), Consumer Service Bavaria
- Consumer Service Bavaria: light pollution, (retrieval: 28.01.2020), Consumer Service Bavaria
- Grubisic, M .; Haim, A .; Bhusal, P .; Dominoni, D.M .; Gabriel, K.M.A .; Jechow, A .; Kupprat, F .; Lerner, A .; Marchant, P .; Riley, W .; Stebelova, K .; van Grunsven, R.H.A .; Zeman, M .; Zubidat, A.E .; Hölker, F .: Light Pollution, Circadian Photoreception, and Melatonin in Vertebrates; in: Sustainability, (published: November 14, 2019), Sustainability