A new study suggests that light pollution is a growing problem which could take a heavy toll on human health and the environment.
According to new research published in the journal Science Advances, artificial lights should be seen as an environmental pollutant with an ecological impact on many mammals including humans.
Co-author Franz Holker from the Germany-based Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries believes that light pollution is so dangerous that it could destroy entire ecological systems.
Over the last 60 years, artificial lighting has been making outdoors 3% brighter every year. While the trend has boosted human productivity and deterred criminality, it also came with a dark side: we no longer know what a truly dark night looks like.
Scientists warn of:
- A “widespread loss of the night” in the Western World
- 25% percent of North America and 50% of Europe are affected by light pollution.
- Light pollution can negatively affect living things by altering their biological rhythms, which rely on the day-night cycles.
Artificial Lighting Affecting Animals and Humans Alike
Study authors think artificial lighting is a modern-day source of stress for living organisms, which now have to adapt. It is worth noting that one-third of vertebrates and more than half of invertebrates need darkness to thrive.
Light pollution can impact microbes, plants, and animals alike. Nocturnal creatures may no longer be able to fulfill their pollination functions when artificial lighting is too bright. Migration, reproduction patterns are also greatly disturbed, researchers warn.
Humans are at risk too because the physiological processes that are supposed to occur at night are greatly disturbed. This is the reason why night-shift workers have various health problems from depression and anxiety to heart disease and diabetes.
What’s more, because of artificial lighting, we are no longer able to watch the stars. This is why ground-based telescopes are located in remote areas.
According to NASA data, Earth’s outdoor surface that is no longer in darkness has grown by 2.2% annually between 2012 and 2016.
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