In an effort to reduce energy consumption and make street lighting more environmentally friendly, Europe was switching to LED lights In its street lights. However, it is not necessarily a good choice, at least not in all respects.
Switching to LEDs is already visible from space, as well as the light pollution they cause. Of course, not only our photos and the view of the night sky were affected. As scientists warm up, the increased use of LED lights will also tamper with living things and their life cycles, including animals and humans.
In a study published in science progressIn this article, a group of scientists have published night-time color maps they have created from images of the International Space Station of Europe. The maps were created for the periods between 2012 and 2013, and between 2014 and 2020. They show before and after the spread of LED street lights, and show us changes in color spectra and light intensity emissions.
According to the results, there was a shift in color with the change of lighting technology. White LEDs give off a blue light compared to high pressure sodium lights that give off a yellowish glow. In addition, the light has become more intense with the implementation of LEDs.
So why is all this worrying? Of course, the intense glow of the LED lights will affect the night sky view, making our night photos Even bleaker than they are now. It makes it more difficult to find a dark spot and take pictures of the night sky.
but most importantly, light pollution impact Sleep and life cycles in humans and animals, which could have dire consequences. For humans, the blue light of LEDs prevents the exposure of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy and that is naturally stimulated by being in the dark right before bed. And if you’ve been sleep deprived for longer periods of time, you know What do you do.
Fortunately, we humans can at least use sleep masks, dark curtains, etc. to help us fall asleep and stay asleep. But what about animals? They can’t just conclude that “this is just a street light, I wouldn’t use it for commuting”. The use of LED lights can greatly affect animals and their life cycles. “Often night is the time for eating, pollination, sailing, nesting, or resting, and all of these processes are affected by artificial light,” says Alejandro Sanchez de Miguel, lead author of the study. Sanchez de Miguel explains that this type of light pollution sometimes harms animals by exposing them to predators, “other times by messing with their physiology.”
But there are some upsides to the blue color of the LEDs. It may be helpful in some situations, said Thomas Kilkenny of the Institute of Sleep Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital. “Blue light added to street lamps may make people more alert while driving and reduce accidents,” he explains. But as I mentioned, the downside is the damage it can do to your sleep while in your bed. “Sleep deprivation is already a major problem in society and in itself may lead to more traffic accidents, disease, depression and lost time at work,” warns Kilkenny.
[via Popular Science; image credits: Sánchez de Miguel et al.]