Conversion to LED lighting brings a new kind of light pollution to Europe

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Color map of Europe at night for the period 2014-2020. The map was created from images obtained from the International Space Station using Nikon D3, D3S, D4, and D5 DSLR cameras. These images have been calibrated and spatially combined. The insert shows Paris as an example of the details. attributed to him: science progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abl6891

A team of researchers at the University of Exeter has found that the slow conversion of outdoor lighting to LEDs across much of Europe has led to the emergence of a new type of light pollution. In their paper published in the magazine science progressthe group describes their study of images from the International Space Station.

Previous research has shown that artificial light in natural environments It negatively affects wildlife and humans. Studies have shown that both animals and humans can experience disruptions in sleep patterns, for example. And many animals can become disoriented by the light at night, which leads to problems surviving.

In this new effort, the researchers note that officials in several countries have been promoting the use of LED lighting over conventional sodium lighting along roads and in parking areas due to the lower energy demand from LEDs. To learn more about the impact of this change, the researchers obtained images taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station over the years 2012 to 2013 and 2014 to 2020. The images provide a much better range of wavelengths of light than satellite images.

The researchers were able to find out which parts of Europe switched to LED lighting and to what degree. They found that the United Kingdom, Italy and Ireland, for example, experienced significant changes, while other countries such as Austria, Germany and Belgium saw little change. They found that LEDs emit light of different wavelengths than sodium lamps. The notable difference was the increase in blue light emissions in those areas that switched to LED lighting.

The researchers note that blue lighting interferes with melatonin production in humans and other animals, interfering with sleep patterns. Researchers suggest that increasing blue light in areas illuminated by LED lights may have a negative impact on the environment as well as the people who live and work in such places. They suggest that officials take a closer look at the impact of LED lighting before moving forward with new projects.

The dark side of LED lights: Suppression of melatonin by blue light

more information:
Alejandro Sanchez de Miguel et al., Environmental hazards from artificial night lighting are widespread and increasing across Europe, science progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abl6891

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