Since Edison’s invention of light bulb in 1879, light has been an essential part of human life. Nevertheless, overuse of artificial light at night causes a serious problem: light pollution. Light pollution is defined as brightening of night sky caused by man-made lights and messes up the order of night. Light clutter and sky glow are types of light pollution that are common in modern cities like Seoul, New York, or Ho Chi Minh.
Light clutter occurs when lights are excessively applied in a confined place. This type of light pollution is prevalent in main streets of Gangnam and Myeong-dong, both populated cities in Korea. Sky glow is also a common light pollution in modern society due to the increased number of skyscrapers. Skyscrapers and office buildings turn on their lights all night for city scenery, advertisement and work.
|(Light clutter in Gangnam station)
|(Sky glow in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)
Light pollution is extremely influential on both human life and ecosystem. Light pollution causes one’s body to mistake night time as morning and such a phenomenon will disturb a human circadian rhythm. Then the body doesn’t carry out biological activities such as producing melatonin (sleeping hormone) due to the disturbance. Lack of melatonin ultimately leads to sleeping disorder. Sleeping disorder increases stress level, weight gain and disturbs digestion. Besides, light pollution increases the incidence of cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and rectal cancer by inordinately secreting cortisol (stress hormone). According to the Haifa University in Israel, incidence of breast cancer was 73% higher for women who were exposed to excessive light at night than those who were not.
Ecosystem is also highly affected by light pollution. Among animals that are suffering from the light pollution, birds and insects are most common species that get most damage. Lots of birds migrate or hunt at night time. However, those birds are attracted by the lights of tall towers and die. Also, some birds attracted by the lights break away from their groups and fail to arrive at the destination. In addition, you can easily see insects like moth flying around the streetlights. Moths consume too much energy there and are not able to fly or reproduce properly.
In order to discover the reality of light pollution in Korea and solutions of light pollution, I had a phone interview with So Hyun Soo of Korea Environmental Corporation. He is involved in light environment department and deals with problems like light pollution that is related to human life.
I heard that light pollution in Korea is serious. What places in Korea are suffering from the light pollution?
It’s hard to say which places are suffering from light pollution because the standards of suffering are vague. However, most of the downtown areas exceed the criterion for light pollution.
What are some reasons for the light pollution?
Most of the causes are lighting fixtures and no regulation. People just use any lighting fixtures on advertisement or security light. Bad lighting fixtures cause light trespass, glare or light clutter. Also, different from the past, lights are used at too many places, even at unnecessary locations. It’s hard to regulate those wrong applications of lights.
What are some solutions for the light pollution?
Light pollution occurs when lights are not used at proper places and gives discomfort to either human or animals. Primary goal of solving light pollution is using lights effectively. The best solution for light pollution is changing light fixtures. There are three types of light fixtures: full-cutoff, semi-cutoff, non-cutoff. Semi-cutoff and non-cutoff light fixtures are likely to illuminate wrong places when full-cutoff light fixtures only illuminate certain place efficiently.
Has there been any cases that reduced light pollution?
Yes, in Bupyongpark, Korea Environmental Corporation changed its lighting that gives comfort to people who are in park. We’ve changed lighting into full-cut off lighting that doesn’t cause glare but rather shine a path.
As Hyun Soo and the rest of the world testify, it is obvious that light pollution is one of the problems that modern society should dedicate time and resource to settle. By knowing and caring more about the light pollution, the mankind can go one step forward to protecting human lives and the ecosystem from excessive man-made lights.
Seoul Scholars International
Joonhyung Ahn firstname.lastname@example.org
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