AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

Human and Environmental Effects of Light Pollution (Abstract)

Volume 48 number 1 (2020)

Mario Motta
19 Skipper Way, Gloucester, MA 01930-14; mmotta@massmed.org


(Abstract only) As a past AAVSO president, I share the AAVSO’s concern for preserving dark skies, and I have been active in light pollution (LP) issues for over 30 years. When I was elected and served for 8 years to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) council on science and public health, I was able to initiate AMA reports that eventually became and remain AMA policy on light pollution as a public health issue. I have now been elected to the AMA Board of Trustees, and will present current AMA policy on LP issues. This policy has dramatically altered the initial environmentally toxic plans for widespread LED light conversion worldwide. The inherent energy efficiency of LED lighting makes the push for conversion on purely economic reasons for many municipalities and states. The lower energy use results in a lower air pollution burden as much of the energy produced is based on fossil carbon fuels. Taxes to pay for this energy use are proportionally reduced as well. Furthermore, maintenance costs are reduced due to longer LED lamp life. Not all LED light is optimal, however, when used as street lighting. The design of the lighting fixture can result in glare if designed improperly, and thus create a road hazard condition. In some white LED lighting the color spectrum produces too much blue wavelength. This contributes to disability glare as this scatters more in the human eye. Excessive blue at night suppresses the hormone Melatonin with subsequent deleterious health effects. The excessive blue spectrum is particularly environmentally problematic to many nocturnal species. 60% of animals are nocturnal and potentially are affected adversely by exposure to nighttime electrical lighting. Thus there are significant human and environmental concerns in regards to short wavelength LED emission. I will present the data and resources for use by AAVSO members to make use this information for LP advocacy.