Could light be a language

Light pollution has serious consequences for people and the environment

Light is life. We need it to feel good, even to be able to survive. This is particularly noticeable when the first rays of sunshine after the long, dark winter create a good mood and spring fever everywhere. Light is luxury and offers us security. We instinctively fear the night because unknown dangers may lurk in the dark. Thanks to the many technical developments over the past 100 years, however, we can simply turn on the light and turn night into day.

However, the negative side of the progress medal is rarely discussed. Due to the permanent lighting in houses, cities and on the streets, we humans do possibly more damage to ourselves and our environment than we are aware of. In the following article we will inform you about the phenomenon of light pollution and the effects of too much artificial light on people and the environment.

In most cities it doesn't get really dark at night anymore. The artificial light from street lamps, billboards, shop windows and living rooms ensures that you can hardly see stars in the sky at night even on a clear day. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as “light pollution”. And this increases by around five to six percent per year. The permanent lighting not only leads to a loss of the natural night darkness, it also has negative consequences for people and their environment.

Artificial lighting changes the entire ecosystem

The change between day and night, light and dark is an important clock for nature. However, light pollution can significantly disrupt the chronobiological rhythm of people, animals and plants. As a result, the natural growth cycle of plants is disrupted and migratory birds and schools of fish lose their bearings. In addition, diurnal and nocturnal animals such as bats and birds suddenly get in each other's way when searching for food. For many insects, street lights become a deadly trap. The entire ecological system can be confused or severely disturbed by too much light.

Consequences for humans

The permanent flood of light also has consequences for people. The nighttime lighting can disrupt the hormonal balance and bring the internal clock out of sync. Sleep disorders are often the result. The release of the sleep hormone melatonin is delayed by artificial light in the evening, falling asleep in the evening and waking up in the morning are made more difficult and the overall sleep time is shortened. But sleep is extremely important for learning, memory formation and the functioning of the immune system.

Chronic insomnia, in turn, can be a contributing factor to diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. As individual studies show, the brightness at night can be responsible for the fact that adolescents reach puberty earlier. In addition, night light can even trigger depression. In experiments with mice and dwarf hamsters, for example, American researchers found that exposure to light during sleep leads to symptoms similar to depression in animals.

A report by the European Commission also sees other serious consequences of exposure to light: Too much artificial lighting could be associated with an increased risk of cancer. The reason for this is that the level of estrogen rises when the body produces too little melatonin; a high level of estrogen is a risk factor for breast cancer. Israeli researchers were able to confirm these results: They found that areas with high levels of light pollution significantly increase the risk of developing breast or prostate cancer. The reason is probably that the production of melatonin is inhibited when light falls through the closed eyes on the retina during sleep. However, if this hormone is not produced enough, the body is less resistant to cancer.