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Light at night- the good, the bad and the ugly


The recent House of Lords report on light pollution – The neglected pollutants: the effects of artificial light and noise on human health – is a sobering and frustrating read – a catalogue of  physical and mental health impacts and a complete lack of systematic measurement policies – or appetite for regulation. Decades of reports and recommendations have made little if any impact on the levels of artificial light at night – growing at an estimated rate of 2-3% per year,  compounding over time to devastating effect.


So what can the ordinary person do?


In the UK, the local authority has a duty to act if an artificial light is a ‘statutory nuisance – Artificial light nuisances: how councils deal with complaints. That means that it:

  • unreasonably and substantially interferes with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premise
  • injures health or be likely to injure health

Sadly street lights are an exception and ‘There are no set levels for light to be considered a statutory nuisance.’ But the compelling evidence in the House of Lords report is hefty ammunition.


Perhaps it’s time for us as shoppers and specifiers to vote with our wallets too. Given that an estimated 20% of energy use is wasted in light spill, focusing light where we need it will cut our electricity bill – a great place to start. The International Dark Sky Association’s website has a list of dark sky-friendly products – a great place to start – but they’re all American – an opportunity for the UK sector perhaps? – Find Dark Sky Friendly Lighting


Finally we can vote with our feet- or holiday spend at least – this article lists two Dark Sky Reserves right here on our doorstep – a USP for for a bright Air BnB owner? – Where to find dark skies in the UK: The best stargazing spots


Harness your natural glow 

Whether you’re on a beach or walking in the hills at dusk, you may have seen Luciferase at work – the remarkable molecule that gives a bioluminescent glow to fireflies, jellyfish and the single-celled dinoflagellates that generate the magical twinkling blue sand. This selection of beaches show just how impressive these tiny creatures can be – World’s best bioluminescent beaches

This chemical reaction is relatively rare on land but an estimated 75% of sea creatures use bioluminescence in some form – Why do organisms use bioluminescence?


 Here’s how it works: Within the cells of these bioluminescent creatures, there are specialized organelles called #Photophores. These tiny light-producing powerhouses contain two main ingredients – Luciferin (the light-emitting compound) and Luciferase (the enzyme that triggers the reaction). When Luciferin and Luciferase combine with oxygen, they trigger a shift in energy state which releases a photon or packet of light – Molecule of the Month: Luciferase

Different variants of Luciferin generate photons of different wavelengths, from the green glow of a firefly to the red searchlight beams of the loose-jawed dragonfish that zero in on its prey in the depths of the ocean – or the glowing yellow fluid released by the gossamer worm (Tomopteris sp).


It’s amazing to think that you’re generating light all the time too – your cells are actually using this ultra weak photon emission to talk to each other –  tuned at about 490 nanometers – the same wavelength as the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells…. Human Ultraweak Photon Emission: Key Analytical Aspects, Results and Future Trends – A Review

Your personal glow is critically affected by stress and other shifts in internal state – so you literally ‘shine brighter’ when you’re healthy! – Human ultra-weak photon emission as non-invasive spectroscopic tool for diagnosis of internal states – A review

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