Tra-La-Light: Holiday Lighting To Health Declining

Holiday lights
During each year's holiday season, lights are strung everywhere, in the city and in millions of homes. Though the lights are a beautiful sight and symbol of Christmas, many Americans don’t realize that the holiday lights (and lighting in general) have a negative impact on the environment as well as on their own health. 
 

What is light pollution?
Light pollution is the brightening of the normally dark night sky (and corresponding disruption of other natural cycles) which is caused by our usage of unnatural light (such as street lights and Christmas lights). This issue worsens during the holiday season, as lights are lit throughout the whole night or when not needed. It is especially a problem in cities, where the planets, stars, and Milky Way cannot be seen through the night.

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So what? How does this pertain to me?
Light pollution also detrimentally effects wildlife and human health. Organisms live according to the Sun. For some organisms, when the sun is up, the day begins. For nocturnal organisms, it is the opposite. This is called the circadian rhythm. When artificial lights are on during the night, our brains assume that it is still day time, which in turn affects our biological clocks (or natural cycles) and leads to an increase in production of melatonin (a hormone in the body that makes us feel tired). As a result, we face increase risks for breast cancer and obesity. Thousands of other species on Earth face health risks due to light pollution as well.

How does light pollution affect the environment?
Nocturnal organisms are awake throughout the night. When unnatural lights are still on during this time, these animals may assume it is still light outside. For example, dung beetles are nocturnal insects who navigate through the night using the stars. With light polluting the night skies, the stars cannot be seen.
 

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Several birds migrate and hunt at night using the light emitted from the moon and stars. Lights that are on during the night can throw them off-course. Consequently, millions of birds die every year from collisions with buildings and towers.
 
Sea turtles hatch during the night on beaches and navigate their way to the waters of the ocean. These young organisms do so by following the natural light of the horizon. Artificial lights also draw these vulnerable animals away from the ocean, resulting in the deaths of the poor creatures.  
 

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What can I do about this?
Of course, this does not mean that you should stop your holiday traditions. Here are some ways to reduce the lighting in the atmosphere this holiday season:
  1. Switch to LED or CFL bulbs. Not only are they environmentally friendly, but they are also cost-efficient.
  2. Invest in light timers and controls. These are very useful in diming lights as well as automatically turning them off during a certain time period, especially during the nighttime or when you are away from your home.
  3. Take down the lights as soon as the holiday season is over. Not only will you save on lights for subsequent years, but you also reduce the amount of lighting present. 
  4. Use light-free decorations. There are several other alternatives to holiday lights, such as bright ornaments and garlands. As a result, you save a ton of money on your utility bill!

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Every change, whether big or miniscule, ultimately makes a huge difference. YOU, the individual, have the power to make this difference. Reduce your holiday lighting, use light-free decorations instead. Spread awareness of the effects of light pollution to your family, peers, and colleagues. When you reduce the amount of light you use this holiday season, you ultimately decrease the light pollution present in the world.


References:
  1. The Effects of Light Pollution on the Environment
  2. Christmas Lights Are Ruining Your Health and the Environment
  3. Your Body's Internal Clock and How It Affects Your Overall Health
  4. Reducing Energy Usage During the Holidays
Posted by Angeli Mittal on Dec 19, 2016 11:39 AM America/Chicago

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