CAP calls for law to limit light pollution

Audrey Dermawan

GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) is urging the government to introduce a Light Pollution Act to mitigate light pollution.

CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said research showed that an overly bright night environment caused a plethora of problems, ranging from health to ecological impacts.

He said today that artificial light sources such as the bright xenon headlights of cars, badly-designed streetlights, LED lights, glowing handphone screens and television sets were the culprits.

For instance, he said, even though LED lights appeared white, they gave off a lot of light in the blue part of the spectrum, and this type of light had the most disruptive effect on the human body.

“Essentially, our body is confused by the extended ‘daylight’ created by artificial lighting and certain bodily functions either slow or stop working the way they are designed to, thereby lowering the immune system,” he said, adding that research showed that light pollution was affecting people, animals and plants.

“The habit of staying up late because of artificial lighting is found to be the cause of tiredness, irritability and health problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.”

He said studies found that night shift workers had higher rates of obesity and related diseases.

“This correlates with another study that shows that elderly people in Japan tend to have a bigger girth if they are exposed to higher light intensities at night.

“Other diseases that are linked to staying up late are stomach problems and ulcers, depression, and increased incidence of accidents and injuries. The incidence of breast cancer in women is also higher.”

He said evidence appeared to point to decreased levels of melatonin, a hormone that is produced at night, and played a role in regulating the body’s biological clock.

The hormone, he added, managed a number of biological activities, including “telling” the organs that it was night-time, but the production of melatonin dropped drastically with the presence of bright artificial lighting and this increased a person’s risk of developing cancer.

“We advise consumers not to overlight the environment and, if possible, opt for bulbs that give out light yellow or orange hues, and switch off the lights when they are not needed.

“We also urge the government to ensure that streetlights are well shaded to prevent the light from shining into people’s homes or diffusing upwards purposelessly into the night sky.

“As such we need light pollution to be regulated under an Act to make the country safer and healthier.”

He said there was little research on the relationship between light pollution and disease in Malaysia.

He said only 20 per cent of participants in a 2013 survey by University Malaya’s Engineering Faculty said they knew what ‘light pollution’ was. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd