Light Pollution: Burning Earth at Both Ends

The dangers of a bright night are becoming more apparent.

By + More

Welcome to U.S. News & World Report's homepage on light pollution and its effects. As you may have read in our magazine story, "Turning Out the Lights," the night is not the same as it once was. For a dramatic illustration of artificial light, check out our new "Light Pollution" photo gallery.

As a society, we are addicted to artificial light. We illuminate our homes and offices, our roads and car dealerships, our Christmas trees and cell towers, and even the architectural flourishes on buildings and bridges. Artificial light is essential to modern urban life and, as of this year, half the world's population is urban. Yet scientists and medical experts are beginning to recognize darker aspects of lighting the night, including harm to wildlife and human health—not to mention wasteful energy use.

Artificial light causes problems in several ways that are explored in the links below. For one, it disrupts animal behavior and can kill significant numbers of sea turtles, migrating birds, and many other species. Artificial light also upsets the body's circadian rhythms by altering our brain's production of the hormone melatonin, which seems to partially explain the high rates of breast cancer and perhaps prostate cancer in industrialized countries.

Here are some news articles and informative websites about artificial light at night:

  • "Shedding Light on a Cause of Breast Cancer" (Thinking Harder)
  • "Light at Night: How to Counter the Health Effects" (USNews .com)
  • Earth Hour
  • GLOBE at Night (The GLOBE Program)
  • The International Dark-Sky Association
  • "Lightscapes" (National Park Service)
  • The Urban Wildlands Group
  • Lights Out America
  • "Light All Night" (Science News)
  • "Bright Lights, Big Cancer" (Science News)
  • "Deprived of Darkness" (Science News)
  • I plan to update this page as I continue to follow this issue. I invite all to submit relevant links below.