Booragoon scientist reveals dangers of intrusive lighting

YOUR neighbour’s security light could be shaving years off your life.

That is the message of Booragoon-based scientist Kellie Pendoley, an expert on artificial light pollution with more than 20 years’ experience measuring and studying the effects of light on biological organisms.

Dr Pendoley recently hosted a seminar for members of Perth’s Local Government Association, where she spoke about the latest technology and techniques to measure and monitor light to manage nuisance light complaints.

In the past decade, various studies have established a link between artificial lighting, specifically short wave-length blue light, and an increased risk of sleep disorders, obesity, heart disease, depression and cancer.

Dr Pendoley believes nuisance lighting complaints, such as a street lamp or security light shining into a bedroom window, are poised to become a massive issue for councils as more and more people wake up to the health risks.

“What we have seen, certainly since 2010, is this incredible groundswell of research that proves that short wave-length blue light is harmful to human health,” she said.

“Blue light is everywhere, but it is particularly prevalent in things like LED lights and the screens of electronic devices.

“This particular kind of light is very high energy and it disrupts the regulation of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep.

“If you suppress melatonin production you don’t sleep properly and it’s also linked to a range of other health issues.”

Multiple studies have concluded that women who consistently work night shifts, such as nurses or air hostesses, are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Scientists believe melatonin, which also helps prevent tumour formation, offers the best explanation for the link, because the body produces high amounts of melatonin at night, and melatonin levels drop in the presence of light.

Dr Pendoley also said that in addition to the health risks, if you had a light shining on nothing you were generating a huge amount of greenhouse gas for no reason.

Fascination with light begins with nature

Recently elected to the board of the International Dark Sky Association, Kellie Pendoley’s interest in light pollution began in 1995 with a PhD studying WA marine turtles at Murdoch University.

“My PhD focused on proving that flatback sea turtles are most attracted to the shortest wave length light available. That’s a problem, because celestial light (from the moon and stars) is fairly smooth across the spectrum – there are roughly equal amounts of blue, green, orange and yellow,” she said.

“When a hatchling comes out of the sand, they use the horizon over the ocean to navigate towards the water.

“However, if you have a town inland the artificial light it produces dazzles the turtles and blinds them to the horizon and they’ll end up crawling all over the dunes rather than into the ocean – and many will end up dying because of that.”