Hamburg, Germany took part in an Earth Night event to draw attention to man-made light pollution on September 7, 2021. Ulrich Perrey/picture alliance via Getty Images
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The UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has released a new report that highlights the adverse health effects of light pollution and noise pollution. He recommends increased research and policies for these “neglected pollutants” that lack regulation and whose impacts are not well understood.
THE reporttitled “The Neglected Pollutants: The Effects of Man-Made Light and Noise on Human Health,” shows how these pollutants negatively impact human health, which can also lead to poor economic and social outcomes.
“Not only can they cause annoyance, affecting quality of life, but by disrupting sleep and circadian rhythms, noise and light pollution can contribute to heart disease and premature death,” said Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge and chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said in a press release. “While the increased risk to an individual may be small, the exposure of millions of people results in a significant overall health burden.”
The World Health Organization has reported that traffic noise impacts approximately 40% of people in the European Union, and about one in five in this area are exposed to dangerous noise levels at night.
Additionally, the UK Health Security Agency suggests that traffic noise alone has led to the loss of an estimated 130,000 years of healthy life in the UK. in 2018. Light pollution has been harder to track, but research suggests the rise of LEDs has also led to an increase in light pollution, according to the report.
In a separate review published in 2021, researchers analyzing studies of noise and light pollution found that these pollutants may have impact on microbiomes, which could have an additional impact on human health. However, many studies on this topic are small or dated, so more research is needed.
The science and technology committee came to a similar conclusion, noting that the UK’s 25-year environmental plan barely addresses these pollutants and sets no regulations on reducing noise or light pollution.
The committee recommends that the UK set up a specific advisory group on noise pollution and that the UK Health Security Agency set up a dedicated group to study light pollution, similar to the advisory group established for air pollution, to assess health impacts. He suggests that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) conduct more laboratory and field studies on the health effects of these pollutants and create a method to track, monitor and report light pollution. The committee also recommends policies that target pollutants.
“The government should focus on quantifying the health effects of noise and light pollution, setting targets and a regulatory framework to reduce the overall disease burden,” King said. “It should do so by the next five-year cycle of the environmental improvement plan. It must also strengthen coordination between departments and between central and local government, to ensure significant improvements in public health and quality of life in the UK for the benefit of all.