Pictures: Why do shops and pubs keep their lights on overnight in Northampton town centre? Especially when we've been in lockdown for most of the last year

Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more, according to experts

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 2:13 pm

Many of the shops in Northampton s Abington Street leave their lights on all throughout the night - but why? Especially during a global pandemic which has meant many of these business have been closed for long periods of time over the last year as the UK has been in lockdown.

Click through the pictures to see each shop's response as to why they keep their lights on. All pictures were taken on Wednesday, March 17 between 12am and 1am.

What is Light Pollution?

According to Globe at Night, light pollution is excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial (usually outdoor) light. Too much light pollution has consequences: it washes out starlight in the night sky, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects and wastes energy.

How does it affect humans?

According to International Dark Sky Association (IDSA), humans evolved to the rhythms of the natural light-dark cycle of day and night. The spread of artificial lighting means most of us no longer experience truly dark nights.

Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more, according to IDSA.

LED bulbs myth debunked

A National Geographic spokesman said: "While LEDs are cheaper than previous alternatives, they come with hidden costs. People tend to overuse them and over-illuminate areas, and without proper shielding, these much brighter bulbs cast large amounts of wasted light in all directions.

"What’s more, the inexpensive white LEDs often found in street lights emit wavelengths of blue light that bounce around in the atmosphere, potentially increasing sky glow. These wavelengths are also known to affect animals—including humans—more dramatically than lights emitting in other parts of the spectrum."

According to the IDSA, exposure to blue light at night is particularly harmful. Most LEDs used for outdoor lighting — as well as computer screens, TVs, and other electronic displays — create abundant blue light.

According to experts at Harvard Medical School: “If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health."

Extinction Rebellion Northampton's view

An Extinction Rebellion Northampton spokeswoman said: "Light pollution is an issue in Northamptonshire which we know to affect wildlife quite dramatically, as well as being a clear waste of energy.

"It’s interesting to think that by the end of the first lockdown the public was beaming about the fresher air, the return of wildlife and the general improvement to our local environment and yet, here we are a year after first entering lockdown with the same “business as usual” mindset that was causing our local environmental issues in the first place.

"Of course, we at Extinction Rebellion Northampton are encouraging people to think a little differently about how individuals can prepare for the “greener” world we inevitably need to live in.

"That’s why it’s important to focus our time on bringing the fight to seats of power and big business. That’s why it’s important that the media properly reports on how bad things are and who are the worst culprits.

"Fossil Fuel billionaires and Industry CEOs will have the public thinking the everyday person is killing the Earth by not washing their yoghurt pots up to be recycled, but the reality is far bigger and far more sinister and it starts with the billionaire businessmen who will stop at nothing to add more zeros to their bank account while the very Earth they live on burns."

Northampton Borough Council's response

A council spokesman said: “If we receive a complaint about light pollution in any area, we will investigate and, where we find the complaint justified, we will liaise with those responsible."

The borough council's website acknowledges that light pollution has an "impact on both the human and wildlife populations". The council also recommends ways to reduce light pollution, which is to "use only the necessary amount of lighting".

The authority is in charge of the street lighting in the area, which appears to be functioning properly.

What does the government say about light pollution?

A government spokesman said: "Artificial light provides valuable benefits to society, including through extending opportunities for sport and recreation, and can be essential to a new development. However, for maximum benefit, it is important to get the right light, in the right place and for it to be used at the right time.

"Artificial light is not always necessary. It has the potential to become what is termed ‘light pollution’ or ‘obtrusive light’, and not all modern lighting is suitable in all locations. It can be a source of annoyance to people, harmful to wildlife and undermine enjoyment of the countryside or the night sky."

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