This week, Assemblymember Lee introduced AB 38 to curb the harmful impacts of artificial light at night (ALAN). AB 38 is a reintroduction of AB 2382 and would require all outdoor lighting fixtures installed or replaced on state buildings and structures to have external shields to redirect light, be equipped with either an automatic or shutoff device, or be motion-activated.
“Light pollution is pollution, and it has harmful impacts on our ecosystem,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “According to an estimate by the International Dark-Sky Association, at least 30% of all outdoor lighting in the U.S. is wasted, costing $3.3 billion and the release of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.”
Increased light pollution throughout California and globally has also had a disruptive impact on the circadian rhythms and migratory patterns of animals. According to the National Audubon Society, 70% of bird species migrate each year. Of those birds, 80% migrate at night, navigating to and from their breeding grounds using the night sky. However, excess artificial light attracts nocturnal-migratory birds and diverts them away from safe migration routes to human environments, where they are more susceptible to collisions with buildings and structures.
“Unnecessary and excessive light at night is disruptive and harmful to birds, insects, and other wildlife,” said Mike Lynes, Policy Director for Audubon California. “AB 38 offers a practical and effective step forward for California to conserve its biodiversity, save energy, and protect our natural night sky.”
In addition to the impacts on migratory birds, studies have demonstrated that light pollution can alter the behavior of other wildlife, often resulting in the death or decline of species such as turtles, birds, fish, reptiles, and insects. For example, ALAN can affect insect movement, foraging, and reproduction. When caught in a light plume of a light fixture, insects can circle around it until they die, or until the light is extinguished.
Humans can also be negatively impacted by light pollution, as ALAN can interfere with natural circadian rhythms. Sleep disorders, depression, cancer, and other adverse health conditions have been linked to circadian disruption in humans. For teens and adolescents who live in areas that have high levels of artificial light at night, they are more likely to have mood and anxiety disorders, as well as interrupted sleep patterns.
Earlier this year, AB 2382 was vetoed by Governor Newsom, citing concerns about cost and “an overly broad mandate that raises concerns for health and safety, security, and crime prevention.” AB 38 would only apply to newly installed or lights being replaced and exempts lighting necessary for worker health and safety or public health and safety including lighting used by law enforcement officers, firefighters, medical personnel, or correctional personnel.
“Through this small change, we can cut down on wasteful energy use, save money, reduce carbon emissions, and protect the health of humans and our migratory species,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee.
The bill is jointly sponsored by Audubon California, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the National Park Conservation Association, and the American Bird Conservancy.