Ever had to don sunglasses when eating dinner to protect your eyes from the glaring brightness of streetlamps? Does sleep escape you because of the blinding illumination coming from overly powerful public light fixtures?
That’s been the experience of recent District of Columbia residents who have had to endure newly installed, distractingly bright streetlamps. Chosen for their beautiful, old-world styling and excellent energy efficiency, they’re the envy of anyone who sees them—at least anyone who visits the area. Residents tell a different story.
While the new high-pressure sodium lights are the most energy efficient, cost-effective option for public lighting, they aren’t necessarily kind to the night-time environment. They spill light upwards, through the windows of residents, causing widespread cases of insomnia. It’s what many are now calling light pollution, and it’s becoming an increasingly common story.
Despite their best efforts—wearing eye masks, jamming pillows over their heads, and closing their blinds as tightly as possible—local DC residents can’t seem to get any sleep. Normally law-abiding citizens, some have even resorted to vandalism, using duct tape and black paint to cover the too-bright globes in order to find some respite from the daylight-like glare.
Yet this is a perfectly preventable problem. With dark sky compliant outdoor light fixtures—ones that employ full cut-off designs to prevent lights from shining unnecessarily upwards— would keep the light focused on the streets where it’s needed, without flooding local windows with unnatural, sleep-reducing illumination.
If they’d follow the example of other US towns and cities who are moving to implement dark sky ordinances, they’d have regulations in place that restrict the erection of lights that are too bright for normal sleep.
And because they’re made to reduce light pollution at night, they allow Washington residents the possibility of seeing the brilliantly-glowing stars that would otherwise be obscured by non-dark sky lighting. Thankfully, Council member Mar M Cheh (D-Ward 3) is working on a solution—hopefully one that will encourage buildings and city planners alike to choose less obtrusive light fixtures in the future.