A New Definition of Light Pollution Based on the Status of Light Pollution in Iran
Author: SeyedHamed Mirzakhalil, A member of Davtalaban-e Sabz-e Iran (Green Volunteers Society), An Iranian non-governmental and non-profit organization
Tel:+989124354092, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Iran, the discussion of light pollution theory has been proposed less than 10 years by Noor-e-Shab group (under my management) which is the member of an environmental non-governmental and non-profit organization (NGO). This article has been written to explain this group’s activities found new definition of light pollution by their observations and studies in Iran and holding 300 persons/hours seminars. National and international studies and classification of 1300 photos of different samples of light pollution in big cities of Iran could attain aforementioned definition for this group. The plan of this definition resulted in fundamental transformations in the field of outdoor lighting and astronomers’ attitude in Iran. In this article, in addition to explanation of light pollution’s new definition, has been studied some parts of the most important achievements of this group attained through last 8 years, despite existing problems and restrictions such as short of funds, lack of attention of urban managers and urban numerous problems, lack of educational and informative centers or organizations.
As you know, each country has its own behavior related to the light, based on its approach to lighting. For this reason, the definition of light pollution may belong to the same country. These definitions are sometimes such a way that if an enthusiastic person, in another corner of the world, wants to know what the light pollution is, doesn’t understand or hardly understands it. This makes my group and me (Messrs Hadi Kashani and Parham Mirzakhalili, Mrs. Sara Bagheri) gathered more accurate and more pictures to find a definition of existing light pollution in Iran and offer a new definition for it.
The definition of pollution or an issue should be comprehensive, inclusive and exclusive, perfect and also have the ability of quantitative and qualitative measurement. Many years ago, when I started my studies about light pollution, I didn’t find any definition contains all items and my observations in Iran, such as wasting energy and its destructions affect sky and environment. Definitions mainly were as examples to explain some events can destroy sky or environment by light. It could be proper studying examples for an expert and someone who is familiar with this issue but not for beginners. It is useful in short-term activities and just for familiarizing or superficial study of a student, but if this person wants to found and manage an association in the field of light pollution or make an academic study or lobby authorities, after a while, both self and his target society get confused.
In my opinion, according to following reasons it is difficult to understand what the light pollution is for an ordinary person in Iran; therefore to find pollution reduction methods for each society, having primary knowledge of pollution is as a priority to control it.
۱- We were born in an environment where taught us a very simple way to escape fear of darkness which is pushing the button and turning the light on. It is obvious that our understanding of darkness is different from our predecessors’ understanding, before light invention. In this condition which artificial light is a part of human culture and behavior, it is somehow difficult to discuss about control and standard of light and to understand this subject by audience.
۲- Discussion about some materials such as saving energy and wasting energy by lighting is not understandable for people and authorities given no attention and credit to it, in such countries like Iran which energies are not still expensive and everybody can choose his lighting among different kinds of energies and electricity. Incidentally, people don’t pay high charges for using energy as lighting.
۳- In Iran, More severe pollutions such as air pollution have attracted the attention of most urban authorities and managers. Air pollution has triggered shutting down many days through each year and caused 20 more people die, on air pollution crisis compared with ordinary days, because of stroke or heart attack leading death in Tehran, the capital of Iran . According to this, it is unprofitable to discuss about wasting energy, faint stars, going wrong astronomers’ observations or disturbing biological clock of citizens’ bodies, and we could see less co-operation of authorities.
۴- Some other reasons such as economic pressure on people and paying attention to basic needs like food and clothing have caused that people think less about environmental issues or sacrifice environment for their lives.
۵- As mentioned before, cheapness of energy in Iran has triggered the managers have no serious and codified planning in the field of optimal use of light in cities and this caused an approach led by taste towards the subject of urban lighting, and contractors and authorities’ being unfamiliar with standards.
۶- Lack of academic fields or widespread governmental or non-governmental educational centers has triggered taste attitude, wasting energy by disregarding standards and then lack of understanding of light pollution concept.
۷- Another reason for appearing taste attitude in the authorities and contractors’ projects is lack of specified and rigid rules at the country level about lighting or light pollution.
We mention the state constitutions hint light pollution:
Article 1 of protect and improve the environment code (adopted 17,June,1974 and modified 15,November,1992) states: «protect and improve the environment and to prevent and avoid any type of contamination and destructive action which disturb environment’s balance and proportion are considered as Environmental Protection Agency’s tasks.»
Article 9 of protect and improve the environment code states:
«Preceding any activity that bringing environmental contamination is prohibited.
Environmental contamination refers to distribution or combination of foreign substance with water or air, soil or land to the extent that its physical or chemical or biological quality transforms which could be detrimental to human being or other live creatures and or plants and or buildings. »
Article 2 of prevention method of air pollution (adopted 23, April, 1995) states:
«Preceding any activity that bringing air pollution is prohibited.
Air pollution refers to existence and distribution of one or more solid, liquid, gas, radioactive and non-radioactive radiation pollutant in open-air in the amount and length of time enough to transform its quality which could be detrimental to human being and or other live creatures and or plants and or buildings.»
But the history of the first direct rules related to light pollution was on November, 2008 which the City Council of Tehran obliged Municipality of Tehran to control light pollution and provide comprehensive plan of light and lighting of Tehran urban spaces, and also Municipality was obliged to use colored flags instead of lighting in National Celebrations but this rule was not executed for a long time. (It should be said that the country had faced an energy crisis in that year.)
۸- Tehran is as a pattern for other cities of Iran; this has caused them to sit on their hands and keep their eyes on capital which Tehran becomes their pattern for new and creative plans. Also, about lighting and light pollution, Tehran has leading role in urban spaces lighting and use of non-standard decorative lights (sphere model), this caused to unofficially issue the license of using non-standard lights in the whole country and everybody knows these lights as beautiful ones without paying attention to citizens’ taste and poll.
۹- In the country, there are just a handful of non-governmental organizations and institutions interested in the topics of light and lighting and control of light pollution; based on this fact, the capacity of specialist manpower has been low at the country level and confined funds of these organizations has lost the power and opportunity of propaganda and giving information or holding a conference or workshop for interested or ordinary people. In this situation, confined students of some academic fields related to these subjects, temporarily consider this matter or learn from experience of experts.
Existence of perfect definition of light pollution which contains all side-effects (comprehensively) of it, can direct individuals interested in opposing light pollution to a single way. Lack of specified definition, in a country and or in the world, has triggered an approach led by taste for using the light and sometimes may confuse urban management officials and sometimes imperfect definition distracts their attention from light pollution identification, as a result it causes no single system to plan a solving program. Also, it is difficult to find a national common solution when the problem should be solved but there is no single definition because people and groups of experts of a society think, conclude and represent solution based on their enthusiasm and knowledge of a phenomenon. Different attitudes in a society follow different solutions; as a result it needs more time to find a desired conclusion such as pollution reduction or knowledge increase of a society.
A unified definition can adopt a unified policy in the society; otherwise there will not be collaborative and worldwide work.
Based on aforementioned reasons, my group, at the beginning of its activity, took action to determine a definition for Iran’s light pollution. The other reason was deficiency of the other definitions of light pollution. For example, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of England (DEFRA) (2005) presented the following definition:
“Light pollution is the adverse effects of artificial light. Adverse effects can include sky glow, glare, and light trespass. Sky glow is the glow that appears due to scattered artificial lights caused by dust particles and water droplets in the sky. Glare occurs when bright light clashes with a dark background. Light trespass is when light goes beyond the property on which the light is located. Types of artificial lighting that commonly causes light pollution are street lighting, security lights in gardens and flood lighting used for sporting events.”
In this definition there is no hint to spectrum of a lamp. For example, most of lamps have ultra violet (UV) and adverse effects for environment and human beings if they use at inappropriate time.
International Dark Sky Association has presented following definition:
“Any adverse effect of artificial light, including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night and energy waste.”
Also, this definition has not mentioned at the quality and spectrum of lamp light in different usage of light in urban life.
Or for example Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOE) (2006) presents this definition:
“light pollution as any adverse effect and disturbance by light trespass as a result of the improper use of artificial light.”
It is sometimes happened no light trespass or somebody feels no adverse effect, but choosing an improper light for a place doesn’t need it causes light pollution unwillingly.
The following definition is presented by Oxford Dictionary:
“Brightening of the night sky that inhibits the observation of stars and planets, caused by street lights and other man-made “. Also, this definition just hints at inhibiting the observation of stars and doesn’t say anything about the other [adverse] effects.
Another definition says:
“Degradation of photic habitat by artificial light”  You may use artificial light at home and don’t degrade any habitat but the improper usage of artificial light would leave adverse effects with your family and you.
“Light pollution is the alteration of light levels in the outdoor environment (from those present naturally) due to man-made sources of light. Indoor light pollution is such alteration of light levels in the indoor environment due to sources of light, which compromises human health.”  Deficiency of this definition is paying no attention to indoor environment, which may be light-polluted, although no live creature commutes. In fact, we shouldn’t assume that there are just adverse effects of light pollution in environments which a live creature definitely commutes. You may produce light pollution in the environment that there is no one in but in the other environment, its adverse effects would happen.
According to aforementioned reasons, it seems following definition contains, based on its new classification, the most reasons and effects of light pollution.
Definition of light pollution
Artificial lights which, in improper time and place, deviate from their standard, and hurt and pollute environment and night sky by adverse quality.
In this definition, 3 words of time, place and quality are especially important, therefore we discuss them more.
Improper time: It may be used artificial light through some hours of a day which is not necessary. It may occur while indoor environment of building is bright enough by sunshine; our wrong habit makes us to increase indoor lighting by artificial lights. Another situation is in parking and corridor which all the time several lights are on; although there is rarely commute.
Lighting engineering forms when there aren’t natural light sources like sun, or they don’t light our desired environment enough. Therefore, if through a day, there are enough light and also light lamps, it is as an improper time.
Improper place: In modern world it will be done accurate calculation to use many kinks of energy such as electric power which are very important. There are also some defined standards about the use of artificial light sources at homes, public places, shops, hospitals, restaurants and etc and health of human, especially his vision, was highlighted by researchers. According to the type of each place, some standards of lighting level are defined for everyone planned for a special activity normally; it will cause light pollution if these standards not to be considered and taste attitude manages the use of lights. Actually, we can properly use energy and protect ourselves against harms with this attitude that represents how much light is needed for each activity and places. For example it is needed 100 lux of light for bedroom, 500 lux for classroom and 1000 lux for technical drawing room . Therefore extra use of light, in each place, causes light pollution. Now here we can hint at intercity and transit bus parking that has been lit with extreme lights and these reflect extra lights to the space and causes light pollution. Another problem of using light at improper places is entry the light to the private environment of people such as home and especially bedroom. Brightness of bedroom in the middle of night causes a disorder of melatonin hormone release and thus disturbs body’s biological clock and triggers stress, anxiety, concentration decrease and etc . It could be surely said the most residents of Tehran Metropolis sleep in a light polluted environment and just their physical bodies sleep not their minds principally. This is because of severe light pollution of this city and existence of Non cut-off fixtures in narrow alleys and high streets, even near the house windows.
For example, amount of light pollution of Tehran Metropolis has been calculated in a suburb observatory of this city.  Study of the amount of light pollution based on Walker Model
In this model, C is constant factor of each city’s pollution, P is the amount of resident population, and D is distance from observed point to city center.
Study of the amount of I for Maranjab Caravansary observing place.
This place is located 47 km of Kashan city (with a population of 253500). Thus:
Also, from a distance of 160 km and direction of northwest of Tehran (with a population of 7,500,000), it affects on this city and the amount of I is:
Adverse quality: the quality of light is very important in light engineering. As light should be used in proper time and space, the quality of light is very important for medical and health attitude. Each lamp, based on its process of light production, has especial quality, light color, and spectrum. For example, in astronomers’ opinion, the light of low-pressure sodium lamp is so suitable because it is easily possible to hide and cover its light from the view of astronomical instruments with special filters. The light of this lamp just lights yellow spectrum and has no other spectrum, therefore can be easily omitted by a filter. Unfortunately, sodium lights are no panacea. Some animals, it turns out, fare no better with narrow-spectrum, yellow light than with any more traditional artificial lights. Some even seem to fare worse.  So it is better to specify the kind of the light according to the environmental function.
Today, lighting designing is very important besides lighting engineering and necessity of paying attention to this subject gradually increases besides the other elements of urban architecture and even urban furniture. Experts’ attempt to define beauty in this field and paying attention to psychology and social behavioral science which lead to peace in different environments prove the importance of them in this world; although lighting designing is almost a matter of taste and gets away with formulas and calculations of light engineering.
 Director of Behesht-e-Zahra Cemetery in the meeting of Tehran environmental condition survey, Environment Committee of City Council of Tehran, 10, December, 2012;
 Verheijen, F. J. (1985). “Photopollution: Artificial light optic spatial control systems fail to cope with. Incidents, causation, remedies”. Experimental biology 44 (1): 1–۱۸٫ PMID 3896840
 Hollan, J: What is light pollution, and how do we quantify it? , Darksky2008 conference paper, Vienna, August 2008. Updated April 2009
 Kalhor, Hasan. 1386. Lighting engineering. Enteshar Publication Company.
Terrel Gallaway, Reed N. Olsen, David M. Mitchell, The economics of global light pollution, Ecological Economics J , 26 November 2009, p 659;
 Alidoosti, Sohrab. Special booklet for Astronomy Club Isfahan, 26, June, 2011, p11;
 Ben Harder, Deprived of Darkness: The unnatural ecology of artificial light at night, Science News, Vol. 161, No. 16, April 20, 2002, p. 248