Blue light from LED lamps inhibits melatonin synthesis in wild animals

(ORDO NEWS) — Although LED lighting has become a familiar part of our lives, it can be extremely harmful to nocturnal animal species.

Using kangaroos foraging on campus at night, a La Trobe University graduate demonstrated the harmful effects of LED lights on these Australian marsupials.

The hormone melatonin secreted by the brain is the regulator of the circadian rhythm in living organisms.

Depending on the amount of melatonin produced, we are either asleep or awake – it all depends on the light-sensitive protein in our eyes, melanopsin.

When light of certain wavelengths affects melanopsin, melatonin production is suppressed.

Under natural conditions, the suppression of melatonin synthesis occurs with awakening, under the influence of daylight.

Moreover, blue light with a wavelength of 420 to 440 nanometers acts best on melanopsin. And, unfortunately, Australia is now full of sources of such light – since the local government decided to replace old incandescent lamps with LEDs.

Because white LED bulbs emit a lot of blue spectrum light, they cause health problems in nocturnal animal species.

Alicia Dimovski, a graduate of the University of La Trobe (Australia), studied Eugenia’s kangaroos visiting the university campus at night for ten weeks and found a significant decrease in their melatonin levels.

However, a solution was quickly found: replacing the white LEDs with amber ones (emitting light in the red-orange spectrum) led to the restoration of the normal hormonal levels in kangaroos, as if they were looking for food in the familiar darkness of the night.

This is very important because seasonal changes in light affect mating and reproduction in Eugenia’s kangaroo, so reducing light pollution will help preserve many species of wildlife and allow them to live safely with humans.

Blue light from LED lamps inhibits melatonin synthesis in wild animals 2
Comparison of light waves emitted by white (left) and amber (right) LED lamps

In addition to regulating circadian rhythms, melatonin is also important for the immune system: it acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals and preventing the development of oxidative stress.

It is likely that replacing white LEDs with amber ones that emit a “safe” light will help wild animals not only regulate sleep and wake cycles, but also improve health.


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