Taiwan’s Light Pollution Law Draft to Regulate LED Billboards

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Bright colorful LED billboards, and neon lights are deeply integrated in Taiwan’s nightscape. The country’s bustling night life has been a major attraction for foreign tourists, but overtly bright lights at night can also be a health and safety hazard. Some local residents have seen their circadian rhythm disrupted by the bright lights, and it can also impact traffic safety. For years, there was no law available to regulate light pollution, but all this is about to change, according to an Apple Daily report.

Light Pollution Law to regulate LED display and billboards

The Light Pollution Law, which is being drafted by legislators will become effective by the end of 2016. The new law will be specifically tackling glare and flicker issues that has bothered most residents.

The new law will ban the installation of animated LED billboards, flash or spotlights (including searchlights and lasers) in school and residential areas. As for business and residential integrated areas, flashing light sources are banned from being installed near crossroads, and other traffic junctions. For instance, the island’s many betel nut stands will no longer be able to use flashy LED bars on store signs to attract consumers. Similar light sources will also be banned from windows.

Betel nut stands in Taiwan, such as this one, use a lot of LED lights in the stands decoration or shop sign. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The draft also proposes to turn off all shop sign lights by 11 PM in residential areas, while in business areas the sign lights should be switched off within 30 minutes after the shop closes.

The proposed fine for overtly bright lights ranges from NT $3,000 (about US $100) to a maximum of NT $30,000.

The Taipei Arena's large LED wall has received the most complaints for lighting pollution and glare. (Photo Credit: Nova Media)

Light pollution impact on health

In the meantime, the country’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has commissioned a research organization to look into the effects of glare and flicker on people. The commission found LED displays were normally five times brighter than conventional advertisement displays, said an EPA official.

According to the EPA’s statistics, displays, billboards, searchlights and reflected light from outdoor lighting received the most complaints. Not surprisingly, city dwellers filed the most light pollution complaints with 213 filed in Taipei alone in 2014. The Taipei Arena’s large LED display wall was ranked as the top source of complaints, while others include electronic billboards installed at 10 meters and above in buildings. In comparison, Hsinchu city residents filed the most complaints against lighting emitted from betel nut stands.

There have been growing numbers of insomnia cases caused by glaring LED displays, said Congcai Yang, head of Kaiyeshenshin Clinic. International research has also shown overtly bright lights at night can cause premature aging of the reproductive system, and raise breast cancer and colon cancer risks.

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