Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


DRAFT Model Light Pollution and Radiation Safety Element for a General Plan

By David Dilworth

Copyright 2004-2012 Helping Our Peninsula's Environment

(Permission to use in a legislative body's policy is hereby granted - but only where credit is given to Helping Our Peninsula's Environment and David Dilworth, and notice is received by Helping Our Peninsula's Environment. Any other use requires written permission.)

Informed Consent Light and Radiation Pollution Safety Policy 

This Light & Radiation Prevention Policy or General Plan Element can be used by any nation, state, city or county (for example - California, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calaveras County or Canada).

It is intended to be a higher level policy that guides preparation of a Lighting or Radiation Ordinance by defining the scope and limits of what they must address. It is not intended as a Lighting or Radiation Ordinance though parts of it could be used that way.

In California, all cities and counties are required prepare and adopt a "General Plan" and stay within the confines of it. They need to be updated every 5 years or so. Each General Plan has seven required elements including Noise, and Safety. Light & Radiation Pollution Prevention is not yet an Element separately required from Safety, but if it is easy enough for cities and counties to merely amend in an Element like this policy, they might do so.

If you review our companion Model Noise Element you may see that it is almost identical in concept to this element. A Noise Element, however, is required by California law.

You may notice that this Element has three improvements over typical light pollution laws:

  1. it includes limits on invisible radiation,
  2. it is aimed at what appears in the "eye of the beholder" rather than what is emitted by the source of light or radiation, and
  3. it allows light and radiation pollution if approval is given by all affected parties.


Your comments for improvements are welcome.


Light Pollution and Radiation Free Goal

The purpose of this light pollution and radiation prevention element is to restore and maintain (your jurisdiction's1 ) healthful environment free of unwanted radiation, light pollution, light trespass, and sky glare; to eliminate harmful and annoying man-made unwanted light pollution and radiation caused in, and coming into, (our jurisdiction).

Light Pollution and Radiation Free Findings

  1. This Plan recognizes that light and radiation pollution is not merely a nuisance, it can be a serious health hazard. Light pollution and radiation levels and types can easily cause immediate and cumulative vision and skin damage, annoyance, sleep interference, deep tissue biological damage and even death to humans and wildlife. It can interfere with individuals and community activities and and harm property and reduce its value.

    1. Damage: Continuous or transient light or radiation can cause permanent optical (solar retinopathy) damage above a light intensity of 20 candelas per square centimeter (cd/cm2). Noon sunlight has a luminance of about 160,000 cd/cm2. A 60 watt incandescent frosted bulb emits about 12 cd/cm2.

    2. Annoying and Significant: Direct Nighttime Light Pollution greater than 0.01 lux can be a significant impact and interfere with sleep; Direct Daytime Light Pollution above 10 candelas per sq. cm can be a significant impact and cause annoyance;

    3. Flash Blindness, Glare: Flash Blindness is when someone is temporily blinded with no permanent damage to eyes. It often occurs when a camera flashes indoors. Glare is a transient bright light that exceeds the eye's Dynamic Range preventing observing of other objects. Both can cause vehicle control loss.

    4. Invisible Biological Harm: Invisible low energy and low frequency infrared, microwaves and radio waves; and high energy and high frequency ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays can cause serious biological damage, including death. Cell phone radiation and radio energy is correlated with effects on human brain waves, motor functions and nervous system function.

    5. Starlight Blocking: Sky Glare levels of 0.001 lux barely permits star gazing; and

    6. Invisible Interference with Property: Invisible low energy and low frequency infrared, microwaves and radio waves; and high energy and high frequency ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays can cause serious property damage. Radio and cell phone radiation can interfere with medical devices and radio astronomy.

  2. This Plan recognizes that relative levels of light or radiation intrusion compared to the existing light or radiation levels, are sometimes more important than absolute light and radiation levels.
  3. For example 0.01 lux can be annoying or harmful in a dark natural area - a park, a trail, rural areas, or at a beach, but unnoticed downtown. Thus it is important to measure existing light and radiation level baselines rather than time averaged man-made light and radiation levels, which may be too high already.

  4. This Plan recognizes that harm and complaints are often caused by actual short duration maximum light and radiation levels rather than calculated average light and radiation levels.

  5. This Plan recognizes that there can be significant, and sometimes dramatic long term energy cost savings by reducing or eliminating wholly unnecessary glare and light pollution.

  6. This Plan recognizes each Californian's inalienable Right to Safety.

  7. This Plan recognizes the fundamental Informed Consent Rights of each individual --

    1. To be fully informed of a harmful action before it occurs, and
    2. To deny consent.


 Light Pollution and Radiation Prevention Actions

  1. Inventory: Within one year of adoption of this Plan and updated at least yearly -

    1. A complete inventory shall be prepared of -

      1. The natural nighttime light and radiation

      2. Light pollution and radiation pollution sources of all existing man-made activities experiencing and emitting transient and continuous radiation exceeding the limits established below.

    2. Physical measurements shall be taken, as opposed to estimates or computer models, and maps shall be prepared of natural light and radiation levels in all public areas and legally accessible private lands, and of continuous and repeating transient maximum light and radiation levels for all light and radiation sources in the updated inventory of light and radiation levels of all man-made activities.
    3. The measurements shall separately measure and map all light and radiation locations in our jurisdiction, and light and radiation levels, for --

        1. The Maximum Instantaneous man-made light and radiation levels and their durations, and

        2. The difference of an area's average natural light and radiation level to that of the man-made intruding light and radiation level at the time of the intrusion in lux.

  2. Astronomy Protection: To prevent interference with star gazing and astronomy -- no activity, existing or proposed, is permitted which can cause any direct intermittent or continuous light or radiation directed skyward.
  3. For example: Light and radiation shielding can completely prevent all direct light from causing skyward glare and radio astronomy interference by cell phones. Use of low reflectance materials can greatly reduce and minimize the amount of indirect lighting and radiation causing skyward glare. 

  4. The only exceptions to section 2 are --
    1. Aircraft landing lighting,
    2. Temporary lighting for alleviation of an Emergency, and
    3. Telescope adjustments and adaptive optics.

  5. Protection from Harm, Trespass, Intereference and Nuisance: To prevent light trespass, radiation trespass, biological harm, property harm, nuisance, annoyance or activity interference -- No activity, existing or proposed, is permitted which can cause, on any party unwilling or unable to give their consent, any transient or continuous light or radiation of --

    1. Visible Radiation:
    2. Visible Light levels exceeding 0.01 lux per square cm.
    3. Natural light levels exceeding 0.01 lux per square cm, where any alternative exists.
    4. For example: Light shielding can completely prevent all direct light from leaving a property boundary. Use of materials allowing no more than 10% reflectance can greatly reduce and minimize the amount of reflected lighting leaving a property boundary.

      Ionizing Radiation:
    5. Any amount of Gamma Ray Radiation,
    6. Any amount of X-ray Radiation,
    7. Any amount of Ultraviolet Radiation

    8. Non-Ionizing Radiation:
    9. Infrared Radiation - 10 watts / m2 (Sunlight provides ~ 527 watts per meter2 in the Infrared)
    10. Microwave Radiation - 1 micro-watt / Cm2
    11. Radiowave Radiation - 1 micro-watt / Cm2

  6. The only exceptions to Visible Radiation levels are --
    1. Temporary lighting for alleviation of an Emergency,
    2. Incidental vehicle lights, and
    3. Temporary Holiday lighting.

  7. To adequately warn people consenting to lighting levels exceeding Light and Radiation standards above, about the potential harm to their health, activities and privacy, each person giving consent must sign, and be given a copy of, a declaration clearly describing all potential maximum energy and durations of the lighting and harms to their health from the light or radiation causing activity.

  8. To eliminate light and radiation coming in from outside which adversely affect our area, (our jurisdiction e.g. Carmel or Monterey County) shall encourage avoidance and alternatives to all those agencies and jurisdictions which have control over those light pollution and radiation activities. 

  9. This Plan is intended to reflect the best available science and current conditions. As new information becomes available all policy related to this subject shall be updated immediately.

  10. At all times (the jurisdiction e.g. Carmel or Monterey County) shall provide adequate resources to fully enforce this element and employ at least one full-time safety officer trained in light pollution and radiation detection and enforcement and light pollution free and radiationless alternatives. 

  11. Compliance shall be encouraged with meaningful substantial fines collected, equal to the yearly cost of the light or radiation making equipment by each responsible party for violations of each provision of this policy. Such fines shall be wholly applied to providing light pollution and radiationless alternatives and light pollution and radiation monitoring.

  12. When successful enforcement of this ordinance is brought and accomplished by any person or entity other than the District Attorney the successful plaintiff shall be awarded $5,000 civil penalty from defendant and any other fees and costs deemed appropriate by the court including those awarded pursuant to (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1021.5)2


Note 1. Where you find the word "jurisdiction" in parenthesis you replace it with the name of your state, city or county - for example - Canada, Carmel, or Calaveras County.

Note 2: The Attorney's Fees Provision must be modified to fit your state or country's laws.

Note 3: There are 10,000 square centimeters in a square meter.

Note 4: There are one-million Micro-watts in a Watt.


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831 / 624-6500 P.O. Box 1495, Carmel, CA 93921

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This Page Last Updated Febrary 22, 2012

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