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View of the U.S. at night. Photo: NASA via Getty Images

As cities invest in technology upgrades, they have an opportunity to reduce light pollution, which impacts 99% of people in the U.S. and Europe.

Why it matters: Pollution is typically thought of as air, water and soil contamination, but light pollution — including from streetlights that cast excessive light — also harms the environment, human health and the stability of the global ecosystem.

The impact: Light pollution is associated with sleep deprivation, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.

Reality check: Unlike air or water pollution, however, light pollution is easily reversible.

What's happening: Cities are making strategic investments, including updating streetlights to reduce the span of light and to replace existing infrastructure with LED technology, which is environmentally friendly and offers cost savings.

  • Pittsburgh is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to retrofit the city’s streetlights with LED lights that mimic natural light.
  • Middletown, Ohio, recently announced a plan to convert 2,000 streetlight heads to LED, which will save the city $359,000 in energy and maintenance costs each year.

In the process of LED conversion, some municipalities, like Wilmington, Del., have also explored retrofitting streetlight fixtures with sensor technology that could collect air quality, weather and noise pollution data.

But, but, but: LED deployment is not the end-all, be-all solution. At one point, Davis, Calif., inadvertently over-lit the city with LED lights.

  • And, as is the case with any urban sensor technology, any data collected by new streetlight technology will need to be anonymized and secure.

What to watch: In addition to LED deployment, cities are exploring other tactics to encourage reduce light pollution and encourage energy efficiency.

  • Asheville, N.C., has an ordinance that limits restaurants' outdoor lighting.
  • Hollywood, Fla., has an ordinance requiring oceanfront properties to dim their lights at night to avoid interfering with sea turtle mating and migration patterns.

Karen Lightman is executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Go deeper

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Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

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Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

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