Dr. Richard Stevens Obituary: Renowned Epidemiologist, Who Discovered the Correlation of Increased Incidences of Breast Cancer From the Hazards of Light Pollution: Prelude by Guest Host, Dr. Mario Motta

      Most of you may not have known Richard Stevens, but if you have any interest in light pollution issues, you should know his name, and I am reporting the sad news that he has just passed away.    Mario Motta 

    Dr Stevens (PhD, Univ of Connecticut), was an epidemiologist…looking for patterns of incidence and causes of diseases.

     Back before the term light pollution was a “thing” in  the 1980’s, Richard noticed an unusual pattern of higher than normal Breast Cancer incidence that seemed to cluster in areas with high outdoor lighting. He collected data worldwide, and noticed when women changed location to higher lighted areas suddenly their risk went up with all other factors the same.

       In 1987, Richard was the first to put forward a hypothesis that high light levels at night can harm human health, and postulated that the mechanism may very well be melatonin suppression.  He then went on to collect data and show a very plausible connection, the very first indication that excessive night lighting can adversely affect human health. This was revolutionary and spawned  a whole new field.

     This observation led to many new researchers studying and testing this hypothesis leading to many studies (thousands now) published that in fact have proven this to be correct. This culminated in 2017 when 3 medical researchers received the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the biochemical pathway that leads to human health harm from this melatonin suppression. Again, he initiated this entire field of study.

     Like most of you, I got interested in light pollution issues primarily to protect the night sky, and was an activist on that level. However, in the early 90’s, I saw some of Richards articles and as a medical doctor, became intrigued that what I considered an irritant was actually a significant medical issue that needed to be studied and discussed when we talk about light pollution.

     When I was elected to the AMA council of science, and wanted to get AMA policy adopted for health reasons, I reached out to him, and we fast became friends.  The first major white paper in 2012 on “human health effects of night lighting” was in fact largely written by Richard.

     I was able to get four additional researchers to contribute, and basically I became an editor of their fine work, but Richard was the leader without question.  It was so well done with basic science and references that this led directly to the house of delegates of the AMA adopting this whitepaper overwhelmingly, and this remains AMA policy to this day, helping many in the battle on light pollution.


     In 2016 he was also the lead player in the AMA paper I put forth on the dangers of excessively blue LED lighting.  Again the science was so well done, the AMA adopted it as policy for municipalities to avoid 4000K lighting, stopping the lighting industry from putting up 4000K lighting on all our streets. (we are still battling this of course, but… without that input and paper the battle would have been lost I believe).

    Dr. Stevens showed, along with other researchers, that excessive outdoor blue-light at night is a human health hazard, and an environmental disaster.   This would not have happened without Richard Stevens insight and genius at connecting the dots on this issue. We all owe him a huge amount of gratitude.  I can say that without his influence I might never have been drawn to and aware of the  medical effects of light pollution to even write the articles. For any success I have had in helping promote this issue, it really comes from his influence on me, and his original insights that started a whole new field of medical light pollution harm and environmental damage.

     I had the honor of having him at my home a few times, and I got to know him well enough to call him a close friend.  He will be missed.

      I write this prelude to his obituary….so that proper credit goes to the individual who may have saved the world from oblivious over-lighting and the harm that would ensue.   I felt all in the amateur astronomy community should know.

Dr. Mario Motta     https://www.mariomottamd.com/

Obituary as following:


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