Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said light pollution is "in our portfolio" and that the agency is "thinking about it."
McCarthy, who has led the EPA in its recent campaigns to put strict regulations on power plants and U.S. waterways, was asked by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson if he could suggest a new mission for the agency.
"So is there a day, is there some occasion, where I can add light pollution to your portfolio," he asked McCarthy during a segment released for Sunday's episode of "Star Talk," a weekly late-night talk show he hosts on National Geographic.
"Well, this is another thing that's been called to our attention for satellites," McCarthy answered. "The imagery of the United States at night shows all those flares from oil and gas in places that are in the middle of nowhere. It is startling to me, to see the change in the night sky."
"Go in the big world and see how vast it is, and get a sense of yourself in it," she added. "It changes your perspective forever. And you're absolutely right. That's one of the reasons why we have to be worried about light pollution. It's in our portfolio, and we're thinking about it and there are steps we can take, but it needs to be on everybody's mind because the way in which we disconnect ourselves from the natural world means that my job gets harder and harder."
Light pollution is the introduction of artificial light into the natural environment, emanating from manmade sources like cars lights, night lights and street lights. Especially in inhabited areas, light pollution can make it extremely difficult to see the stars at night. Air pollution also contributes to obscuring the sky view, as the air pollution particles help scatter light in the atmosphere, contributing to "'sky glow."
Light pollution has been blamed for "circadian disruption," which is making it more difficult for people to fall asleep at night, as well as aging and cancer.
The EPA currently has no official regulations on light pollution.
The full episode is slated to air Sunday at 11 p.m.