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Study: Light Pollution Stealing Darkness, Impacting Health

Image: Study: Light Pollution Stealing Darkness, Impacting Health
(Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 22 November 2017 10:28 PM

Earth is losing its darkness, scientists say.

In a study posted in the journal Science Advances, researchers cited satellite data that found artificially lit surfaces around the world are spreading and growing brighter, producing more light pollution at night.

The researchers studied data from the month of October in each year from 2012 to 2016. They found that over that time, Earth's artificially lit outdoor surface grew by 2.2 percent each year, and the total radiance grew by 1.8 percent per year.

The outdoor areas that already had been lit when the study started in 2012 also brightened by 2.2 percent per year.

The trend has some worried about the implications for the environment and health, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"This is concerning, of course, because we are convinced that artificial light is an environmental pollutant with ecological and evolutionary implications for many organisms — from bacteria to mammals, including us humans — and may reshape entire social ecological systems," Franz Holker of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, one of the study's authors, said in a briefing, the L.A. Times reported.

Electric lights and outdoor lighting grew at a rate of 3-6 percent annually in the second half of the 20th century — an increase that has helped productivity and safety but means the night is no longer dark enough, the researchers noted.

Half of Europe and a quarter of North America have experienced modified light-dark cycles, the study authors wrote, calling it a "widespread 'loss of the night,"" the L.A. Times reported

"From an evolutionary perspective, now, artificial light at night is a very new stressor," Holker said. "The problem is that light has been introduced in places, times and intensities at which it does not naturally occur, and many organisms have had no chance to adapt to this new stressor."

"It threatens biodiversity through changed night habits, such as reproduction or migration patterns, of many different species: insects, amphibians, fish, birds, bats and other animals," he added.

Humans are impacted as well because certain physiological processes happen during the day while others take place at night — and tinkering with the body clock can lead to issues ranging from depression-like symptoms to obesity and diabetes, the newspaper noted.

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Researchers found artificially lit surfaces around the world are spreading and growing brighter, producing more light pollution at night, according to a study posted in the journal Science Advances.
pollution, night, darkness, study
371
2017-28-22
Wednesday, 22 November 2017 10:28 PM
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