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Study: Health problems from nighttime light exposure can be passed to offspring

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COLUMBUS, Ohio— A new study found that animals can pass the damaging effects of nighttime light exposure to their offspring, adding to the evidence that illuminated nights come with major health concerns.

Researchers at The Ohio State Universities found hamster pups born to parents who don’t receive a natural mix of daylight and darkness before mating are born with weakened immune systems and impaired endocrine activity.

Yasmine Cisse, lead author and a graduate student in neuroscience, said the circadian disruptions, those that disrupt the body’s natural 24-hour clock, could have major, long-term effects on children.

Previous studies have also linked many health problems, including cancer and diabetes, to dim-light exposure in naturally dark hours, which has prompted major concerns about the use of electronics late at night.

“Now, we’re seeing for the first time in these hamsters that it’s possible this damage isn’t just being done to the affected individuals, but to their offspring as well,” said Randy Nelson, senior study author, professor and chair of neuroscience at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

During research, the team exposed both male and female hamsters to either standard light during a day and night cycle or to dim light at night for a period of nine weeks. The hamsters were then mated in four groups. After mating, the entire group lived in normal light conditions.

Both Nelson and Cisse said this new study should prompt us to be more concerned about keeping our nights dark and avoiding increased exposure to light at night from tablets and phones.

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“I think people are beginning to accept that light pollution is serious pollution and it has health consequences that are pretty pronounced – an increase in cancers, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and anxiety disorders,” Nelson said.

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