Researchers in the United States (U.S.) have discovered that light pollution could increase the likelihood of a preterm birth by almost 13 per cent. Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.
Also known premature babies, there are subcategories of preterm birth, based on gestational age: extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks); very preterm (28 to 32 weeks); and moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).
Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under five years of age, responsible for approximately one million deaths in 2015, according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO). Skyglow, the brightness of the night sky apart from discrete light sources such as the moon and visible stars, is one of the most pervasive forms of light pollution.
According to the new study, increased artificial brightness at night, coming from sources like streetlamps, outdoor advertising, and buildings, reduces the ability of people to see the dark sky and individual stars.
The study authors found that this could lead to health issues, particularly for pregnant women, the ‘Newswise’ reported. Laura Argys, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver, in the U.S. collaborated with scientists at Lehigh University in in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania(PA) and Lafayette College in in Easton, PA to produce this study. Argys said, “We discovered that increased light pollution is linked to some pretty severe health challenges.
“In pregnant women, this includes a higher chance of delivering a baby with a reduced birth weight, a shortened gestational length, and an increase in preterm births.”
According to study coauthor Professor Muzhe Yang of the Lehigh University, the biological clock in our bodies, known as circadian rhythms, are disrupted by light pollution. This, in turn, can cause sleep disorders that ultimately lead to adverse birth outcomes.
Specifically, the likelihood of a preterm birth (a childbirth before 37 weeks) could increase by approximately 12.9 per cent as a result of increased nighttime brightness