Health consequences of electric lighting practices in the modern world: A report on the National Toxicology Program's workshop on shift work at night, artificial light at night, and circadian disruption

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Dec 31:607-608:1073-1084. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.056. Epub 2017 Jul 27.


The invention of electric light has facilitated a society in which people work, sleep, eat, and play at all hours of the 24-hour day. Although electric light clearly has benefited humankind, exposures to electric light, especially light at night (LAN), may disrupt sleep and biological processes controlled by endogenous circadian clocks, potentially resulting in adverse health outcomes. Many of the studies evaluating adverse health effects have been conducted among night- and rotating-shift workers, because this scenario gives rise to significant exposure to LAN. Because of the complexity of this topic, the National Toxicology Program convened an expert panel at a public workshop entitled "Shift Work at Night, Artificial Light at Night, and Circadian Disruption" to obtain input on conducting literature-based health hazard assessments and to identify data gaps and research needs. The Panel suggested describing light both as a direct effector of endogenous circadian clocks and rhythms and as an enabler of additional activities or behaviors that may lead to circadian disruption, such as night-shift work and atypical and inconsistent sleep-wake patterns that can lead to social jet lag. Future studies should more comprehensively characterize and measure the relevant light-related exposures and link these exposures to both time-independent biomarkers of circadian disruption and biomarkers of adverse health outcomes. This information should lead to improvements in human epidemiological and animal or in vitro models, more rigorous health hazard assessments, and intervention strategies to minimize the occurrence of adverse health outcomes due to these exposures.

Keywords: Artificial light at night (ALAN); Circadian disruption; Light at night (LAN); Shift work.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects*
  • Electricity
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Lighting*
  • Shift Work Schedule*
  • Sleep / radiation effects*