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Blue light LED lighting can damage eyes

by on16 May 2019


Messes with your sleep too

New research from France suggests that "blue light" in LED lighting can damage the eye's retina and disturb natural sleep rhythms.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) said that its findings confirm earlier concerns that "exposure to an intense and powerful [LED] light is 'photo-toxic' and can lead to irreversible loss of retinal cells and diminished sharpness of vision”.

The agency recommended in a 400-page report that the maximum limit for acute exposure be revised, even if such levels are rarely met in a home or work environments.

The report distinguished between acute exposure of high-intensity LED light, and "chronic exposure" to lower intensity sources.

While less dangerous, even chronic exposure can "accelerate the ageing of retinal tissue, contributing to a decline in visual acuity and certain degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration", the agency concluded.

LED uses only a fifth of the electricity needed for an incandescent bulb of equal brightness.

The world's leading LED light-bulb makers are GE Lighting, Osram and Philips.

The underlying technology for producing a white light combines a short wavelength LED such as blue or ultraviolet with a yellow phosphor coating — the whiter or "colder" the light, the higher the proportion of blue in the spectrum.

LED cellphone, tablet and laptop screens do not pose a risk of eye damage because their luminosity is very low compared to other types of lighting, Francine Behar-Cohen, an ophthalmologist and head of the expert group that conducted the review, told journalists.

But these back-lit devices -- especially when they are used at night or in a dark setting -- can "disturb biological rhythms, and thus sleep patterns", the agency cautioned.

Children and adolescents are particularly susceptible to such disruptions, the ANSES reports noted.

A stroboscopic effect in some LED lights -- provoked by tiny fluctuations in the electric current -- can induce "headaches, visual fatigue and a higher risk of accidents", the report said.

For indoor lighting, ANSES recommended buying "warm white" LED lighting, limiting exposure to LED sources with a high concentration of blue light, and avoiding LED screens before bedtime.

Finally, the agency cast doubt on the efficacy of some "anti-blue light" filters and sunglasses.

Last modified on 16 May 2019
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