The Latest Research
In the 1920s surgeons were first beginning to diagnose lung cancer with increasing frequency and started wondering what might be responsible. Many theories were considered as possible explanations for the rise of lung cancer, until evidence from multiple sources of enquiry decades later made it clear that tobacco was by far and away the leading culprit. Nearly a hundred years later, now there is wide acceptance of the link between smoking and disastrous health outcomes.
Again early this century healthcare professionals and researchers are wondering what might be the adverse effects on our health from constant exposure to digital screens and LED lights. TVs, computer screens, smart phones, laptops, tablets, iPhones and iPads are all placing unusual demands on our eyes. The particular part of the light spectrum emitted from these multitude of devices is called Blue Light, and many are holding safety concerns for how we manage the risks we’re only just beginning to understand.
Below are summaries of some of the research and links to the sources so you can read and investigate further for yourself.
The Lowdown on Blue Light:
Good vs. Bad, and Its Connection to AMD
SOURCE: ReviewofOptometry.com – February 2014 – by Mark Dunbar, OD, and Ronald Melton, OD
Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum and reaches deeper into the eye and over time it can damage the retina. More than that some blue light has been linked to causing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). On average blue light makes up a bit more than a quarter of sunlight.
Of course it’s not all bad. Light helps to cue our when we wake and when we sleep. When that is working well it also helps balance our memory, emotions and hormones.
Obviously sunlight is nothing new but with advances in technology we’re increasingly using digital devices. Also on the rise is modern lighting like LEDs and CFLs (light emitting diodes and compact fluorescent lamps) which emit high levels of blue light.
Harmful blue light is about a quarter of CFLs and more than a third in LEDs. Did you know that cooler white LEDs have a higher blue proportion? By the end of this decade about 90% of all of our light sources are predicted to be LED lighting. Modern exposure to blue light is everywhere and only increasing.
“There’s an increasing incidence of cataract and macular degeneration cases in the United States. In 2012, there were approximately 24 million cases of cataracts in people aged 40+ the United States, which is a 19% increase from 2000 numbers. For macular degeneration, two million people aged 50+ had late AMD in 2012, which is a 25% increase from 2000. By the year 2050, the cataract population is going to hit 50 million, whereas AMD tops off at around 5 million, it’s estimated.“
Blue-Violet Light Hazard Research
Essilor (a publicly listed French company that produces ophthalmic lenses along with ophthalmic optical equipment) had a partnership with Paris Vision Institute (one of the most important research centers in Europe on eye diseases) in 2008. Their mission was to discover the parts of visible light that are the most harmful. The blue-violet light that was discovered as part of this study is a 40 nanometres (nm, one billionth of a metre) band of visible light that causes the maximum retinal cell death.
Over time, our eyes are exposed to various sources that emit this blue-violet light (e.g., the sun, LED lighting, CFLs). Combine that with the use of tablets, TVs, computer screens and smart phones, and there’s no doubt our exposure to blue-violet light is on the increase. This cumulative and constant exposure to the blue-violet light is going to accumulate over time and has the potential to cause damage to the retinal cells, which is going to slowly lead to retinal cell death and can in turn lead to AMD.
The level of light emitted by newer energy-saving lighting techniques (e.g., LED, CFLs) is very high. For example, CFLs, white LED light and even sunlight emit high levels of blue-violet light compared to the rest of the blue light spectrum. This underscores the need for us to protect our eyes from the harmful bands of blue-violet light.
More Research On The Risks & Dangers of Blue Light
Blue Light Has A Dark Side
“Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.”
Health Effects of Blue Light
“Cajochen et al. (2011) compared the effects of a white LED-backlit screen with more than twice the level of blue light (462 nm) emission to a non-LED screen on male volunteers. Exposure to the LED-screen significantly lowered evening melatonin levels and suppressed sleepiness.”
SOURCE: Europa.eu/health – Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks
The Daily Impact Of Digital Screens On The Eye Health Of Americans
“The world’s reliance on electronics has proven to be beneficial in many ways but poses a problem for the eyes. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience digital eye strain as a result of the growing use of these devices. Adults aged 18 to 34 report feeling eye strain at a higher rate (45%) than their older counterparts.
New research also suggests that overexposure to blue light, also referred to as high-energy visible or HEV light, may contribute to vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Long-term implications are just now being studied, but the short-term impact of digital eye strain affects individuals on a daily basis.
Eye care providers are noting a steady rise in the number of patients with screen-related eye strain, whose complaints include dry, irritated eyes; blurred vision; and head, neck and back pain. To preserve eye health and help adults adapt to digital life, the optical industry is investing in new lens technologies to enhance the digital experience while minimizing eye strain as an increasing number of people from all age groups spend more time in front of screens. ” (PDF)
Kids Still Getting Too Much ‘Screen Time’: CDC
“U.S. teenagers are still spending hours in front of the TV and computer every day — despite years of expert advice that kids’ “screen time” should be limited, a new government study finds.
In two national surveys of children aged 12 to 15 years, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly three-quarters spent at least two hours a day watching TV and using a computer.
The surveys also found that 15 percent of teens watch four or more hours of TV daily, while nearly 12 percent report using their computers for four or more hours a day. The surveys didn’t ask teens about their use of smartphones.”
How To Protect Your Eyes
“Dr. Bill explains the nature of light from the sun, computers and cellphones and how to protect your eyes.” (audio, 42:10)
SOURCE: CCLVI.org (Council of Citizens with Low Vision International)
Teens And Technology 2013
Between 2011 and 2013 the portion of teens owning a smartphone rose from 23% to 37%.
- 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of those own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
- One in four teens (23%) have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
- Nine in ten (93%) teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
SOURCE: PewInternet.org – Pew Research Centre: Internet, Science & Tech
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