LED lights damage eyes and disturb sleep, European health authority warns

A new report from the French Health Authority warns that the use of LED lights could cause damage to the retina, and alter our sleep patterns.

According to the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (known as ANSES) New research has proven the “phototoxic effects” of brief exposures to high-intensity light. Additionally, there is a higher chance of developing macular diseases from prolonged exposure to sources with lower intensity. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss among people older than 50. It can cause damage to the macula (a tiny area in the central part of your retina that is essential to ensure clear central vision).

However, the protection from the negative effect of blue light on the retina offered by screens, filters, and sunglasses can be variable. ANSES said that their capacity to maintain sleep patterns was not proven.

Lighting 101

LEDs, also known as light-emitting diodes, consist of a semiconductor chip that is placed on a reflective surface. When electricity flows through the semiconductor, it creates light.

Blue light isn’t a new phenomenon. Sunlight produces blue light which is more powerful than other wavelengths in the spectrum of light. Lightbulbs from the past still emit blue light, but not as much as efficient energy-efficient fluorescent (fluorescent) bulbs, lightbulbs, or LEDs.

LED neon signs are a “new source of light” and are experiencing an explosion in technological, economic, and financial growth. They were previously used solely in electronics, but are now an integral part of lighting systems,” ANSES reported in an earlier study.LED neon signs are used in commercial and domestic environments today.

According to the US Department of Energy, the LED neon signs market is getting more popular across the United States. This is an excellent development in terms of energy consumption since they use a lot less energy per lumen than traditional lighting technology. According to the department LED lighting will make up 48% of the total lumen-hour sales by 2020, and 84% by 2030.

ANSES differentiates various types of blue light within their report. According to ANSES, domestic LED lighting that’s “warm white” is not a risk for phototoxicity that is comparable to conventional lighting. Other sources of LED lighting like flashlights, car headlights, and even toys emit more hazardous white light.

Additional scientific evidence

An American study also outlined blue light’s “increasingly widespread” function in the modern world. The lead researcher Gianluca Tosini, Professor of Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine and the chief scientific officer, said that blue light could cause eye damage when it’s less than 455 nanometers in wavelength and intensity.

Tosini was not part of the ANSES study In an email, Tosini wrote in an email that “there are photoreceptors that reflect blue light in the retina that directly communicate with the brain’s circadian rhythms.” It’s the case that exposure to light in the evening can alter the circadian rhythms and sleep in a variety of ways, including reducing the production of the hormone that promotes sleep, Melatonin.

The doctor also said that studies have demonstrated that exposure to blue light in the middle hours of the day may improve alertness.

Janet Sparrow is a Columbia University professor of ophthalmic science. In an email that blue light “is believed to aid individuals to keep their daily rhythms to enable sleep.”

Sparrow who did not participate in the ANSES report, said that the retina “accumulates fluorescent molecules, commonly referred to as lipofuscin.” Sparrow said that these substances are more prevalent with the onset of age and are more sensitive to blue light. Evidence suggests that they could result in unhealthful optical responses over the long term.

Tosini said that although scientists believe that short-term exposure to LED blue light that is between the 470-480 nanometer range should not increase the chance of developing eye diseases However, the reverse is true for exposure over a long period (months or even years).

He said he believes that further research is required to better understand the issue that is affecting the health of many people. Intelligent lighting systems that change the composition of light during the day may provide an answer to the blue light issue according to him.

An independent review of scientific research supports the conclusions in the ANSES report. The review looked at the advantages and drawbacks of “blue blocking” lenses, which are advertised to guard against the effects of phototoxic. The review concluded that there was no evidence to justify their use by the general population to improve the quality of sleep, visual performance eye fatigue, or preserve macular health.

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Sparrow said that sunglasses don’t block UV light, and sunglasses with yellow tints are more effective since they decrease the amount of light that hits the retina.

ANSES believes that the highest amount of exposure to blue light should be cut down even though the majority of people would not be able to meet the requirements. The French agency pointed out that teens and children are particularly vulnerable to blue light since their eyes aren’t able to filter it completely. The authority in France recommended that people only use safe LEDs and that the brightness of headlights in cars should be reduced.