The blue light that is a part of LED neon signs lighting that’s increasingly used in our homes can damage the eye’s retina while disrupting our biological as well as sleep cycles as the French health agency warned in a report.

According to the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (known as ANSES) New research has proven the “phototoxic effects” of short-term exposures to high-intensity light. Additionally, there is an increased likelihood of developing age-related macular disease from chronic exposure to sources with lower intensity. Age-related Macular Degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss among people over 50. It can cause damage to the macula (a tiny spot at the central part of your retina that is necessary for sharp central vision).

But the protection from damaging effects on the retina offered by “anti-blue light” filters, screens, and sunglasses is not the same, and their ability to keep sleep rhythms intact isn’t proven, ANSES also said.

Lighting 101

LED neon signs or light-emitting diodes are made up of a semiconductor placed on a reflective surface; when electricity passes through the semiconductor, the light gets produced.

Blue light itself is not new. Sunlight produces blue light that is more energetic than other wavelengths in the light spectrum. Old-fashioned lightbulbs also produced blue light, but less than what is emitted by energy-efficient curlicue (fluorescent) lightbulbs, also known as LEDs.

LED neon signs are “undergoing rapid technological and economic advancement as a brand new source of light. In the past, they were used only in electronics but are now found as integral parts of lighting systems” ANSES wrote in a 2016 report. Today, LEDs are employed for both domestic and commercial purposes. as industrial and commercial ones.

According to the US Department of Energy, LED products are being used more extensively in the United States. This is a good development regarding energy use since they use a lot less energy per lumen than traditional lighting technology. Market adoption of LED lighting is increasing and will represent 48% of total lumen-hour sales by 2020 and 84% by 2030, according to the agency’s estimates.

ANSES recognizes the different kinds of blue light within its report. For instance, “warm white” domestic LED lighting poses weak phototoxicity dangers, which is similar to traditional lighting, says the ANSES. However, other LED lighting sources like the latest flashlights, car headlights, and some toys, produce a whiter and “colder” blue light that’s more harmful.

Additional scientific evidence

An American study also outlined blue light’s “increasingly prominent” role in our modern world. The study’s lead researcher Gianluca Tosini, Professor and chief scientific research officer at Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine, stated that blue light may damage the eyes, but only if the wavelength is less than 455 nanometers, and the intensity is high.

“There are photoreceptors that emit blue light in the retina that directly communicate with the brain circadian clock,” Tosini, who was not part of the ANSES report sent an email. It’s real that exposure to light during the evening can influence the circadian rhythms of sleep in a variety of ways, including reducing the production of the sleep-promoting hormone Melatonin.

He also stated that some studies have proven that exposure to blue light during the middle hours of the day could improve alertness.

Janet Sparrow, a professor of Ophthalmic sciences at Columbia University, wrote in an email that “blue light is believed to help individuals to maintain the rhythms of their day that allow the body to rest.”

The retina “accumulates fluorescent molecules, commonly referred to as lipofuscin,” explained Sparrow, who was not involved in the ANSES report. “These compounds are more abundant as you age, and they are more sensitive to blue light.” Early evidence suggests that this light sensitivity could cause poor optical responses over time she added.

Tosini said that researchers believe that exposure to LED blue light with a wavelength of 470-480 nanometers over a brief to medium duration (days to weeks) should not significantly increase the risk of developing an eye disease, however, this is not necessarily true for exposure that lasts for a long time (months to years).

He said he believes that further research is required to better understand the issue, which is affecting many people’s health. Intelligent lighting systems that can alter the composition of light during the day may be an answer to the blue light problem the doctor said.

An unrelated review of studies in the field also provides evidence to the ANSES report that the use of sunglasses and filters might not provide us with the protection we need. The review examined the possible positives or disadvantages of “blue-blocking” lenses, which are advertised to protect against phototoxicity, and found “an absence of quality evidence” to support their use “for the general public to improve their the quality of sleep or performance in the eyes and reduce fatigue in the eyes or preserve the health of our eyes.”

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Sparrow declared that sunglasses don’t block ultraviolet light and that those with a yellow tint are better because they reduce the amount of light reaching the retina.

ANSES believes that the highest amount of exposure to blue light should be reduced even though the majority of people aren’t able to reach it. The French agency pointed out that teenagers and children are especially sensitive to blue light as their eyes do not filter it fully. The authority in France recommended that consumers only use low-risk LED devices and that the brightness of the headlights of cars should be reduced.