28 Nov Do ‘environmentally friendly’ LED lights cause BLINDNESS?
Spanish research has shown that blue LED light can irreparably damage the cells in the eye’s retina. This is not the first time energy-saving bulbs have been criticized – fluorescent bulbs emit dangerous UV light. Eco-friendly LED lights may damage your eyes, according to new research. A study has discovered that exposure to LED lights can cause irreparable harm to the retina of the human eye. LED lights have been touted as a super-efficient alternative to traditional bulbs because they use up to 85 percent less energy and each bulb can last up to 10 years.
In April, Philips, the world’s biggest lighting maker, reported a 38 percent jump in LED light sales from last year.
A Spanish study has shown that the light emitted by LED bulbs can damage the cells in the retina. Some experts are now calling for a filter to be fitted in the bulbs (file picture).
They are already widely used in mobile phones, televisions, computer screens and can also be fitted as a replacement for traditional lighting in the home. LEDs are much more expensive than traditional bulbs – costing around £25 for an equivalent 100w compared to around £1 for an incandescent bulb – although manufacturers claim that consumers make their money back because of the use such little energy.
The government announced it was phasing out incandescent bulbs in 2007 after an EU directive banned their use. The 100w bulb was the first to go in 2009 and lower wattage bulbs continue to be phased out gradually. The ban caused public outrage as customers were forced to spend large sums of money on lighting that not only gave an unpleasantly ‘cold’ light but also caused some people to report symptoms of itchy skin and headaches.
The government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme, which was brought in to help cut UK carbon emissions, is also pushing the use of LED lighting by offering businesses added tax relief if they use LED and other low-energy bulbs. Dr. Celia Sánchez-Ramos, of Complutense University in Madrid and who led the study, explained that light from LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, comes from the short-wave, high-energy blue and violet end of the visible light spectrum.
Incandescent bulbs (left) are being phased out in favor of low-energy alternatives such as CFLs (right), but there are concerns about the safety of the new generation of so-called ‘environmentally friendly’ lighting. She said that prolonged, continuous exposure to this light may be enough to damage a person’s retina. The retina is composed of light-sensitive tissue that is responsible for detecting light and in turn allowing us to see.
‘This problem is going to get worse, because humans are living longer and children are using electronic devices from a young age, particularly for schoolwork,’ Sánchez-Ramos told ThinkSpain.com.
Enterprising: Lighting shop owner Kerry Nicholau, from Twickenham, stockpiled 3000 incandescent bulbs after 75-watt bulbs were phased out in 2011
‘Eyes are not designed to look directly at light — they are designed to see with light,’ Sánchez-Ramos said.
Her comments are partly based on her 2012 study that was published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology. The study found that LED radiation caused significant damage to human retinal pigment epithelial cells in vitro. Sánchez-Ramos added that modern humans have their eyes open for roughly 6,000 hours a year, and are exposed to artificial light for the majority of that time. Some experts have called for the LED lights to have built-in filters to cut out the blue glare.
This is not the first time energy-saving lights have come under scrutiny for safety reasons. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, have been criticized for the high levels of mercury they contain as well as the UV radiation they can emit. LED lights have also been blamed for the changing hues of masterpieces in art galleries.
A study carried out by the University of Antwerp earlier this year found that LED lights were bleaching the paint on works by Van Gogh and Cézanne.
Learn more about how you can protect your eyes from daily exposure to harsh blue light.