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Harmful Effects of Blue Light and How to Protect Yourself

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 By Ariana Thorn

Blue light is all around us and comes from several sources, but overexposure can lead to harmful effects of blue light. Anyone that uses a mobile device, works on a computer screen, watches TV or simply goes outside is exposed to blue light. This form of light holds capabilities that are essential for people to function properly on a day-to-day basis but can show negative effects to health and well-being if an individual is exposed too long.

WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?

Blue light wavelengths on the light spectrum are the shortest, with high levels of energy. There are a few different sources of this type of light. No surprise, the main, natural source of blue light is the sun. There are also several artificial sources which include electronic devices, digital screens such as laptops, smart phones, tablets and computer screens, fluorescent lighting, and LED lighting.

Among the artificial sources of blue light, there have been studies that show potential for this type of light, specifically within the 400 to 470 nm range to have antimicrobial capabilities. This number on the spectrum is above levels of UV (which is 100-400). Blue light in this form creates a great benefit and has been established in products from certain manufacturers, with likelihood to expand.

Both artificial and natural sources are used every day by people all around the globe. When the exposure becomes too extensive within this spectrum, you may start to notice some harmful effects of blue light.

WHAT ARE SOME HARMFUL EFFECTS OF BLUE LIGHT?

As living organisms, we all have something called a circadian rhythm that correlates with our biological clock. The circadian rhythm is based on mental, physical, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. The rhythm responds to light and darkness in our environment. For instance, sleeping at night-time and being awake and alert during the day is an example of this rhythm. Another term that’s connected with circadian rhythm is the biological clock. This is the natural timing device organisms create. These clocks produce circadian rhythms and assist with regulating their timing.

Now, how do the harmful effects of blue light impact your circadian rhythm and biological clock?

Human bodies use blue light to increase attention, alertness, and reaction time, along with being a mood booster and performance enhancer. These all sound like great effects, which is true. However, exposure of blue light can have an impact on sleep causing your body to decrease or delay the release of melatonin. It can also increase alertness into later hours and reset your circadian rhythm and biological clock.

As mentioned earlier, blue light wavelengths are short and consist of high energy. For this reason, this type of light is more likely to flicker. When there is flickering, the light creates a glare that can affect clarity and sharpness along with decreasing visual contrast, especially on screens. If you spend a lot of time behind a screen or are exposed to flickering light, you may experience eyestrain, headaches and mental or physical fatigue caused by this.

Harmful effects of blue light may also come from health issues like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. There are some cases showing links between blue light and these health problems, however there are still studies being done to investigate this.

There are also different ways light can affect and or damage your eyes – digital eyestrain, dry eye, soreness, irritation and cataracts can all stem from blue light exposure. These issues are becoming more relevant in current day because our world revolves around artificial light and screen time, so we are constantly exposed.

Overexposure of blue light through an elongated period can also leave retinal damage and even lead to loss of vision. Damage to the retina causes vision problems, such as age related macular degeneration (AMD). To break this term down, “age related” means it is most often seen in individuals that are older, and “macular” refers to the macula, which is part of the eye that is affected. AMD is an eye disease that can blur the sharp, central vision you need for day to day activities like driving a vehicle or reading. This eye disease is also known to be a leading cause of blindness.

No one wants to experience harmful effects like these, but there are best practices that can help protect against these negative effects.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST HARMFUL EFFECTS OF BLUE LIGHT

While harmful effects of blue light are continuing to rise, there are a few different ways to protect yourself. 
First, there are products available for lamps that act as pathogen killers using blue light at 400-470 nm. These lamps are beneficial because they can to be used in spaces that are occupied, and have been proven effective on COVID-19, MRSA and salmonella.

LED and fluorescent lighting are being adopted in buildings and homes across the board because of their energy efficiency. However, with the emissions of blue light, you may want to think of different ways to protect you and your occupants. With LED and fluorescent lighting, you can’t necessarily stop blue light from being emitted.

However, reducing the amount of blue light exposure can be done through installation of warmer colored lamps. Another method that can be used is installing controls on overhead lighting – dimmers, or timers can give you more of a handle on the amount of light being emitted.

With blue light being everywhere, you can use blue light blocking glasses whenever being exposed to LED lamps overhead, or during screen time. There are also screen protectors and apps that can be downloaded on digital devices that will assist in blocking and preventing harmful effects of blue light.

Along with using physical protection, there are simple alternatives. Give your eyes a rest! Look away from screens, devices, and avoid looking directly into overhead lighting. Your eyes will thank you for the short breaks, even if it’s for a short period of time.

The effects on circadian rhythm, biological clock and sleep overall can take a toll on an individual. It may be hard to do, but the best practice is to stop looking at screens – whether it be TV, tablet, laptop, cell phone – around 3 hours before bed. Giving yourself this time at the end of the day will allow your body to wind down properly and release the natural melatonin that helps with a good nights’ sleep.

Lastly, remember that blue light isn’t all bad! Yes, harmful effects of blue light are apparent. However, our bodies need this during the day to help with our functionality and well-being. Exposing yourself to this light during day-light hours artificially, and especially naturally will provide the mood boosting, increased alertness effects we all want and need at that time. It will also allow for better sleep at night because your body will be able to produce melatonin optimally.

MOVING FORWARD

While harmful effects of blue light may become apparent with prolonged exposure and using these lights at certain times of day, protecting yourself can help immensely. You don’t have to stop using these forms of lamps in your overhead lighting, or technology, but keeping in mind the consequences that overexposure to this light can create could help your health and wellbeing in the long run. Or even looking into newer technologies that use blue light to benefit and kill pathogens on surfaces.

Kristen Cooke, CLCP, says “With current events expanding our desire to ensure the healthiest environments possible, there is an interest in further developing lighting technologies.  In order to make the most appropriate recommendations for each particular project, we strive to educate ourselves and our customers on the potential risks of blue light as well as potential benefits from a properly designed and implemented system.”

We are here to help with your lighting, electrical and project needs. Whether you are looking to completely upgrade your buildings to LED, you want to learn more and install pathogen killing lamps, or maybe you are looking for dimming or timer controls – which can be helpful for protecting against blue light – reach out to us and we will work with you to provide what you are looking for! To contact us, fill out the form below or give us a call at (800) 644-2566.


 

Filed under: Blue Light, Lighting, Trends

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Illumetek is a National Program Management company facilitating installs, updates, compliance and rebates for Lighting, Electrical, and associated Controls. If you have additional questions regarding LED lighting technology or design, please feel free to contact us anytime.


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Illumetek is a National Program Management company facilitating installs, updates, compliance and rebates for Lighting, Electrical, and associated Controls. Contact us today!