Is LED Lighting Safe? Light is known as a form of electromagnetic energy. Under certain conditions, light can cause injury to the eyes. Since the year of 360, it was thought that the sun could damage the eye, especially during an eclipse. Light in the form of lasers has been used therapeutically for treatment of injury at the retina, refractive correction, diabetic retinopathy and many other ways. But have you ever thought about what impact conventional lighting can have on the eyes?
Light –emitting diode (LED) lighting is becoming increasingly common, in fact, in Europe; by September 2016 incandescent lighting will no longer be available, making it important to know the safety of this type of lighting.
LED’s produce light by the use of low energy consumption, they also do not use mercury like our current conventional lighting. The lighting quality that is given off with the LED’s is also better than most other type of lighting. However, the public body Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) raised the issue of the safety of LED lighting in Europe.
(Fig 1.0, Picadilly Cricus large TV screens light up the street’s)
Behan-Cohen et al. (2011) described LED light as monochromatic intrinsically, which is mixed with several different phosphors to create the final lighting that is used in our homes and everyday life. There are many different ways of doing this, and each method gives different uses of the lighting, e.g. scenic, decorative, lamps. LED emits all energy within the wavelength range of human vision, making it the most energy-efficient type of lighting available. Henry Lau, from the institute of physics, explained that LED’s could produce light at the same frequency as sunlight. The most common way of creating LED lamps, which adds a phosphor to the LED, emits blue light from the LED but appearing white to the human eye.
(Fig 2.0, blue light appears as white on digital devices)
Behan-Cohen et al also said LED lighting is seen to deliver the highest amount of blue light to the eye than any other conventional type of lighting. Holzman(2010) showed that blue light could disrupt circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are also known as the internal body clock. It is important in determining sleep patterns, such as when we wake and sleep, ever 24 hours. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, our sleep can also be affected. It can cause symptoms of jet lag, restless nights and insomnia.
Moreover, Wu et al. (2006) has shown this blue light, which is on the shorter spectrum can be a predisposing cause to age-related macular degeneration. This can give a loss of vision, mainly in the centre of our visual field. It is the most common cause of blindness in the world and can impair reading, recognising faces and other daily tasks. Shang et al. (2014), studied different conventional light sources on rates and found LED lighting exposure can induce damage to the retina, however the damage is dependent on the wavelength and the duration that we are exposed to the LED lighting. This was mainly seen in albino rats, and an experiment on humans is yet to be concluded.
When LED’s are used on digital devices, it can be a major cause of eyestrain, due to the blue light it emits. This also has an affect on our circadian rhythms.
However, Henry Lau added more to his statement, where unlike Sunlight, LED lighting is not intense enough to damage someone’s eyes to a high extent. It is shown that ultraviolet lighting and other lighting higher on the spectrum can cause damage to the human eyes, and LED lighting emits less UV radiation than any other type of lighting. This is the reason why we are always advised to wear ultraviolet protection, sunglasses! However, as blue light is very close to ultraviolet on the spectrum, and a great amount of exposure to blue light can still be harmful to the eye. Anything that emits should always be used with caution, and blue light blockers on any surface, wherever possible should be used.
(Fig 3.0, Blueblocker glasses to cut Blue Light)
So is LED lighting safe? The answer would be generally yes– however, due to the blue light that is emitted from most of the LED lighting around us and us using our devices closer to our eyes and even more now, it can have a big disruption on our sleep wake cycle, leading us to feel tired throughout the day. It can also strain our eyes. Luckily, there are now products with blue light blockers, such as glasses and screen protectors, which can help us block out blue light from LED’s and digital devices. Although it has shown that LED lighting can have some changes to the retina of our eyes, this can only be seen with a very high exposure and intensity to the LED.
(Fig 4.0, Blueblocking screen protector to cut out Blue Light transmission)