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Blue Light From Screens is Toxic to Eyes Warns French Health Agency 

5/14/2019 The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has issued a new report reviewing the scientific evidence on health impacts including vision loss and damaged sleep from the blue light emitted from LED lights and the screens of cell phones, laptops and digital devices. 

“The new scientific data confirm the 2010 result regarding the toxicity of blue light to the eye, which can lead to failing eyesight. They show short-term phototoxic effects associated with acute exposure and long-term effects associated with chronic exposure, which increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.” 

The report states that current ICNIRP optical radiation  limits are non protective in regards to these impacts and cites research linking blue light exposure to damage to the retina of the eye and the disturbance of sleep rhythms. ANSES also highlights that children are an especially vulnerable population as their eyes are still maturing and are unable to filter the blue light out as much as adults. ANSES posits this could lead to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) after chronic exposure to blue light.  AMD is a leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. 

The ANSES expert appraisal shows that even very low levels of exposure to blue light in the evening or at night disrupts biological rhythms and therefore sleep. The Agency recommends limiting the use of LED devices with the highest blue-light content, especially for children and pregnant women, and reducing light pollution as much as possible to preserve the environment and protect the public.

Excerpts from the Report include: 

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“The Agency confirms the toxicity of blue light on the retina and highlights the biological rhythm and sleep disruption associated with exposure to blue light in the evening or at night, particularly via screens and especially for children.”

“The amount of light received by the retina in the blue band can be large and have phototoxic effects on the eye and a disruptive effect on biological rhythms.”

“Most of the available scientific studies show that blue light alters sleep regulation via circadian disruptions. The evidence provided by studies undertaken in humans is sufficient to conclude that exposure to blue-rich light during the evening has a proven effect on sleep onset latency and the duration and quality of sleep.”

ANSES recommendations to limit the population’s exposure to blue light. 

    • Prefer “warm white” domestic lighting (colour temperature below 3000 K).
    • Limiting the exposure of people – children in particular – to the blue-rich light of LED screens (mobile phones, tablets, computers, etc.) before bedtime and at night.
    • Creating protected spaces, without any artificial lighting.
    • Recommendations for employers to protect workers from the phototoxic effects of blue light by  limiting the exposure of workers to these light sources and informing them of the related hazards. 
    • Recommendations to protect pregnant women: “Given the effects observed on foetal development in animals related to maternal exposure to light at night, the CES recommends limiting the exposure of pregnant women to light during the night.
    • Several susceptible population groups were identified based on research data: infants, children, adolescents and young adults, people with ocular diseases (dry eye, ARMD, glaucoma, retinopathy, etc.); people with motor or cognitive disorders reducing their avoidance or decision-making capacities in the event of overly intense light; people taking photosensitising medications or exposed to photosensitising pollutants, and night workers  and any other professionals with potentially high exposure to LED lighting (surgeons, dentists, lighting professionals, lighting distributors, performing artists, people working in sport facilities, people working in agri-food facilities using LEDs (greenhouses, aquaculture), etc.).
    • Revising the exposure limits for optical radiation proposed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) so  the limits account for chronic exposure and be sufficiently protective against phototoxic risks.
    • Adapting a new regulatory framework for all LED systems 
  • Restrict the sale of LED objects to the general public to those in higher risk groups.
  • Limit the light intensity of vehicle lights, while guaranteeing road safety.
  • Minimise the temporal modulation of the light emitted by all light sources (lighting, screens, other LED objects).
  • Establishing standards for protective equipment purporting to protect consumers from blue light such as blue light blocking  lenses, protective eye glasses and computer screen coverings.
  • ANSES stated that the scientific knowledge consistently shows an increase in mortality and a decline in the diversity of the animal and plant species linked to night lighting and LEDs. Regulations to limit light pollution should be strengthened,  while ensuring public safety.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety Report Links

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Additional Resources 

National Toxicology Program: Shift work at Night, Artificial Light at Night, and Circadian Disruption Workshop

NIH: Artificial light during sleep linked to obesity

Environmental Health Perspectives: LIGHT POLLUTION: Light at Night and Breast Cancer Risk Worldwide

Outdoor Light at Night and Breast Cancer Incidence in the Nurses’ Health Study II

https://ehtrust.org/blue-light-from-screens-is-toxic-to-eyes-warns-french-health-agency/