With a long lifespan, good energy efficiency and a cheap retail price, it makes sense why so many of us opt for LED lights in our homes. But what effect are LED lights having on our health?
Emerging evidence suggests that long-term exposure to LED light may be harmful to the health of our eyes. According to one study conducted in 2017 in China, LED lights are linked to a higher prevalence of myopia. The researchers discovered this link by interviewing middle school students and asking which type of lamp they use at home for study; the options being LED, fluorescent or incandescent. They found that LED lights were associated with a 43-44% increased risk of myopia compared with other light sources.
So, what is it about LED lights that might explain this link?
Although the underlying reason is not perfectly understood, scientists believe that it relates to certain characteristics of LED light that differentiate it from other types of light sources.
Electronic light sources, including light bulbs, flicker many times every second. This is usually not perceptible to the human eye because the flickering occurs very rapidly, or at high frequency. One theory is that the frequency at which LED lights flicker causes changes in the eye that result in myopia.
Another factor may be the colour composition of LED light. In order to understand this, it’s helpful to understand how light works in general. The sun emits various shades of red, orange, yellow, green and blue light. These different colours combine to create “white light”, or sunlight.
Some lightbulbs are manufactured to mimic sunlight and therefore emit a mix of colours to produce the same white light. For various reasons, manufacturers sometimes make lightbulbs which emit a higher amount of a certain colour.
LED lights typically contain strong green, red or blue lights, and depending on the intensity of these different colours or wavelengths of light, they may increase the risk of myopia. There is conflicting evidence though, with some studies suggesting that red light is associated with myopia, while others suggest green or blue light are the culprits.
Regardless, LED lights that have a high blue intensity may cause other types of eye problems too. Blue light is often strong in LEDs because it is high in energy and has been proven to boost alertness, improve cognitive functioning and elevate mood levels. Many appliances with LED lights tend to emit high amounts of blue light which may explain why you tend to feel more awake and alert when you switch on your phone or turn on the LED lamp on your desk.
While blue light can help improve brain functioning, too much exposure can take a toll on our eye health.
When blue light enters the eye, it scatters, putting strain on the eye’s ability to focus which causes our eyes to fatigue. This can lead to a condition called digital eye strain (DES). You can read more about DES here.
Due to its high energy, blue light can also penetrate through the eye and too much exposure may cause damage to the retina, which may increase the risk of myopia and even macular degeneration and irreversible vision loss.
So, what should you do if you think your child is exposed to too much LED lighting?
3 ways to protect your child from the effects of LED
1. Use red light bulbs. Sitting at the other end of the colour spectrum, red light is good for your eyes and has even been found to improve declining eyesight . You can purchase red light bulbs easily online.
2. Get a pair of blue light glasses. Blue light glasses have a special lens which blocks out some of the harmful blue wavelengths. They are useful not only under LED lights, but also when your child is using a smart device. Phone, tablet and laptop screens are all lit by tiny LED lights. In fact, if your child is like most children these days and spends hours on device screens every day, they are being constantly exposed to direct blue light through their smart device screens.
3. Cut down on screen time. This last point is possibly the most important, yet hardest to implement. We all know kids love their phones and taking them away can be difficult and can sometimes bring about temper tantrums. But there are ways to make this type of e-discipline fun and exciting. Consider downloading planoApp. The planoApp is a parental-control app which, when installed, sends reminders to your child to take regular breaks from their screen and encourages them to use their devices for no more than two hours a day. When your child demonstrates responsible screen behaviour, the app rewards them with points. This encourages your child to take matters into their own hands and try to win as many points as possible. Points can be redeemed in the planoShop to request fun, device-free activities.
Staying on top of eye health: easier than you think
We all want the best for our kids, but in this ever-changing world, it’s often hard to know how to ensure they stay happy and healthy. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Protect your child’s eye health by following any (or all) of the tips above!