We all grew up learning about how harmful the effects of ultraviolet rays are. Raised to learn about the differences between the gentleness of long wavelength lights and harm of short wavelength light – not to mention the natural protection against ultraviolet rays that the ozone layer provides the earth. However, it is only recently that experts have started questioning whether we have been overlooking the effects of artificial blue light, wrongly believing that an artificially, controlled production may not be as harmful as that which is produced naturally by the sun.
But what is the real difference between the two? To understand that, we have to understand exactly what blue light is.
What is Blue Light?
We know blue light is a spectrum of light that has shorter wavelengths. Specifically, it falls between the 400-450nm range on the visible light spectrum. This short wavelength makes it a high-energy visible light (HEV).
Types of Blue Light
1. Natural Blue Light and Ultraviolet
However, one must not forget that blue light is very close on the visible light spectrum to ultra-violet rays – a form of light that is widely understood to have damaging effects. While the human body (and atmosphere) has some natural defenses against UV, it has none against blue light This makes blue light a silent player, and one that needs to be recognized before it is too late.
2. Artificial Blue Light
Artificial blue light is what we commonly find in our gadgets and household lighting. It is present in most lightbulbs that use LED technology (light-emitting diodes). Although initially presented as a solution to fluorescent bulbs that drained natural resources, LED are now being distrusted because of the high amount of blue light exposure. It is also present in all our electronic gadgets that involve a screen (particularly LED ones).
Protection From Harmful Blue Light
If blue light could be colloquially dubbed as a “milder ultraviolet”, then it is safe to assume that the measures we take to protect ourselves from natural UV also apply to protecting ourselves from harmful blue light.
For instance, wearing creams with HEV protection, along with SPF, during all daytime (blue light and UV rays can penetrate through clouds too!) is a great start. So is investing in a pair of blue-light reflective glasses or ultraviolet protection sunglasses. This is especially true for people who are prone to sunburns, young children (who are more sensitive to light), and people with lighter eye colors (less melanin in their irises).
Don’t forget – the sun is the ultimate and most powerful source of light. Spending a day in the sunlight without SPF can do more damage than spending hours in front of a screen, according to Zeiss
When it comes to artificial blue light, health experts and the already visually impaired community is calling out for help to manufactures to take steps to reduce blue light exposure. Thus brands, such as Dr. Lite are trying to create better sources of household lighting that cut down on the emission of high-energy visible spectrums. They are producing smart lighting solutions and LED lamps that can filter out HEV lights.
Computers and phone companies are creating night-shift modes, screen time regulation applications, and screens that reduce blue light refraction into the human eye. Meanwhile, eye-product companies are creating blue-light reflective glasses and lenses for their market.
Ultimately, there is no way to claim that blue light of one kind is inherently more harmful. There are multiple factors involved in creating degenerative impacts on one’s optical health, and simply reducing the variable to one (the source of blue light) is not conclusive in any way. Rather, it is a matter of recognizing how much exposure to what kind of blue light is occurring, and how it can be regulated in a helpful manner instead of a harmful one.