Friday, January 2, 2015

Blue Light Concerns: Not Just for Geeks

So everybody's talking about the dangers of blue light - how much exposure are we getting daily, and how does it affect our lives? There was a time in the not-very-distant past when only the techies were staring at computer screens for hours at a time. Now, it's all of us. The number of smartphone users in the US has nearly tripled since 2010, from 62.6 million to 163.9, and is projected to reach 220 million by 2018. (eMarketer) As a matter of fact, "Americans now own four digital devices on average" (EACH!) "and the average US consumer spends 60 hours a week consuming content across devices." (Nielsen)
We love our technology, and we're not going to give it up - that much is clear. But this monumental shift in the way we interact with it is probably going to have some unintended consequences. One clear effect is the way that these screens deliver light to our eyes. Blue light, a high-energy light wave, is all around us in the sunlight, and nature has designed our bodies to respond to it. We feel more awake, more energized, when exposed to it. But we are carrying "extra" blue light around with us throughout the day and into the evening hours as well. Small wonder our internal clocks are confused. Health advocates are now telling us that our tech gadgets shouldn't be in the bedroom with us because it disrupts our circadian rhythms and can impact restful sleep.

But it's not just sleep. Eye health professionals now believe that blue light not only causes "eye strain and impair[s] our daily vision, but it can also contribute to Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)," (Dr. Joseph Reitano). AMD is a leading cause of blindness in adults over age 50. There's also some significant scientific evidence linking blue light to other serious health concerns: diabetes, obesity, cancer, and behavioral issues in children.  (Harvard Medical School) The prevalence of blue-light emitting devices, which includes smartphones, tablet computers, LED televisions, computer screens, and even CFL and LED lightbulbs is relatively new. It may take decades before we are fully aware of the long-term implications of this exposure level. Many eye doctors are recommending limiting your digital screen time and using a blue-light filtering lens to protect your eyes from high-energy blue light to help prevent significant, long-term damage to your eyes.

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