Fact or fiction: Is blue light from LEDs harmful?

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In 2013, several media focused on the potential risk that LED lighting posed on human and animal health. All the commotion was due to previous research finding from 1970-2002 that was put in focus. The research found that the blue light-emitting diode could potentially harm various living organisms on earth. But is LED lighting dangerous? And can it create insomnia and other health problems? We give you all the answers right here.

Long before the light-emitting diode was introduced on the illumination market, there have been reports and research on the risk posed by the blue LEDs near humans. The activities were conducted under work environment and security regulations that illustrated a rising tendency on the effect on humans in a such light in the 1970’s. During the research, it was found that retina (the third inner part of the eye, which is light sensitive and crucial for further signals to the brain) was affected to such an extent that a smaller deconstruction of the cells in the area was detected if the test subjects started directly into a blue LED. In a few cases, a minor inflammatory condition was detected.

Numerous research findings in the 1970’s showed a health risk when people stayed in places with blue light over an extended period. Only 30 years after these research studies, the researchers began to show interest for the phenomenon again. In this period, the blue light LED could generate white light by using yellow phosphor. The blue light LED were developing rapidly but was it still dangerous to use blue LED, when a layer of phosphor moved the shorter “dangerous” wavelengths approximately 400-500 nm longer down and generated longer wavelengths towards the red part of the spectrum?

White light: How does it influence humans?

Cold white light-emitting diodes with a blue light (6000K) came from several places in the years around year 2000. The blueish gleam started new investigations and in 2014, the risk of the blue light was looked upon closely. Retina, which were constantly in focus during the research, showed a predominantly degree of changes when humans stayed in cold light (6000K) as opposed to warm light (3000K). The light-sensitive ability was affected to such an extent that the test persons felt a notable difference on their well-being. This can be compared to the abilities of the sun. At midday, the light is blueish (6000-10000K) and at sunset the light is warm (1200-2700K). This cycle has a crucial effect on humans and determines the way we and all other organisms live on earth. Because of this, dynamic illumination or tunable white have been invented, where the color temperature (the color of the light) can influence human behavior and especially create an improved working performance. If colors of light are used correctly, cold light can trick retina into sending signals to the brain on staying awake and vice versa: be tired when exposed to a warm light color. This is exactly what the research results showed 15 years ago.

Conclusion on the dangers of LED lighting

Based on several hundred research results conducted in the last 40 years, blue light has posed a threat to humans and other living organisms on earth if we look directly into the blue light under different time intervals. It has been concluded that the blue InGan LED coated with phosphor, which is an LED that give out white light does not pose any health risks for humans. IES and DOE, two impartial organizations who handle new standards within the illumination field, have emphasized that there is no risk to using white light-emitting diodes. However, blue light-emitting diodes that emit light around 400-500 nm can pose a risk to damaging retina, which can cause infections or destruction of cells if worst comes to worst.

Sources: John D. Bullough, International Commision on Illumination, Illuminating Engineering Society