LED lights have fast become the go-to lighting for both businesses and homes.
The Department of Energy estimates they represent nearly half of all emitted light sources since 2020. However, being they are so widespread, do they have any adverse effects on people’s eyes?
Types of Light
At one end of the spectrum of light is low-frequency infrared light which is invisible to the naked eye. We experience this type of light as heat. This type of light is emitted from the sun and causes deep skin damage over a long period of exposure.
The visible spectrum includes colors violet, blue, green, yellow, and red. This is poorly stopped by pigmentation in the eyes. Most of this visible light is short wave UVB and has more energy in comparison to long wave UVA. This is the most damaging to superficial layers of the skin and eyes.
The most important aspect of light emitted form all sources is its spectral power. The sun can cause more damage to the eyes and skin than other light sources due to its power and the forms of light it emits.
Sources of LED Light
LED light technology is now in many popular computing devices and home appliances. These include:
- LED lights
- Flat-screen LED televisions
- Computer monitors
- Tablet screens
LED light Dangers
LED’s emit ultraviolet light which harms both the skin and eyes. The health consequences on the eyes over the long term are numerous. The damage to the cornea and retina can lead to cataracts or pinguecula (yellow spots on the whites of the eyes).
Blue Light Risks
Blue light is the most damaging aspect of LED light on the human eyes. The blue light wavelength penetrates deep into the retina, and with enough exposure will damage the photoreceptors. Especially look out for blue-violet light which is found to be the most harmful.
Some of the risks to the eyes from blue light include:
- Macular degeneration
- Eye cancers
- Difficulty falling asleep
In fact, because blue light makes it more difficult to fall asleep, people with the seasonal affective disorder in northern and wintery climates can benefit from blue light exposure at certain times of the day to help regulate their mood and sleep patterns.
However, blue light does not necessarily mean danger to the eyes. The risk to the retina depends on meeting one (or more) of four conditions:
1. Being directly in the line of the light source
2. Being too near the light source
3. Being exposed to the light source for too long
4. High light intensity
LED’s are actually missing a beneficial type of light, called near-infrared light (NIR). This type of light helps the cells in the retina repair and regenerate. The sun, halogen bulbs and incandescent bulbs emit near-infrared light. In fact, some medical applications use NIR to heal wounds.
LED’s tend to flicker more than other types of lights. If your LED’s are color changing or dimmable, they will flicker very quickly which you cannot see. This flickering has an effect on your biology and can have some harmful effects over time. Older lights and TVs have more noticeable flickers, but LED’s flicker so fast you cannot see it.
On a subconscious level, a person’s body will respond to LED flicker in negative ways. This can result health affects such as fatigue, eye strain, and headaches. It can also exacerbate other health issues a person may have such as seizure conditions.
LED flicker has not shown to have any positive health benefits in the longterm.
Long Term Effects Of Led Lights
LED lights contain blue light, as mentioned above. This type of light can cause negative health affects which may impact your life.
The amount of blue light emmitted by the LED also depends on the color temperature, light spectrum, and Color Rendering Index (CRI).
Specifically, using LED lights late at night before you sleep can cause sleeplessness. It has been documented that not getting enough sleep presents long term medical risks.
The affects of the LED depend significantly on several factors:
- The LED light intensity
- Length of time exposed to the light
- When you use LED lights
Are LED Lights Safe For Eyes?
LED lights are not entirely safe for the eyes, but the jury is still out as to how bad they actually are. They may actually be beneficial, in some respects. There is no definitive study that says you should stop using LED lights or devices that emit these types of light.
A few studies have been done that have shows some negative affects on the eyes due to blue light emmitted from LEDs. This includes:
- Damaged retinas
- Increased risk for age-related macular degeneration
However, no conclusive evidence is available that shows LED lights will harm most people’s eyes if they use them sparingly.
How Does LED Light Affect The Skin?
Believe it or not, there is a skin treatment called LED light therapy. This is has been shown to help the skin rejuvenate and look younger and has become more popular in recent years. However, there are some risks, so if you are considering it, make sure to check with your doctor first.
People using LED lights at home may see some of this benefit, but again, the skin could react in unwanted ways and cause issues.
So, the jury is still out as to how much longterm damage LED lights can have on a person’s health. If you keep their usage to a minimum and only use them at certain times of the day, the risks will be less.
LED vs Incandescent vs Flourescent vs Halogen vs Full Spectrum
LED lights are popular, but they are not the only type of light out there. There are different types of lights available to purchase to use in your home and office. These include incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, and full-spectrum lights.
The light bulbs that emit the highest amount of blue light are LEDs and fluorescent lights. Your smartphones, tablets, and computer screens also emit blue light. However, incandescent bulbs emit only a small amount of blue light. Even though they are an older technology, perhaps these are a safer option for people who worry about potential eye damage from LEDs.
Are Led Lights Safer Than Flourescent Lights?
Flourescent lights were an improvement over incandescent lights in terms of energy usage, yet still had some dangers. Specifically, they had a risk of mercury exposure to a person nearby if they were broken. They also caused other health risks such as eye diseases and migraine headaches. Flourescent lights are also known to flicker occasionally which can affect your work.
Flourcent lights also pose fire risks under certain circumstances. If broken or situated too close to combustible materials, they can start a fire in a person’s home or office.
An obvious health risk of any type of light bulb is falling off a stool or ladder while trying to install or replace them.
LED lights do not contain mercury and produce little UV radiation. They are comparable to flourescent lights in terms of light intensity but have less of the health risks. LED lights are also more energy efficient than flourescent lights.
If you choose to use LED lights, always look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) seal on the packaging or box you purchase them in.
Are Led Lights Safer Than Incandescent Lights?
Incadescent lighting is an old technology that has served mankind well to keep cities and homes illuminated at night. These are still used today, and many people have them on their homes for the holidays in the form of string lights. However, these pose fire hazards when a bulb goes out or the wiring gets frayed. Incadescent lights can also get very hot and must not be too close to combustible materials.
Older incandescent light holders pose serious fire risks. They often use cotton or metal links for turning the light on which can either burn or become so hot as to overheat the light. You can spot these types of holders as white porcelain with a single bulb screwed in.
If there is a lack of airflow in a storage area, an incandescent bulb can reach temperatures of 250-500 degrees Farenheit (normal temps range from 150-200 F). This is why new construction is moving away from incandescent and towards safer bulb types, such as LED.
Are LED Lights Dimmable?
LED lights do have the ability to be dimmed, but this depends on the the manufacturer. To be sure, review the packaging or product description and look for a clear statement that they are dimmable.
How Bright Are LED Lights?
Led brightness is directly related to how much power is consumed by the light.
|LED Power Consumption In Watts||Light Output in Lumens|
|2 – 3||0 – 200|
|3 – 5||200 – 300|
|5 – 7||300 – 500|
|7 – 9||500 – 700|
|10 – 14||700 – 1250|
|14 – 18||1,250 – 2300|
To put it in perspective, a 1000 lumen LED light will be about as bright as a large flashlight, but not as bright as a street lamp.
LED Filters and Blinds
UV resistant glass windows are installed in many new homes and office buildings. This prevents bad light from entering the building and harming people’s eyes. This light is actually better than the flourescent lights in your office.
Tablest, smartphones, and computer screens can also have filters added which will lower the level of blue light emitted. You can find these for purchase online and will help protect your retinas.
LED lights are not as good as other types of lights emitting light in all directions. If you adjust the light away from your eyes, this can help.
LED light technology has been a boon to our modern daily lives and allowed our society to use less energy, which helps keeps the planet liveable. Despite the potential negative health effects of too much blue light exposure, you do not have to worry about getting rid of your LED screens and lights anytime soon.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.