LED Lighting and Eyes

Polar Ray Admin

Since the beginning of artificial lighting there have always been both real and supposed issues that have placed questions on the safety of the lighting, from the potential of starting a fire to creating or exacerbating health issues. With all the superb protection in today’s lighting systems, the threat of the first ever concern with artificial lighting, fire, doesn’t even make the list of potential concerns. In regard to potential health issues from exposure in spaces lit by LED luminaries, LEDs are no more harmful or beneficial than any previous technology since the Edison bulb. Yes, as noted in some previous blogs, in regard to medical applications using LED light, there are medical uses which are beneficial but here we are speaking of exposure to the artificial lighting we are all exposed to in our normal daily lives and in that environment, the is no proven medical benefit as well as no proven disadvantages in LED lighting.

There have always been opinions, again, proven or not, that have been associated with potential human vision issues due to exposure to artificial lighting of all sorts. Of course, if any light is looked directly into for any length of time one can expect some eye damage, whether temporary or permanent. However, there truly is concern with the possibility of photochemical damage to the retina resulting from too much exposure to blue and violet light. The condition is called photoretinitis and the threat is known as ‘blue light hazard’.  Although LED lighting that emits white light does not emit significantly more blue light than any other form of artificial light at the same color temperature, there are current international standards which assure that no light source which emits white light and is used in general lighting applications is considered to be harmful to healthy adult retinas. There is ongoing in-depth research in the area of potential retina damage on infants and adults with certain eye ailments in which additional evaluation and evolving changes are being applied to help alleviate the possibility of any vision damage.

To add to all the work researchers are doing to protect our eyes against any potential damage caused by artificial lighting, our own natural defense mechanisms kick in to help avoid injury when the amount of light reaches damaging proportions. The natural reactions include continuous eye movement and an aversion response, which involves pupil constriction, blinking, and head movement. These ordinary responses are what protect our eyes from overexposure to natural sunlight, and the same responses work with artificial lighting as well. Of all the potential damaging light issues that can be involved with natural sunlight, the only one which is essentially applicable to LEDs is blue light hazard. The typical LED lighting which emits blue light does not emit any amount that could be dangerous to human vision.

It is a misconception that LED lighting emits much more blue light than conventional lighting does. That misconception is a strike that LED lighting does not deserve. While it is true that white LED light has a percentage of blue light, it is not excessive when concerning human vision and is not significantly greater than the amount that would be associated with any other lighting technology at any particular color rating. The blue component in white light is necessary for many vision properties and if absent from artificial light, things like correct color rendering and overall visual appearance become unnatural. Regulation of circadian rhythms are also highly dependent on blue light. The removal of blue light from artificial lighting, which can be done due to the fine-tuning characteristics of LED lighting, is certainly not something that would be of benefit to human vision. Due to the fact that LED color temperature is very predictive of the amount of blue light content in the output, it is quite possible to determine a hazard threshold based on the color temperature. That hazard threshold is of high importance in the production of any sort of artificial lighting and is highly controlled so not to be of any concern in regard to eye damage caused by dangerous levels of any potentially damaging light. There are ongoing studies to ensure that applications of artificial light do not negatively expose people suffering from eye diseases, and infants that have not yet developed aversion responses to lighting that could be uncomfortable or damaging.

In concert with the great energy savings and the overall resultant smaller carbon footprint eventually attainable in using the technology, the other truly exceptional thing about LED lighting is that it can be tailored to so many different properties (called out as ‘metrics’ in the field) to meet just about any need or want in regard to lighting an area. Not only to efficiently and effectively do what artificial lighting was originally developed to do – improve human vision in darkened spaces – but to add ambiance, draw attention, or add safety in ways not previously possible with any earlier lighting technology or combination of lighting technologies. All of this is being accomplished with highly regulated lighting output as to not cause any damage to human vision or health. The bottom line is, there is no reason to question the use of LED lighting in regard to any negative effects on vision or overall human health, as those potential issues have all been taken into consideration and are highly adhered to in the design and production of the products. In addition, the continuing research in the LED lighting field in regard to any potential effects on human health is well above and beyond any other research that has ever been accomplished with any other type of artificial lighting.

As always, if you have questions in regard to any of your lighting projects, please feel free to call Polar-Ray at 303-494-5773 to speak with a lighting consultant. Thank you for perusing our web site.