Your phone or laptop can keep you entertained or boost work productivity, but it might also have an unintended consequence: premature aging.
Now, research shows the potential culprit is blue-wavelength light, which beams out of electronic screens and some household fixtures, new research shows. Working with preclinical models, Oregon State University researchers found that light-emitting diodes can damage cells in the brain and the eye’s retina.
And the light doesn’t even have to be shining directly in the eye to produce negative effects.
To establish their findings, the researchers exposed groups of fruit flies to daily doses of blue LED light similar to what comes from electronic devices. Those that were exposed to 12 hours of both light and darkness did not live as long as those who had blue wavelengths filtered out. The blue light also heightened damage to the retina, brain neurons and led to movement problems.
What does this mean for humans? More research is needed, but there is a growing body of research showing that artificial light can play havoc with sleep. It’s also crucial for the body’s circadian rhythm — the host of internal activities that affect sleeping, eating and other crucial functions.
As use of LED lighting grows and electronic screens become a seemingly inescapable part of modern life, technology may one day evolve to deal with its own issues. Think of a self-monitoring phone that adjusts its display based how long it gets used.
Until then, there are some ways to help yourself: Glasses with amber lenses can protect the retina by filtering blue light, and some phones and laptops can be set to block blue light.