Have you ever been told that if you sat too close to the television you would go blind or have other issues? The idea stems from the 1960s when some TVs that were sold produced excessive amounts of radiation.
The issue was quickly corrected, but the concept stuck around for a while. Less rooted in fact than a desire to convince kids to go outside once in a while, it’s the kind of thing that was ultimately not a real health concern.
These days you might have heard a similar thing regarding our smartphones, that it’s not a great idea to always be staring at them. That’s actually true, because if we are looking at our phones we are missing the world around us.
There’s another serious reason, too
It’s very possible you at one time heard or read that the light that comes from devices such as smartphones is not great for us, and it turns out that’s actually true. Researchers at the University of Toledo discovered that long periods of exposure to blue light leads to the production of poisonous molecules in our eyes’ photoreceptor cells.
What does that cause?
Damage to those cells will cause macular degneration, which is an incurable condition resulting in blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field. This kind of thing happens for many people as they age, and in fact macular degeneration affects more than 11 million Americans.
But the problem is made worse by using devices that produce a blue light, especially when they are viewed in the dark. There have been many instances where people have gone temporarily blind from such situations.
But really, why is this an issue?
The findings were made after researchers looked into a form of Vitamin A, called retinal. It is something the photoceptor cells use to convert light signals before they are sent to the brain.
What happens, according to one of the researchers, Kasun Ratnayake, is that when blue light is shined on the retinal, “the retinal kills the photoceptor cells as the signaling molecule on the membrane dissolves.” Ratnayake added that photceptor cells don’t regenerate in the eye, so that when they are dead, they are dead for good.
Generally people start to experience this in their 50s or 60s, but constant exposure to blue light in dark rooms can hasten the process.
The researchers found that a molecule called alpha tocopherol, which is a Vitamin E derivative and natural antioxidant in the eye and body, stops the cells from dying. But as a person ages or their immune system is suppressed, the ability to fight back against the blue light attack is diminished.
So what’s the solution?
At this time the researchers are looking into the light that comes from televisions, cellphones and tablets in order to get a better grasp on how the cells in our eyes respond to everyday blue light exposure.
Of course not everyone will react the same way to blue light exposure, but the findings they have already made as well as what is likely to come, will help us to better understand the impact technology has on our health.
Regardless, knowing the danger of blue light, some manufacturers are adding blue light filters to their devices. If yours does not have one, it is best to wear sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light outside and also avoid looking at your phone or tablet in the dark.