A new scientific study on the blue light that emanates from all of devices led several media outlets to declare our phones are causing us to go blind, but while the leader of the research says is not what his report concluded but he says the light does damage the cells in our eyes.
“If somebody asked me, ‘Do you think smartphones make you blind?’ My answer is obviously not. Can it damage your vision? It has the potential, but I cannot conclusively says until we have (future) findings in hand,” said University of Toledo chemistry and biochemistry professor Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, who led the study published in “Scientific Reports.”
Karunarathne says the impact of blue light has been studied since the 1970’s and previous reports show blue light damaging mouse retinas, causing lesions in the eye, and contributing to sleep deprivation. On the positive side, research shows using blue light filters greatly reduces the danger to human eyes.
He says his research was specifically targeted to how blue light impacts cells in the eye.
“We were actually studying what the mechanism is and how could blue light induce cytotoxicity and do damage to the cells?” said Karunarathne. ”
And while his conclusions are not as alarming as some first reported, he says the results are concerning.
“What our study suggests is that the blue light can cause toxicity and cell death,” said Karunarathne. “We need more studies to identify if these findings are directly related to the damage to vision as well as to blindness.”
To reach that conclusion, Karunarathne and his team focused on a molecule called retinal.
“Retinal is the molecule that allows light-sensitive photoreceptors in our eye to sense light. So that’s the light-harvesting engine if you will,” said Karunarathne.
The combination of retinal and blue light is not good.
“Blue light in the presence of retinal actually induces a cytotoxic effect. They changed the localization of the very crucial signaling molecules that are vital for cellular survival and ended up damaging cells and inducing cell death,” he explained.
However, the blue light does not guarantee permanent damage since humans are equipped with a natural defense to it.
“We have inherent defense mechanisms in our eye to work against this,” said Karunarathne. “So if your mechanisms are fairly strong, although you have continuous exposure to bright, blue light sources, you may not experience any vision losses.”
Karunarathne also says the advent of smartphones and tablets are still too recent to chronicle any possible increases in cases of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
He says future experiements will explain just how much of a threat blue light presents to our eyes.
“Is it sufficient to do damage to the retina? The second question is are the cells in the retina sufficiently exposed to this molecule?” said Karunarathne.
In the meantime, he advises using blue light filters and keeping other lights on when using our devices.