Reports of vision loss due to exposure to blue light from smartphones have been greatly exaggerated, according to the professor whose research sparked concerns about digital devices’ effects on eye health.
Blue light has been found to disrupt humans’ circadian rhythms, making it more difficult for people to fall asleep.
A University of Toledo study released in August found that exposure to blue light can trigger retinal proteins to release molecules that can kill other cells. Cells that can be killed by this process include photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate – and the absence of photoreceptor cells can lead to vision loss.
While that may sound concerning, the chemists behind the study say the human eye has a natural defence againstthis damage in the form of alpha tocoferol, a molecule which can stop photoreceptor cells from dying.
Additionally, they say, the study did not specifically look at blue light from digital devices.
“We caution the public that our study does not show that light from mobile devices or other digital screens causes blindness,” reads a post on the researchers’ website.
Their words are backed up by the American Academy of Opthamology, which says the Toledo study “cannot be turned into recommendations for the real study in the real world” because it did not perfectly mimic the effect of blue light on live human eyes.
“The researchers took cells that are not from the eye, put them together with retinal in a way that doesn’t happen in the body and exposed the cells to light in a way that doesn’t happen in nature,” the academy said on its website.
The researchers say they don’t mean to suggest that blue light from digital devices can’t harm humans’ eyesight – only that there is no scientific proof either way.
While there have been no direct studies of the effects of blue light on human vision, Spanish researchers found earlier this year that it does kill photoreceptor cells in mice.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Ross McLaughlin