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ENERGY-SAVING ‘green’ LED lights can cause serious damage to the retina, according to recent research by Spanish scientists.
And once the cells are destroyed by prolonged and continuous exposure to LED rays, they cannot be replaced and will not regrow.
This is caused by the high levels of radiation in the ‘blue band’, and is likely to become a global epidemic in the medium term given that computer, mobile phone and TV screens, and even traffic lights and street lights, have been gradually replaced with LED.
Experts are calling for these to have built-in filters to cut out the blue glare.
An investigator at Madrid’s Complutense University, Dr Celia Sánchez Ramos, says the retina, a highly-sensitive tissue covering the eye, never regenerates itself once it has become damaged.
The professor of the University College of Optics at the Complutense says LED lights are made up of rainbow longitude waves, and it is the blue part which causes the problem.
“LED is fantastic if there is adequate protection,” she explains.
Humans have their eyes open for around 6,000 hours a year, and most of this time they are exposed to artificial light – for which reason Dr Sánchez Ramos says the best way to prevent damage is to ‘close your eyes often to soften the impact’.
She also says using good sunglasses with UV filter rays, and a healthy and varied diet rich in Vitamin A – which comes from spinach and peppers – will protect the eyes.
The Prince of Asturias Scientific Investigation Prize winner in 2009 says Vitamin A has a high concentration of visual pigments, known as ‘maculars’, which are responsible for absorbing the harmful elements of light such as short-wave blue and violet rays.
A human being’s ability to store these pigments reduces with age.
Her investigation into eye damage caused by LED was financed by the MAPFRE Foundation, the charitable arm of the Spanish insurance giant MAPFRE.
“This problem is going to get worse, because humans are living longer and children are using electronic devices from a young age, particularly for schoolwork, instead of paper,” Dr Sánchez Ramos explains.
“Eyes are not designed to look directly at light – they are designed to see with light.”