Whether it comes from the sun or from high bays, light is my absolute favorite thing. Sadly, it can be dangerous if we’re exposed to an excessive amount or the wrong kind. Although there are six defined optical radiation hazards, the only one that applies to LEDs is blue light hazard. This information leaves us wondering if LED technology is just too good to be true.
Are LEDs more damaging than other light sources? Luckily—the answer is no.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has created a fact sheet to clear up misunderstandings and confusion surrounding the dangers of LED lighting. One of the largest concerns is the risk of photoretinitis—photochemical damage to the retina—which can result from too much exposure to violet and blue light.
While LEDs are known for their blueish light, they do not emit significantly more blue than other light sources of equivalent color temperature. Like sunlight, all white light intended for interior applications must have a blue component. However, the amount of blue light in typical architectural lighting products does not reach hazardous levels, as defined by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
To further disprove this myth, our bodies have automatic defense mechanisms to protect the retinas in our eyes from overexposure. These reflexive responses include blinking, head movement, pupil constriction, and continuous eye movement. Even before the invention of the light bulb, these reflexes helped protect our eyes from sunlight!
This doesn’t mean our eyes are safe from every type of light, but no light source that emits white light and is used in general lighting applications is considered hazardous to the retina for healthy adults. As the DOE suggests, specialty lamps and colored light sources need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, as does sources used around populations such as adults with eye disease and infants.
I, Dr. Bulb, am happy to know my favorite LED troffers are not causing my retinas any more damage than other light sources.
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