A couple of years ago, there was some concern about health risks from blue (and therefore also white) LEDs: the thinking was that short-wavelength blue light might cumulatively damage the eye, create extra glare, and disrupt circadian rhythms of exposed persons.
Now a European Union committee says there’s ‘no evidence of direct adverse health effects’ from LEDs in normal everyday use. There may be some significant effects on circadian rhythms, the committee says, but it’s not yet clear if this leads to adverse health effects.
So that’s a partly reassuring statement, but it’s not a conclusion, for there are still unanswered questions. We lack adequate knowledge about the ocular exposure of people to radiation from LED sources and the total exposure from all light sources. That kind of information is needed for a proper assessment of the potential health effects of the lights we work with and promulgate.
The use of high-luminance vehicle lighting should be investigated to determine if there are potential adverse consequences such as increased crash rates. Cumulative exposure over a relevant time period should be considered, and further research should be done into the reported effects of long-term, low-level exposure on age-related macular degeneration. Much as we justifiably trumpet our innovations, the history of technology is full of lessons about unintended consequences. Today’s and tomorrow’s car lights put out more light, with higher blue content, from smaller surfaces than ever before, and we must not ignore the possibility that there are negative effects requiring our thoughtful attention.