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Recent media coverage has suggested that ‘LEDs can damage the retina, particularly in children’.

Sparked by research specifically focussing on LEDs in PCs, Smartphones and TV sets, some studies have warned that LED lighting can damage eyesight, with some even going as far as suggesting it can lead to eventual blindness. This has been attributed to the spectral output of LEDs in modern technology peaking in the blue end of the visible spectrum at 380nm-500nm. Conversely, white light with equally high blue content output (468nm) has been proven to successfully combat S.A.D. (Seasonal Adjustment Disorder).

Specifically, the Spanish researchers focussed on blue light at around 468 nanometers and whilst the evidence suggests real damage to the cells being studied, many lighting specialists have questioned the validity of the research. Variables such as usage, exposure time and knowledge haven’t been adequately taken into consideration, Steve Poole, technical/quality director at Projection Lighting and a former manager at the Lighting Association Laboratories likened the research conditions to “staring at blue light equivalent to a 100W incandescent source at 20cm distance for 12 hours”, a completely unrealistic exposure time.

 

It is important to note that blue light occurs in any white light source including natural day light – which has high blue light levels – and occurs at different intensities throughout all lamp types and colour temperatures. It is also important to note that the types of LED screens tested by Spanish researchers have a much higher blue light intensity than LEDs often used in architectural light fittings.

New technologies historically carry health concerns. Fluorescent lighting has been linked to suppression of melatonin which can lead to cancer, while mobile phones have been tentatively linked to “tumours, Alzheimer’s, strokes and Autism”. However the vast majority of western population learn, work, shop and find their way through daily life by fluorescent lighting and there is estimated to be over 6.8 billion active mobile phones in the world.

Although wide adoption of different technologies in no way disproves these potentially harmful effects, it does highlight that technology induced health complications may be avoided through understanding, controlling the technology and maximising it’s potential, whilst mitigating potential risks.

In terms of lighting schemes, this must be completed on a case by case basis, with each scheme coming with it’s own unique considerations. There are many ways of implementing lighting into the interior design that will reduce any potential risks as well as enhance the overall feel of the lighting scheme, such as:

  • Indirectly lighting surfaces – walls/ceilings/architectural details and mixed with direct sources for task/leisure purposes, to create layers of light.
    • Using hidden integrated details where light sources are indirect/reflected e.g. in coves, coffers, shelving etc.
    • Utilising daylight; both directly, indirectly and control using shading.
    • Using complimentary surface finishes to the areas usage, giving light something to play with.
    • Eliminating direct views of LED/ fluorescent sources.
    • Never using direct sources such as down lights over sleeping areas.

 

Good examples of indirect lighting

 

Lighting control plays an equally important role by regulating the light levels over different times of the day, this enables better synchronicity with life’s rhythms, rather than contradicting them. This is done by dimming lighting scenes during the evening and night, use of colour temperature using brighter light during the day, with control systems able to be programmed to automatically adjust to the most suitable scene based on the time of day.

A lighting specialist will also be able to specify fittings that meet your projects demands as well as further reduce direct lighting and glare by:

  • Using glare control in fixtures where a direct view of the lamp is possible, for example honeycomb louvres and glare cowls.
  • Bench testing for colour rendering outputs of all LEDs and re-specifying if necessary.
  • Using Glass filters where necessary to block out unwanted wavelengths of the visible spectrum.
  • Using appropriate warm white colour temperatures and lumen outputs that do not give stark cold (high blue value) lighting.

 

Current research into the harmful effects of LEDs is not extensive enough to decide if LEDs are significantly harmful in real scenarios. However while research continues, it is important to mitigate any potential risks, using the available knowledge and maximising the findings of current research rather than running in fear from all things new.

Want to know more about mitigating potential risks of LED lighting? Or do you think these reports blown out of proportion? Tell us…

Ideaworks have spent 30 years seamlessly integrating technology into homes and superyachts. Our lighting designers operate within the larger team, working closely with architects, interior designers and consultants to deliver remarkable solutions. For more information contact experience@ideaworks.co.uk.

Johanna Fright
Brand Guardian at Ideaworks

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