LED lights damage eyes and disturb sleep, European health authority warns

(CNN)The blue light in LED lighting that is increasingly used in our homes can damage the eye's retina while disturbing our biological and sleep rhythms, a French health authority warned in a new report.

New scientific evidence confirms the "phototoxic effects" of short-term exposures to high-intensity blue light, as well as an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration after chronic exposure to lower-intensity sources, according to the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, known as ANSES. Age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss among people over 50, causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina that's needed for sharp central vision.
Yet protection from the harmful effects to the retina offered by "anti-blue light" screens, filters and sunglasses varies, and their ability to preserve sleep rhythms is not proven, ANSES also said.

    Lighting 101

    LEDs or light-emitting diodes consist of a semiconductor chip positioned on a reflective surface; when electricity runs through the semiconductor, light is produced.
    Blue light itself is not new. Sunlight produces rays of blue that have higher energy than other wavelengths in the light spectrum. And old-fashioned lightbulbs produced some blue light, though less than what is emitted by energy-efficient curlicue (fluorescent) lightbulbs or LEDs.
    LEDs are "undergoing rapid technological and economic development as a new source of lighting. For many years, they were only used in electronics but are now found as integral parts of lighting systems," ANSES wrote in a 2016 report. Today, LEDs are used for domestic purposes as well as industrial and commercial ones.
    In the United States, LED products have been seeing increased adoption, a positive development in terms of energy consumption because they use significantly less electricity per lumen than many traditional lighting technologies, according to the US Department of Energy. Market penetration of LED lighting is increasing and will represent 48% of total lumen-hour sales by 2020 and 84% by 2030, the agency estimates.
    ANSES differentiates types of blue light i