Dear Ms. Smartphone: I saw my gorgeous daughter-in-law for the first time since the lockdown, and was surprised she now wore glasses. When I asked, it turns out these are not prescription glasses, just a frame with special lenses to filter out “blue light” from the computer screen. This is all new to me. Is it useful and should an older person, like me, be filtering the blue light too? Esther, Corinthian Island
Dear Esther: Chances are that your daughter-in-law spends a lot of time on the computer now that the office is closed and business is conducted remotely. Until the lockdown, office workers could break-up their screen time with in-person meetings, voice phone calls, and a beverage break. Now, it is straining on the eyes (and well being) to focus on a single screen, or multiple ones, for eight to ten hours a day. It’s hard to sort out the effects of general eye fatigue from the specific effects of blue light.
Citing from a Harvard Health report, blue light is visible light with a wave length between 400 and 450 nanometers. LED displays and specifically the backlight displays on smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers look “white” but they are emitting blue light. These high wave lengths have more energy per photon of light than other colors so at high enough doses, they could cause damage when absorbed by various cells in our body.
As more computer users worry about their eyes and clamor to get protective eye gear, others claim that this is just aggressive marketing and up-selling. Many medical experts refute the claims. I encourage you to read up more and try to sort it out.
That said, why not check-out what’s baked into your own smartphone? There has been a different, but related concern: blue light from phones interferes with the circadian clock, that is adaption between night and day.
On your iphone or ipad filter out blue light by going to the Display and Brightness screen, and then tapping the Night Shift setting. On an Android look in Settings>Display>Blue Light filter. To further protect, consider getting a special screen protector for your computer and smartphone – it will block light in the 380-500 nanometer range throughout the day (not just night).
Age Spectrum…Light Spectrum
I have an interesting anecdote to pass on. When I last visited my ophthalmologist in 2019, the clinician told me she was seeing more young children with vision problems. She encourage me, a.k.a. Dear Smartphone, to tell parents to withhold Ipads and phones from kids. BTW, blue light effects are not confined to young people and office workers. It is thought that it might hasten macular degeneration in older folks. Note that for every research study pointing in one direction, there seems to be refutable evidence in the other. But, if you liked the fit and look of your daughter-in-law’s glasses, why not try a second pair?