Blue light from devices such as mobile phones, computers and tablets is killing cells in your eyes and increasing the possibility of blindness later on in life.
The above is based on the findings of optical chemistry research undertaken by chemists at The University of Toledo which was published in the journal Scientific Reports (H/T phys.org).
Macular degeneration, now a leading cause of blindness in the United States, prompted the study. And the discoveries made aren't very encouraging, seeing as most of us are exposed to blue light on a daily basis, possibly for several hours a day.
The eye disease is incurable and causes significant loss of sight in persons aged 50-60. It comes as a result of the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina.
"It's no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina," said Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop."
Experiments revealed that exposure to blue light causes the retina to trigger poisonous reactions in photoreceptor cells.
"It's toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signaling molecule on the membrane dissolves," Kasun Ratnayake, a student researcher explained. "Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they're dead, they're dead for good."
A molecule called alpha-Tocopherol, a derivative of Vitamin E, is a natural antioxidant in the eye and body that stops photoreceptor cells from dying. As persons age, though, their bodies lose the ability to defend the eye from blue light.
"If you look at the amount of light coming out of your cell phone, it's not great but it seems tolerable," said Dr. John Payton, a visiting assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "Some cell phone companies are adding blue-light filters to the screens, and I think that is a good idea."
To protect one's eyes, it's advised that sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light be worn outside. It would also help if you abstain from looking at your phone or tablet in a dark environment, but there are several free apps out there that are said to filter blue light coming from a handheld device.