Earlier this semester, La Canada High School held a giveaway of blue light glasses in the school parking lot. They were passed out for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Upon hearing this news, many students went out of their way to drive to LCHS, and the glasses ran out quickly.
This is just one example of the rising popularity of the blue light blocking glasses that have emerged since distance learning started this fall. However, this has raised many questions about the legitimacy of these glasses.
First of all, some background is necessary. Blue light blocking glasses (or just blue light glasses) are glasses that are designed to block out or counteract certain light emitted from screens which are deemed to be harmful, specifically blue-violet light waves.
This has become more of a concern for many people because of how often we are looking at screens due to the pandemic. Children have been forced to attend school from their rooms, using apps on their computers like Zoom or Google Meets to receive lessons from teachers. Most adults (excluding frontline workers and other similar jobs) have also had to begin working from home. Additionally, since people can’t go outside as much anymore, many have been spending their free time staring at their phones or watching TV. All of this makes for an alarming combination if there is real evidence behind the idea that our eyes can be damaged by the light from these screens.
When looking at the science behind this, it becomes clear that electronics don’t actually have a significant impact on our eyes and how well we’re able to use them. David J. Ramsey, the Director of Ophthalmic Research at the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, wrote about this topic in an article for Harvard Health Publishing. In the article, he asserted that, while blue light does have more energy per photon of light than other colors in the visible spectrum (and therefore can cause damage when absorbed in high enough quantities), the LEDs in our electronic devices “produce relatively narrow peaks of light that are crafted by the manufacturer”. What this means is that electronics produce more blue light than other light sources, but it is not much more, and our eyes perceive it in almost the exact same way they perceive white light. So, in the end, the blue light that comes from electronics is negligible, especially when compared to the amount of blue light that is emitted by the sun, and thus shouldn’t be a cause of concern when it comes to eye damage.
This stance is confirmed by an article in Medical News Today written by Doctor Jessica Caporuscio, a clinical pharmacist, where it was stated that “current research has not confirmed whether or not blue light-emitting devices are damaging to eyes and vision”.
However, it is important to note that blue light glasses shouldn’t be dismissed just because there is no evidence to support the idea that they prevent eye damage. In his article, Dr. Ramsay mentions that, while blue light may not harm our eyes, constant exposure to it can negatively affect a person’s circadian rhythm (or, in other words, their internal clock), which can keep them awake and disrupt their sleep. This can have other negative consequences, since sleep is an important aspect of physical and mental health.
Dr. Caporuscio mentions this idea in her article as well, discussing studies that show that less exposure to blue light is associated with better sleep quality and duration. There is also research that indicates that those who are constantly looking at screens experience eye strain (a symptom where one’s eyes get tired from intense use).
Finally, blue light glasses could help those who use them if they act as a sort of placebo, having no real physical effect on the user, but benefiting them psychologically since they are under the impression that it works.
Overall, being on electronic devices constantly is certainly not a positive thing, and to address any impacts it may have on our health, there is a need for stricter methods of self-regulating our own use of devices. This can mean establishing a certain time at which we will stop looking at devices, or deleting certain apps that we feel we use too often, or making an effort to do something non-electronic related in our free time, like reading a book.
Simply buying a pair of glasses won’t solve this problem, and the faculty at LCHS have clearly seen that as well, which is evident through policies like the implementation of asynchronous days (which are intended to limit the amount of time students spend online). Self-care and improving one’s own personal wellbeing (both physically and mentally) is more important than ever in this time, and any step we take to do so is a step in the right direction.