– Ed

I want to share with you, in non-scientific terms, the concerns I have, about the risk our future generations face, due to excessive exposure to Blue Light. I am still relishing the wonder of becoming a grandfather for the first time. I now have the opportunity to observe, first-hand, how electronic devices and therefore, more Blue Light, has entered the every-day life of my two-year-old granddaughter.

A lot has been written about Blue Light and the intrinsic dangers it poses to ocular health. As editor, I have already devoted substantial space in this magazine to cover Blue Light issues. Blue Light has been around forever, because the main source is sunlight. Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays and many shades of each of these colours. Combined, this spectrum of coloured light rays create what we call sunlight or white light. Rays on the red end of the visible light spectrum have longer wavelengths and therefore, less energy. Rays on the blue end of the spectrum have shorter wavelengths and more energy. Approximately one-third of all visible light is considered high-energy visible (HEV) or “blue” light. Sources of blue light include the sun, digital screens (TV’s, computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets), electronic devices, fluorescent and LED lighting.

Studies suggest that, over time, over exposure to the blue end of the light spectrum can cause serious long-term damage to retinal cells. This type of damage would be irreversible. Blue wavelengths are beneficial during daylight hours. They boost attention span, reaction times and mood, but seem to be the most disruptive at night, particularly when boosted by the use of Blue Light generating devices. A lessor known fact is that Blue Light is especially good at preventing the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with night time that signals the body when it is time to sleep.

What has changed is the common use of a multitude of devices that introduce additional levels of Blue Light into our every-day lives. The proliferation of electronic devices with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown. Cell phones have changed the social behaviour of society and some experts say it is addictive and releases dopamine, which also fuels alcoholism, drug addiction and gambling. Our kids, from an early stage of their lives, see parents engage with cell phones and other devices as an integral part of their lives and they in turn, quickly develop a passion to be part of it. Here is the problem then: a one-year old that uses a cell phone or a tablet as a pacifier. She is demanding while mother is talking to her friend; she gets the cell phone to amuse herself. Seven-year-old kids own their own I-pads. At what age do they get their own cell phones? It is this additive behaviour in utilising electronic devices that exacerbates the problem.

What compounds the problem is that it will probably take many years before hard evidence can be presented to demonstrate the consequences of Blue Light exposure. Moreover, there are no drastic symptoms to deter those using the Blue Light devices. It is akin to the diabetic, who should be looking after himself in terms of diet, smoking and alcohol, from the day the diagnosis is made, to avoid catastrophic consequences later in life. However, many diabetics only take it on board once the hard evidence of diabetic complications, such as diabetic retinopathy become evident. One can see a similar pattern emerging when it comes to the Blue Light saga.

What I really want to share with you is how to take steps to counter this danger that could affect our children’s ocular health in their adult lives. What it amounts to at the end of the day, is a life-style choice. Good parenting is unlikely if there is alcohol or drug abuse in the home. By the same token, there has to be a harmonious relationship between father and mother. Drinking and driving is a bad thing, the consequences of which, will directly affect your children. These are cardinal issues. There will be no gain until the household acknowledges that the potential peril of Blue Light should be elevated to the same level of concern as these issues. Only then can we hope to exercise the discipline to minimise the household’s exposure to Blue Light.

A cell phone is like an extension of our bodies these days and probably the main source of Blue Light. You may not be aware, but most cell phones have built-in Blue Light shields or filters. This is true for I-phones as well as Androids. Go into Settings and then into Brightness and Display. You can even have an automatic timer change the screen light.

There are also a number of apps available to control the light levels on computer screens and tablets.

f.lux is a computer program that adjusts a computer’s display colour temperature according to its location and time of day, based on a user’s specified set of longitude and latitude geographical coordinates, a ZIP code, or a city name, as well as featuring manual user control.

Here are some more options to explore:

  • Sunset Screen
  • Iris
  • Pango Bright
  • Play store – Twilight App
  • Night Shift for Apple Mac
CAUTION: White or Blue LED’s can permanently damage your eyes, even when you do not feel pain.

These days, there are highly technical optical lens designs and coatings available to provide protection against Blue Light. This does not mean a dark tint. Clear lenses can have an anti-reflective coating as well as Blue Light filters. Non-prescription Blue Blocker glasses are freely available at relatively low cost. If you are a spectacle wearer, insist on the most advanced lens coatings to protect your eyes from Blue Light.

Other sources of Blue Light are fluorescent and LED lights. The best strategy is to avoid having these in your home at all.

Here are a few more things to consider to minimise exposure to Blue Light:

  • Be mindful to reduce your own use of electronic devices at home – lead by example.
  • Introduce an electronic device library at home, which may just be a basket, hanging from the ceiling. First to go in there are cell phones. Eliminate the temptation.
  • Enforce a time-zone in the home, free of electronic devices.
  • Ensure that your child’s teacher is familiar with the perils of Blue Light.
  • Have Blue Light Blocker glasses available in your house.
  • Think carefully about the toys you buy – avoid Blue Light.
  • Take a break from computer screen every twenty minutes.
  • No Blue Light allowed two hours before bed time
  • Make your kids wear UV400 sunglasses.
  • When you go out for dinner, take only one cell phone for Uber and emergencies. Encourage teenagers to do the same.

Same scene viewed by a person with Normal Vision and Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

The conclusions we can draw from this are the following: Blue Light poses an unknown threat to ocular health, which may only manifest after a long period of time. It is a threat that should not just be ignored. There are several ways to protect our families’ eyes. What is required, is to acknowledge the threat of Blue Light for what it is and take action.


  • Helps regulate circadian rhytm, the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles
  • Boost alertness
  • Helps memory and cognitive function
  • Elevates mood


  • Disruptions to the circadian rhythm
  • Digital Eyestrain Syndrome: blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated eyes, headaches, neck and back pain
  • Greater risk of certain types of cancers
  • Greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • Increased risk of depression
  • May cause permanent eye damage; may contribute to age-related macular degeneration which can lead to vision loss.
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