A new study has researchers renewing warnings about exposure to the blue light that emanates from the screens of many devices that have become integral to much of modern society, and that the damage caused by that exposure steadily worsens as a person ages.
Initially made public in July, the study from Oregon State University made use of fruit flies because of the many cellular and developmental mechanisms the species shares with humans.
The flies in question began their lives in darkness and were exposed to more and more blue LED light as they got older to have their survival rate studied.
The study was built on prior research that found exposure to blue light affected the length of fruit flies’ life cycles, even if the light was not shined directly into their eyes.
Oregon State University College of Science researcher Jaga Giebultowicz led the study. Jaga Giebultowicz’s specialty is in the field of biological clock study.
“The novel aspect of this new study is showing that chronic exposure to blue light can impair energy-producing pathways even in cells that are not specialized in sensing light,” Giebultowicz said in a university release dedicated to the study. “We determined that specific reactions in mitochondria were dramatically reduced by blue light, while other reactions were decreased by age independent of blue light. You can think of it as blue light exposure adding insult to injury in aging flies.”
The research notes that prior studies have pointed towards prolonged blue light exposure being detrimental to the human circadian rhythm, the rhythm of brain wave activity over a normal 24-hour span.
“This technology, LED lighting, even in most developed countries, has not been used long enough to know its effects across the human lifespan,” she said. “There are increasing concerns that extended exposure to artificial light, especially blue-enriched LED light, may be detrimental to human health. While the full effects of blue light exposure across the lifespan are not yet known in humans, accelerated aging observed in short-lived model organism should alert us to the potential of cellular damage by this stressor.”
So what can the average person do?
Researchers suggest retina protection in the form of amber-lensed eyeglasses and recommend setting phones, laptops, and other screen-reliant devices to block blue emissions.
“Our previous work demonstrated that daily lifelong exposure to blue light, but not other visible wavelengths, has damaging effects on the brain, motor abilities and lifespan of the model organism,” Giebultowicz said. “Now we’re reporting that the damaging effects of blue light on the flies are strongly age dependent – the same length of exposure to the same intensity of light decreases lifespan and increases neurodegeneration more significantly in old flies than in young ones.”
For more, you can see the full study in Nature Partner Journals Aging.