Blue light from smartphones may lead to ageing and brain damage

Shauna Burdis

Long-term exposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones, laptops and other digital devices can speed up the ageing process and may lead to brain damage, according to scientists.

Experiments conducted on common fruit flies have shown long periods of exposure to this light impaired their mobility and caused brain cells to deteriorate.

Jaga Giebultowicz, a professor at Oregon State University’s Department of Integrative Biology, said “humans are subjected to increasing amounts of light in the blue spectrum since commonly used LED’s emit a high fraction of blue light.

“But this technology, LED lighting, even in most developed countries, has not been used long enough to know its effects across the human lifespan.”

Scientists say that their findings raise question to whether spending too much time in the artificial light can impact human’s overall health.

The new study, published in the Journal “Ageing and Mechanisms of Disease”, found that even blind flies – who suffered from a mutation which stopped them from developing eyes – showed similar types of damage, which concluded that the flies did not have to be able to see the blue light to be harmed by it.

Fruit flies were exposed to different forms of light. They spent 12 hours in light and 12 hours in darkness as part of their daily cycle.

Another group of fruit fly was kept in constant complete darkness.

According to the researchers, the flies who were exposed to the blue light showed damage to their brain neurons and retinal cells and had shorter lives compared to the flies kept in darkness.

The flies exposed to the blue light also demonstrated reduced climbing ability, which is a common sign of ageing.

Relatively mild light was also seen to shorten their life span by five to 15 per cent.

Professor Giebultowicz stated that this result cannot be applied to humans, as the human brain “would receive less light than fly brains”.

“We can only say that long-term exposure to blue light has damaging effects on cells – and cells in flies and humans function in similar ways.”

She also said, “it was very clear cut that although light without blue slightly shortened their lifespan, just blue light alone shortened their lifespan very dramatically.”

For those wanting to protect their eyes from the blue light, researchers advise wearing glasses with amber lenses that can filter blue light and changing phone and other device settings to block blue emissions.

Author: Shauna Burdis 

Image Credit: Shaw Airforce Base