New York Blue Light Symposium Outlines Measures to Counter Consequences of Artificial Light

Jun 30, 2015, 06:00 ET from International Blue Light Society

NEW YORK, June 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The New York Blue Light Symposium convened in New York from June 26-27, 2015. The event was sponsored by the International Blue Light Society (Senior Representative: Kazuo Tsubota), which was founded to research and release findings on the effects of blue light on the human body. Since the World Health Organization declared 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015), and the setting was Times Square, where LED billboards "turn night into day," it was a fitting backdrop for global pronouncements on light and the health of the human race.

At the Symposium, the International Blue Light Society outlined three measures to counter consequences of artificial illumination faced by the global community:

  1. MEASUREMENT: Scientifically prove the effects of blue light on human health through coordination with global researchers.
  2. MANAGEMENT: Discuss blue light's role in daily life and how to better manage consumption. 
  3. EDUCATION: Educate and spread understanding about blue light's place in society.

Blue light is emitted from computer and smartphone LED display screens, and impacts the human body through eye fatigue, biological clock disruption, and other means. Ancient humans fashioned their lifestyles around the rhythm of the sun's light, and maintained that pattern for quite some time. Now, however, our lifestyles find us bathed not only in interior and exterior lighting, but also by illumination from TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets and a myriad of other sources. Studies have shown that all these artificial lights can result in disruptions of the circadian rhythm.

Additional research findings suggest eyestrain, disruptions to metabolism, and other health hazards such as depression and cancer can result from such rampant use of artificial lights.

In response, nations are mobilizing to combat the negative effects of artificial blue light. In 2012, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued recommendations based on a report entitled "Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting." In this report, the AMA policy statement followed reviewed relevant published papers worldwide from 1995-2012, highlighting the health threats surrounding ongoing exposure to artificial nighttime illumination, and sounding the alarm on the effects of blue light on the human body vis-a-vis breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

Detailed Recommendations

1.  MEASUREMENT: Scientifically prove the effects of blue light on human health through coordination with global researchers.
The International Blue Light Society will coordinate with physicians and researchers around the world in order to accumulate evidence on blue light's effects on health. The Society will report on current research findings.

2.  MANAGEMENT: Discuss blue light's role in daily life and how to better manage consumption.
Gather evidence from various fields, search for both short and long term countermeasures to the effects of blue light, and consider standards that are best to verify results.

Further research of notable public interest
(1) Health challenges presented by shift work
Researchers have already begun generating data on the relationship between shift work and health, as evidenced by the study on Danish nurses and breast cancer (Hansen and Stevens, 2011 (*1)) and Moody et al.'s (*2) 1996 findings on pilots and cancer risk. In Japan, the number of individuals working the night shift at convenience stores is estimated to exceed 200,000 (*3). There are concerns that these shift workers who are exposed to blue light or artificial lighting at work or in other environments may risk disrupted sleep and other negative health effects. While exercise and proper nutrition are known to be positive factors, the International Blue Light Society will give further consideration to measures including the health angle, while concomitantly serving as a public awareness springboard for multidisciplinary research findings.

(2) Physical effects of long-term blue light exposure by young children and teens
In the United States, one out of four children born between 1997 and 2014 are said to be exposed to monitors in excess of 3 hours daily (*4). Meanwhile, some 70% of Japanese elementary school students are already known to possess handheld devices such as tablets and game consoles (*5).
Taking into account the increasing digitalization of education (described by a recently coined term, "Information and Communication Technologies," as in "ICT education"), young children's extended exposure to blue light seems inevitable. The International Blue Light Society will promote surveys and research into the effects of blue light on children's growth, including the consequences of children's reduced visual acuity and disrupted lifestyle rhythm in recent years, for the purpose of establishing protective guidelines. The Society also feels compelled to promote public awareness of pertinent research on the physical effects of light, such as Figueiro et al.'s 2013 findings (*6) on the relationship between tablet usage and melatonin suppression.

3.  EDUCATION: Educate and spread understanding about blue light in society.
Educate society about the effects of blue light and how to counteract it. Actively release information on blue light. Inform the public about the consequences of exposure to artificial blue light at night. Cutting out exposure to blue light two hours before going to bed is ideal. However, since this is difficult to do in modern society, use of protective glasses is recommended to minimize exposure to blue light at night.

Additional Resources:

*1. Eur J Cancer. 2012, Case-control study of shift-work and breast cancer risk in Danish nurses: impact of shift systems.
*2. Int J Cancer. 2003, Mortality from cancer and other causes among male airline cockpit crew in Europe.
*3. JFA Convenience Store Statistical Survey Monthly Report. April 2013, Number of existing convenience stores as of April 2013in Japan is 47,703; conservative estimate of average number of people working the night shift per store is 4-5.
*4. The Vision Council. Hindsight is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices (Released on January 7, 2015)
*5. Hakuhodo Inc., (July 25, 2012 release).DY Media Partners' Report on Media-related Activities of Elementary School Children
*6. Appl Ergon. 2013 Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression

SOURCE International Blue Light Society