French Agency Examines Health Effects of Exposure to Blue Light

Published June 20, 2019

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, ANSES, has updated its opinion on the health effects related to exposure to lighting systems that use light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. ANSES first highlighted the “retinal toxicity” of blue light, or light rich in short wavelengths emitted by LEDs, in a report published in 2010. The agency’s updated opinion—dated April 5, 2019—describes new scientific data that it says confirms its previous findings regarding the toxicity of blue light. According to ANSES, more recent data shows short-term phototoxic effects associated with acute exposure to blue light and long-term effects associated with chronic exposure. Other health effects can include disruption of circadian rhythm and sleep—particularly when exposure occurs in the evening and at night—and failing eyesight. ANSES explains that many LED lamps also have “significant variations of light intensity.” According to the agency, workers may be more susceptible to the potential effects of this light modulation, which can include headache, visual fatigue, and increased risk of accidents.

Night workers are among the groups ANSES identifies as being at increased risk of ocular diseases associated with exposure to blue light. According to ANSES, other workers with potentially high exposure to LED lighting such as surgeons, dentists, lighting professionals, performing artists, people working in sport facilities, and people working in agri-food facilities like greenhouses are also more susceptible. The agency urges employers to protect workers from the phototoxic effects of blue light by limiting workers’ exposure to these light sources and informing them of the related hazards.

ANSES calls for additional research to better characterize the health effects associated with long-term phototoxicity and the temporal modulation of the light from LEDs. The agency also highlights the need to clarify the exposure-response relationship between exposure and the occurrence of health effects, especially those involving circadian disruption and phototoxicity.

ANSES’s full opinion is available as a PDF. For more information, see the agency’s website.