The infamous Blue Screen of Death is all too familiar to my generation of Windows users. It may be that blue screens are now causing death in a different way.

This Popular Science article reports that prolonged exposure to blue light can cause irreversible damage to the cells that allow us to see. (And truly, I thought of the Blue Screen of Death analogy before I noticed that the article's author did, too.) That would be light from our televisions, computers, phones, e-readers, and even increasingly popular LED illumination.

Catastrophic damage to your vision is hardly guaranteed. But the experiment shows that blue light can kill photoreceptor cells. Murdering enough of them can lead to macular degeneration, an incurable disease that blurs or even eliminates vision.

Blue light occurs naturally in sunlight, which also contains other forms of visible light and ultraviolet and infrared rays. But ... we don’t spend that much time staring at the sun. As kids, most of us were taught it would fry our eyes. Digital devices, however, pose a bigger threat. The average American spends almost 11 hours a day in front of some type of screen, according to a 2016 Nielsen poll. Right now, reading this, you’re probably mainlining blue light.

Obviously, more research is needed before we panic about this. But maybe it's time I stopped putting myself to sleep by reading on my Kindle, or playing a move or two in Word Chums, or praying through our church's Prayer Chain list. They say you should turn off "devices" an hour before bedtime, because the blue light can keep you from falling asleep. That's never been an issue for me. But damaging my eyes? That's a much bigger issue.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at 9:13 am | Edit
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Does the e-ink kindle have blue light?

Also, does intensity matter? How much?

Posted by Stephan on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Good questions. I don't know the answers. Something illuminates my Kindle in the dark, but it's not quite the same as whatever illuminates my phone.

I also wonder if other things matter, like wearing glasses. My glasses have a UV-filtering coating; does it help with blue?

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Given that people have talked for quite a while about blue light interfering with sleep, it struck me as interesting on my latest overnight plane trip that our little individual entertainment screens were bright blue.

Posted by Kathy Lewis on Friday, August 31, 2018 at 8:24 pm

Interesting point. The numbers on the clock radio by my bedside are a comforting red, but the other two in the house are blue. In the kitchen the numbers are yellow for some reason.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, August 31, 2018 at 8:35 pm
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