Recent articles in national publications have warned that the blue light emitted by smartphones and other digital devices can accelerate blindness caused by macular degeneration.
There's only one problem with these stories, according to Health News Review: they're all based on one study at the University of Toledo, and that study did not replicate how human eyes actually interact with these devices.
Reporter Kevin Lomangino talked to Sunir Garg, MD, a professor of ophthalmology at Wills Eye Hospital and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Garg made the following points about the study, as Lomangino writes:
- The level of blue light exposure involved in the study is not equivalent to what we receive from smartphones and other electronic devices in the real world.
- The researcher studied cells in a lab and did not assess the vision or risk of macular degeneration in human eyes. In fact, the cells that they studied are called “HeLa” cells, which are a type of cancer cell. The authors used them as substitutes for the photoreceptor cells that actually coordinate vision in the eye. “They are very different cell types and one can’t necessarily be used for the other, even for lab studies,” Garg said.
- Garg noted that “further research is needed to demonstrate if current findings also translate to photoreceptor cells, where different biochemical pathways … may change how susceptible the cells are to damage.”
Journalists should do more homework before writing scare stories, Lomangino argues.
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