Since they came out I’ve been recommending people switch their light globes to LEDs if they hadn’t already. It’s logical that a 3 to 6 Watt light-emitting-diode is going to save you more money and CO2 than a 12 to 16 Watt compact florescent and even the old 40 to 100 Watt energy wasting incandescent. This is true, and for a home or office with solar (particularly off-grid) it makes perfect sense to be as load efficient as possible.

However, it has come to my attention, through a friend who is a medical doctor, that LEDs have a huge detrimental effect on both our health and the environment. I didn’t believe her at first, and I didn’t want to because of the great promise that LEDs are both cost effective and have little impact on the environment. But Dr Orit sent me some info and links, which I’d like to share with you here.

The crux of it is that:

1/ LEDs disrupt our endocryn system which unbalances our complex cocktail of hormones, damages the eyes’ retinas and effects mental health.

2/ LEDs are full of toxic substances far more than the mercury in compact florescent globes and when thrown away will also cause toxic waste and leaching into the soil and water.

Here’s Dr. Orit Holtzman’s words written especially for this blog:

LIGHT
It is well accepted in the natural health circles that what we put in our body is important. It is less known however, that what we expose our body to, is as important. For example, light can be a medicine or a toxin. Dr Alexander Wunsch is a physician, researcher and lecturer in light medicine and photobiology. He has done a great amount of research on the topic of how light exposure can affect health. His work is publicly available on http://www.photonblog.de/. This post is based on his work. (See videos below)

Light sources can be divided into thermal light sources (light sources that produce heat)- sunlight, halogen and incandescent light, and non thermal light sources (light sources that do not produce heat), such as LED and fluorescent lights. It is not widely known, but our skin is actually a better sensory organ to light than our eyes. Our body is influenced by the full spectrum of light produced by sunlight and also by the thermal quality of light. The sun provides light spectrum ranging from 280nm to 3000nm which contains UV, visible light and Infra red light. LED and fluorescent light produce only visible light in the spectrum of 380nm-780nm as you can see in the image below.

 

LED lights are bad for you

 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF LIGHT
Although our eyes can not see the whole spectrum of light, it still gets absorbed through our skin into the blood stream and as a result it can have effects on multiple systems in our body. A few examples of these effects are:
UVB can cause sunburn but it also activates vitamin D that signals the body to protect itself from the damage. UVA causes release of nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels and causes better blood flow. Near infra red light activates the mitochondria – the microscopic power plants that are present in every cell in our body and causes more energy to be produced in our cells. Near infra red light activates the detox mechanisms in our cells, helping them to regenerate.

THE PROBLEM WITH LEDs
So you have probably noticed that all the benefits mentioned in the previous section come from the non visible spectrum of light. However, LEDs and fluorescent light only emit the visible spectrum that does not include UVA, UVB and infra red light. Infra red light activates the mitochondria in our cells. It was mentioned before that this activation boosts energy production in the cells. Additionally however, it is also required for detox of every cell in our body and specifically the retina in the eye. If we are not exposed to infra red light (as would be the case if we are sitting in an office lit by LED or fluorescent lights) this lack of regeneration can cause an extensive range of health problems including fatigue, degenerative diseases, cancer, and eye problems such as eye fatigue and glaucoma.

Another issue with cold sources of light, such as LEDs,¬† is that they are high in blue light. Putting it simply, blue light is a toxin. The most known effect of blue light is that it suppresses melatonin secretion in the pineal gland in our brain and the retina in our eyes. Melatonin is the hormone of darkness. It prepares us to sleep, increases cell regeneration, lowers oestrogen production in the tissues, stimulates the immune system and serves as an antioxidant. Taking all this into consideration it is clear why we do not want our melatonin to be suppressed! To add insult to injury, blue light also stimulates the pituitary gland in our brain which causes an increase in the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. And if that isn’t enough, since blue light is the highest in energy in the visible part of the spectrum, it produces Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the tissues, these can cause damage to the tissues by oxidation, if there are not enough antioxidants present to prevent this damage. Paradoxically, the wave lengths that cause regeneration and repair of tissues are the longer ones (red and near infra red) that are not present in the LED spectrum.

WARM LED LIGHTS
You may have seen LED lights that are marketed as warm LEDs and you may be wondering if those are a healthier choice. Dr. Wunsch has addressed this question in a recent interview with Dr. Mercola. The answer is, that not all warm LEDs were created equal. Some warm LEDs only mask the blue light with high amounts of yellow and orange light, creating the illusion of warm light. Others do really emit less of the blue spectrum and more of the red. The problem is, that there is no easy way to distinguish between the two. Dr. Wunsch explains that the only way to know for certain that you are purchasing a healthier LED lightbulb is if the Color Rendering Index (CRI) is indicated on the box. You will be looking for R9 (full red spectrum) of around 97. This is the closest LEDs can get to the spectrum of natural light.

If this sounds complicated and highly technical, it’s because it is. So is there a solution? There are a few steps you can take to maximise the benefits you can get from light and minimise the deleterious effects of artificial lighting.

* Get some sunshine every day. If you work in an office try to spend your lunch break outdoors. Install f.lux on your computer, it’s a free software that changes the screen’s light temperature according to the time of day. You will be able to feel the difference in eye fatigue immediately.

* Use night shift mode¬† on your mobile phone and red filter at nighttime, so if you use your phone to check the time during the night, like I do, you don’t suppress your melatonin when you need it the most.

* Minimise artificial lighting use as much as possible and choose halogen or incandescent lights for your home.
If you have no choice but sitting under cold LED light all day long in an office, you can wear blue light blocking glasses that can be purchased online.

 

On the impact of human health here’s two videos of presentations given by Dr. Alexander Wunsch. The first presentation he gave at the LightSymposium in Germany, October 2016 and the second in Norway in 2006.