A Health Warning about LED Lights

Newer LED (light-emitting diode) lightbulbs use up to 90 percent less power than traditional incandescent bulbs, making them significantly more energy efficient.  They also last 133 times longer than incandescents and 10 times longer than compact fluorescent lights.

But there are some downsides to LEDs as well.  Traditional incandescent bulbs, like candles and wood fires, emit mostly yellow and red wavelengths of light, at the “warmer” end of the color spectrum.  In contrast, LEDs emit a high level of short-wavelength blue light.  High levels of blue light can cause glare, discomfort and damage to the retina.

Blue light can also affect sleep patterns.  It suppresses the production of melatonin, a natural chemical that tells the body when to go to sleep.  The habitual use of cell phones, PCs or video games too late at night may lead to insomnia.

The American Medical Association recently issued a warning about LED streetlights.  The light in LEDs can cause the pupils to contract, making it more difficult to drive or walk safely at night.  LED streetlights also suppress melatonin five times more than traditional streetlights.

The AMA recommends that cities converting to LED streetlights should use the lowest possible emission of blue light.  In addition, all outdoor LED lighting should be properly shielded to minimize glare, environmental light pollution and detrimental human health effects.

Agilent technologies and products are regularly used in human sleep research.

Studies have shown that night shift work is associated with cancer among men.  Researchers in the U.S. investigated the biological mechanism behind this.  They found that night workers had significantly lower levels of melatonin during daytime sleep, nighttime work and nighttime sleep on off-nights, relative to day workers.  The researchers concluded that chronic reduction in melatonin may be an important carcinogenic mechanism.  The study used an Agilent Triple-Quad mass spectrometer, column and Mass Hunter software.

Researchers in Europe studied the impact of sleep deprivation on the human circadian system.  After only one night of sleep deprivation, they found that expression of HSPA1B – a gene associated with sleep apnea and oxidative stress – was increased.  Conversely, gene expression of BMAL1 – which the body produces in response to oxidative stress – was suppressed.  Melatonin production was also elevated and delayed.  The researchers concluded that acute sleep deprivation compromises the body’s core clock mechanism and immune system.  The study used an Agilent Bioanalyzer system to ensure RNA integrity.

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