Worries Over Blue Light Exposure Lead To New Safety Ratings For Screens

Tech Industry

It can seem as if most of our waking hours are spent staring at one screen or another, as consumer electronics of varying sizes have crept from our living room walls into our pockets.

The number of devices we use regularly has increased significantly, as has our time spent on them for work, e-commerce, social media, fitness training, gaming activities, education, and so on. Remote and hybrid work, in particular, has made adults even more aware of accumulated screen time and the potential worries over more and more exposure to blue light. Studies have shown that long-term blue light exposure can cause harm to eye tissue and impact sleep patterns.

In response to the growing concerns over blue light exposure, leading screen manufacturers are using a new rating system, similar to the SPF rating on sunscreen, that’s designed to establish standards for measuring blue light and color performance of screens. By adopting the Eyesafe® Certification 2.0, screen makers hope to provide consumers transparency when shopping for devices. Panel manufacturers, including Lenovo, Dell, HPHPQ, LG Display and BOE, have all adopted the display certification standards, which consumers can expect to see on packages this holiday shopping season.

Recently, Lenovo released three new monitors, the first to adopt the new Eyesafe® Certified 2.0 status. “The company is very passionate about creating products for customers that provide high value and also address safety concerns,” said Stefan Engel, vice president and general manager of Lenovo’s visual business.

Consumer concerns on blue light safety

In addition to harming eye tissue and impacting sleep, studies have shown that long-term blue light exposure can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness/vision impairment, and can contribute to cataracts, eye cancer, and growths on the clear covering over the white part of the eye.

The average consumer shopping for monitors may not know about the effects of blue light exposure. Gamers and remote workers tend to be more aware of health issues.

“Concern over blue light emissions is not generational or age-defined, but experienced users that are more informed about blue light safety are looking for products that have the certification,” said Stefan Engel, vice president and general manager of Lenovo’s visual business.

“While the broader consumer is not as aware of these new safety features, consumers increasingly want more information on how they will be protected,” Engel said in an interview.

Parents of school-aged children, many of whom are using computers for extended periods of time, and college students who are required to use digital content in school are becoming more aware of the issues of blue light.

“When people shifted to an at-home work environment during the pandemic, screens became very important, and users added more professional equipment to enhance their experience,” Engel said. “ With greater levels of hybrid work environments, user interest in better experiences and safer display monitors has risen.”

The number of gaming users has grown substantially in recent years, and the number of hours that the average gamer spends daily on a device has also increased, prompting a need in the marketplace for safer devices.

Research and collaboration drive product innovation

Consumers today can try to adapt their behavior to minimize exposure to blue light emissions by wearing blue-light filtering glasses or using screen protectors that came on the market as consumers grew more interested in the effects of blue light on their health. Still, these solutions don’t address the problem at the device level. The companies that manufactured the aftermarket protective equipment claimed that their products offered consumers some protection from blue light, but Paul Herro, chief operating officer of Eyesafe, said that many of these products are not certified.

“Many of the claims across the industry were not true and misled consumers into believing that the products removed or filtered out the blue light,” Herro said.

Before 2018, the measurement for blue light emissions was simply a pass/fail without any specific scale. TÜV Rheinland, an independent certifier of industry standards, collaborated with Eyesafe and the electronics industry to ensure its certification standards address the concern of blue light emissions and color performance at the device level. The Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board comprises leading eye care professionals who consult with Eyesafe to provide medical insights that help drive research regarding the effects of blue light on the eyes and brain.

According to the white paper, Defining Blue Light Requirements for Digital Displays, published by TÜV Rheinland, blue light has greater potential than other wavelengths of visible light to cause harm to eye tissues. The long-term health impacts of cumulative blue light emissions from digital devices are still being evaluated. Still, there are immediate and daily effects of display use, such as the impacts on our biological clock and sleep patterns. At night, light exposure can “trick” the body, creating difficulty with sleep.

“Consumers are looking at screens from the time they wake up through bedtime,” Herro, the Eyesafe COO, said. He noted how blue light emissions would significantly impact younger generations as their exposure grows over the course of their lives. A rating system would help consumers consistently compare exposure levels from different devices.

“The new Eyesafe® Certified 2.0 standard refines a much-needed specificity around the general concept of low blue light,” said Frank Holzmann, global field manager for electrical and business stream products of TÜV Rheinland. “This empowers consumers to make informed comparisons among competing solutions.”

RPF can be likened to SPF in sunscreen

The industry standard for measuring the impact of blue light is called Radiance Protection Factor, or RPF. The ratings range from 0 to 100, with 35 being the minimal rating for a passing certification. Similar to sunscreen, which has an SPF rating to evaluate the levels of protection from the sun’s UV rays, devices with an RPF of 35 or higher will provide shoppers with an easy way to identify safe levels of blue light emissions. “The update simplifies and focuses the requirements against the area of most concern regarding high-energy blue light and provides a simple metric with RPF to help consumers understand reduction levels,” said Dr. David Friess, chair of the Eyesafe health advisory board.

RPF will make understanding the level of blue light mitigation and color performance easier to identify, but “there are other factors that users may be looking for in terms of selecting a computer, including response time, resolution and processing time,” Engel, the Lenovo executive said.

Features are a deciding factor

Consumers rate various features differently based on their own needs, Engel said. For example, a gamer places high value on Eyesafe Certifications based on the length of time they spend on gaming devices. A student may consider the device’s weight a more critical factor if they must carry it daily when traveling to and from school.

Lenovo’s newest monitors have improved color accuracy, Engel said, noting how valuable that is for many users. “Graphic and fashion designers, for instance, need to be confident that the colors they see on the screen reflect what will be on the product,” he said.

“We have already launched gaming devices in the mainstream marketplace with Eyesafe certifications,” Engel added. “Our customer concerns over health and well-being in the gaming world provided us the opportunity to address the issue of blue light emissions actively.”

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