Mon, Sep 07, 2015 - Page 7 News List

‘Safe’ screens touted for long-term device users

AFP, BERLIN

As it gets harder for people to tear their eyes away from smartphones, televisions, tablets or computers, concerns are growing over a blue light emitted by screens, blamed for harming the retina and causing interrupted sleep.

Electronics giants are turning crisis to an opportunity — quickly declaring that their latest products feature “safe” screens.

At the IFA mega consumer electronics show in Berlin, Dutch company Philips is showcasing a new technology for its computer screens called “SoftBlue,” which it claims is gentler on the retina.

“We are shifting the harmful blue light frequencies, which are below 450 nanometers, to above 460 nanometers,” Philips marketing director Stefan Sommer said.

Other brands like Asus and BenQ, along with US firm ViewSonic, have also seized on “safe” screens as a new selling point.

“We’ve been told from a very early age by parents that too much screen time, in front of a TV or a computer, is bad. So a ‘safe’ screen might resonate with consumers,” IHS Global Insight analyst Paul Gray said.

Because it generates a relatively high intensity of light from just a low amount of energy, LEDs are used to light up smartphones, televisions and computers.

The problem is the blue ray emitted at the same time, which is feared to pose potentially serious health consequences.

“We should not be so afraid that we bin all our screens,” Institute of Sight researcher Serge Picaud said in Paris.

Picaud carried out a study in 2013 in which he exposed sample retina cells from a pig — similar to those found in people — to different wavelengths of light, and showed that those between 415 and 455 nanometres killed the cells.

Nevertheless, “that must be taken in proportion as the light intensities produced by our screens are still relatively weak compared to sunlight,” Picaud said.

“Those who worry about harm caused by screens, do they also wear sunglasses at the beach?” Picaud asked.

Vincent Gualino, an ophthalmologist at a French hospital said that “we should not be afraid of the screens.”

“The real problem is over-

consumption,” the specialist on retina illnesses said, warning people against spending more than six hours in front of their screens.

For those who cannot help but stay glued to screens, Gualino prescribes special glasses to filter out the blue light.

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