Volume 52, Numéro 4, October-December 2017
|Page(s)||297 - 299|
|Publié en ligne||12 septembre 2017|
Some evidences that white LEDs are toxic for human at domestic radiance?
Emergency Lighting Design and Qualification Department, CS SAS,
rue Beethoven, BP 10184,
Riom cedex, France.
2 Medical Studies Department, EDF, Levallois, France.
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 26 July 2017
Artificial lighting has been a fundamental part of social and economic development of mankind. It allows to free human activity from natural variations and conditions (weather, day/night cycle, variation of day length depending on season and latitude…). The face of this artificial lighting has changed in the last years with the emergence of white phosphor coated LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) which offer many advantages in terms of reliability, efficiency and implementation. However, it is subject to special attention because their spectrum is typically rich in blue. Damages following exposure to high radiance blue light are well documented but some recent concerns have appeared regarding potential damages linked to white LEDs exposure at domestic radiance. Are these concerns justified? This article analyses some results of a recent study of animal retina exposure to light produced by LED technology and demonstrates that even if they are of interest in improving our understanding of the mechanisms of photochemical injury, they cannot be extrapolated to human without extreme caution and do not call into question the normative limits which are now the consensus.
Key words: artificial lighting / LED / blue light hazard / photoretinis
© EDP Sciences 2017
White LEDs have many advantages but have also shortcomings, including a blue enhanced double-peaked spectrum, which, combined with high radiance, can cause Ham's class damages (Ham et al., 1976), i.e. some oxidative stress phenomena linked to the production of reactive oxygen species on retina (Césarini, 2009). But some concerns do also exist regarding low radiance exposure. In 2010 ANSES (ANSES, 2010) did not exclude the possibility that repeated and prolonged exposure to low radiance could potentially induce a cumulative risk higher than that assessed by the current Exposure Limit Values (ELV) and the French agency encouraged to make further researches on blue light hazard biological mechanisms. In 2015, the Health Council of the Netherlands also considered the lack of data on long term exposure as “an additional argument for further research into the risk of frequent exposure to the blue light emitted by white LED lighting” (HCN, 2015). In such a context, a warning has been published (Jaadane et al., 2015), alerting to the fact that exposure to a LED light source could generate, on rat retina, oxidative stress phenomena responsible for retinal cells necrosis at low exposure level. The authors consequently pointed out ELV defined by ICNIRP (2013), and used in safety standard (IEC 62471-1, 2006), in these terms: “current regulation establishes that for an exposure greater than 10 000 s, ELV, expressed in term of blue light radiance, is about 100 W/m2/sr, largely over the radiances used in this study, suggesting that these regulations should be reevaluated by transposing our results to the human eye.” Such interpretation of experimental data must be discussed as it seems that at least one of the fundamental differences between rat and human eyes has not been taken into account.
In 1984, Sliney enlightened the differences between human eye geometry and rat eye geometry. And he warned that “a valid calculation of retinal irradiance (…) is critically dependent upon the use of accurate values” for focal length and pupil diameter (Sliney, 1984). Consequently, we made the exercise to convert the different retinal exposure levels (in J/cm2) calculated in Jaadane's study into corresponding source radiances (in W/m2/sr) in the case of a human eye by using focal length value of Gullstrand eye (Gullstrand, 1909) and pupil diameter recommended in IEC 62471:2006. The corresponding radiances are then compared to ELV provided by ICNIRP.
Equation (1), extracted from ICNIRP Guidelines (ICNIRP, 2013), shows the general relationship between retinal irradiance Eretinal and light source radiance Ls. (1) where, d is the pupil diameter, f the focal length, and t the eye visible radiation transmission.
But it is fundamental to consider the blue light effective radiance noted Lb, and not the full spectrum radiance Ls in the calculation of potentially toxic retinal irradiance. Indeed, ICNIRP has defined an action spectrum Bλ describing the efficacy with which short wavelengths can affect the retina by oxidative stress. The maximum permissible exposure to wavelengths covered by this action spectrum is 106 J/(m2.sr). As exposure (noted Hb) is not an intrinsic parameter of light sources, the photobiological safety standard IEC 62471-1 (2006) expresses it as the product of the blue light effective radiance Lb by the exposure time T (see Eq. (2)). It must be noted that Lb has no sense for little punctual sources. In such a case, relevant physical parameter would be blue light effective irradiance Eb. (2)
IEC 62471-1 (2006) defines several risk groups depending on maximum exposure time T. Limits for Lb values are made according to these exposure time values so that Hb stays below 106 J/(m2.sr). Naturally, the risk group increases as the time required to exceed the permissible exposure decreases (see Tab. 1).
IEC 62471-1 (2006) describes also a complete protocol for Lb evaluation of a single non-punctual source. Lb is calculated through equation (3). An example of original measurement set-up for Lb evaluation can be found in a former study by Point (2014). (3) where, Bλ is the mathematical function describing the blue light action spectrum, and Lλ is the spectral radiance measured at 200 mm from light source on the time-dependent field of view of the moving eye.
Eretinal can be written as the ratio of exposure (in J/cm2) by exposure time (in s). We calculate it from exposure value D and duration T reported in Table 2, extracted from Jaadane et al. (2015). Considering d = 3 mm, t = 0.9 and f = 17 mm, it appears that radiance in white light (Ls) that could produce similar exposure on human retina is, in average, 822 W/m2/sr, i.e. one hundred time higher than radiance used in Jaadane's publication to produce the exposure on rat retina (8.33 W/m2/sr). Note that, in short wavelength range, transmission of the human adult eye is largely lower than 90%, consequently corresponding radiance values are underestimated when using 0.9 as a constant value for transmission. The corresponding radiance value could be still higher by taking into account the real wavelength-dependant transmission of the eye.
As we said previously, not Ls but Lb must be taken into account for blue light hazard evaluation. Figure 1 shows the spectrum of the white Xanlite Evolution LED used for Jaadane's experiments. Bλ-weighted luminous output is calculated by multiplying the full spectrum luminous output by Bλ. The ratio between wavelength-integrated Bλ-weighted luminous output and wavelength-integrated full spectrum luminous output appears to be 12.6%. It means we can recalculate Lb from Ls by applying the ratio as in equation (4) to obtain the Table 3. (4)
According to our calculations, it appears that the exposure values found as hazardous for the rat retina can be generated − for given exposure times − on the human retina by effective blue radiance Lb slightly over 100 W/m2/sr. In the standard IEC 62471-1 (2006), 100 W/m2/sr is the limit value between RG0 and RG1. For RG1, the exposure time is limited to 100 s. For the White LED tested by Jaadane et al. (2015), the standard IEC 62471: 2006 would have permitted to identify the risk and recommended to limit the exposure time to 100 s.
It can be noted that a more recent study (Jaadane et al., 2017) has confirmed deleterious action of blue light from LEDs especially on Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) of rat but authors acknowledge that results obtained “cannot be directly transposed to humans” because of biological differences between rat and human eyes.
Comparison of Xanlite evolution full spectrum and Bλ-weighted spectrum.
Calculated Bλ-weighted blue radiance from the knowledge of white light radiance.
Even if all involved biological mechanisms of photochemical injury are not fully understood and are still under investigation, the demonstration that low radiance exposure can damage human retina and that current normative limits are not protective enough is not consistent today. The risk seems limited to high radiance exposure or misappropriate use of the technology, when critical parameters as exposure distance and/or duration are not under control, for example in professional situations where workers can be exposed to high intensity light (Salsi and Barlier-Salsi, 2013) or in pseudo-therapy practices like chromotherapy (Point, 2017).
Despite the actual lack of evidence regarding low level effect on human retina, and considering the large diffusion of the technology, we do agree that investigations have to be pursued as recommended by health agencies, but conclusions must be done with caution: other studies have been recently published regarding LED effect on rat retina (Shang et al., 2014; Krigel et al., 2016; Jaadane et al., 2017; Shang et al., 2017), and some of them also ask for regulation modification without taking into account the large difference between human eyes and rat eyes. Our work demonstrates the extreme caution that needs to be taken when trying to transpose light exposure results from rat to human.
The authors declare the following interests: Sébastien Point is employed by Cooper Sécurité SAS which is a lighting manufacturer.
The authors want to thank Mailys Beroud for her much appreciated help on formatting manuscript. The authors are also deeply grateful to Dr. Pierre Boulenguez for having shared technical specifications of Xanlite 5W LED used in Retinaled study.
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Cite this article as: Point S, Lambrozo J. 2017. Some evidences that white LEDs are toxic for human at domestic radiance? Radioprotection 52(4): 297–299
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