Are LED Grow Lights Bad for your eyes?

Trendygrower.com - Are LED Grow Lights harmful to our eyes

One of the most frequently asked questions about indoor growing, is whether LED Grow lights, are harmful to your eyes. Being surrounded by indoor growers with kids at home, we thought of doing some digging to find some more details for you.

Short Answer - No, normal use of LED grow lights do not harm your eyes.

There is a common misconception that LED grow lights are harmful for our eyes; and that they may even lead to blindness. If you stare directly at an LED grow bulb for hours, you will certainly hurt your eyes; however, the normal use of LEDs and usual exposure to LED Grow Lights does not cause any harm to you. A research paper issued by CELMA (Federation of National Manufacturers Associations for Luminaires and Electrotechnical components in the European Union) states that light emitting diodes and LED products are strictly designed to meet photo-biological safety standards. This means that the next LED grow lights you purchase will not lead to blindness, nor harm your eyes, so long as you use them as intended and are not staring directly into them for hours.

We wanted some more details, and here is what we found out.

The source of this misconception

Our eyes are sensitive organs. Any exposure to strong light, or prolonged exposure to light causes damage to our eyes. We face this problem if we stare at the sun for too long, or directly look at a welding spark. LED Lights produce intense light, therefore, if you continue to stare directly at them for a long period of time, your eyes will be damaged.

Hobby Growers vs Professional Growers

The other very important aspect to consider while trying to understand this question is what are your working conditions while dealing with grow lights. Are you a hobby grower who spends less time under grow lights, or a professional grower, who has a longer exposure to these lights. Most of our readers are hobby growers or semi-professional growers; who don’t end up spending too much time below grow lights to cause any damage. Yet, to help you understand eye safety issues, here are some more details that will help you decide better.

"You've always been warned, with good reason, not to stare directly into the sun. The same goes for LED grow lights. They were designed to recreate the awesome power of the sun in order to maximize plant growth, and as a result, they pack a punch. To protect growers, we've actually partnered with Method Seven to create specialized LED grow glasses. A result of more than a year of research, our glasses perfectly balance the spectrum emitted by the Phytomax-2 series of plant grow lights, allowing growers to see their gardens as if in true white light while protecting their vision." Noah Miller, COO, Black Dog LED 

What types light cause harm to our eyes?

Like we mentioned above, exposure to any strong source of light causes irritation to our eyes and can lead to damage. However, there are some sources of light that can cause more damage than others. To understand this better, let us look at the electromagnetic spectrum of light.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

[Image credit: Wikimedia.org]

As in the image above, humans can see only a small part of the light spectrum. When the wavelength of light is longer or shorter than the visible spectrum, our eyes cannot directly see them, however, the light is still impacting our eyes.

In general, the shorter wavelengths are more harmful to human eyes. These are usually ultra violet (UV) type of radiation. This type is light is present in sunlight as well, and not just in artificial lights.

Do LED grow lights harm your vision? Myth vs Reality

Now that we know that shorter wavelength of light (blue / UV) are more harmful to our eyes, let us understand this better from a biology perspective.

Effect of Blue light on humans

LED Grow Lights have both blue and red diodes. Grow lights that focus on the blue spectrum or even white light (above 5000 kelvin); will produce shorter wavelength light that may harm our eyes. However, this needs prolonged exposure to intense blue light. As we mentioned above, these are not harmful in the normal usage of LED plant grow lights.

Impact of blue light on our eyes

As seen above, blue light can have a negative impact on our eyes and vision. Our cornea (outer eye wall) is unable to block the blue spectrum. Therefore, most of the blue light passes through and reaches the retina (back wall of the eye).

The retina is made up of sensitive cells that get damaged by prolonged or intense exposure to blue light. Over time this may cause macular degeneration (damage to the central part of the retina) or permanent blindness.

However, it must be noted here that you will need an extremely high degree of exposure to blue light for this to happen. Using LED grow lights under normal conditions does not produce harmful levels of blue light for your eyes.

We do need to point out that you may want to consider other lifestyle variables before making a final decision. In today’s world we are exposed to various other sources of blue light like computer, smart phones, TVs, tablets etc. If you do spend hours in front of these devices already, then you may want to consider some of the precautions and general good practices for use of grow lights, mentioned below.

Trendygrower.com - Impact of Blue / UV Light on our eyes

[Image credit: Wikimedia.org]

"LED's are no more inherently safe to look at than regular white light, or sunlight.  They are no more dangerous either, except when we forget that the purple light is brighter than we think it may be.   Make sure to never look directly into the light, and always wear protective glasses when working under the lights." - The Kind LED Grow Lights Team

Impact of UV light on our eyes

As mentioned before, UV light is naturally occuring and is made up of three parts: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C spectrums.

UV-C spectrum is the most harmful spectrum, however, naturally occurring UV-C in sunlight is usually blocked by our atmosphere, before it reaches us. The good news is that most, branded LED Grow Lights don’t emit the UV-C spectrum. Even the mass produced, grow light panels emit extremely low amounts of UV-C. Therefore, you are not at any risk from UV-C radiation when it comes to your grow light.

UV-A / UV-B spectrums are less harmful, but cause more problems since the atmosphere cannot block them. Some more good news here is that UV-B radiation is blocked by our cornea (outer eye wall) and therefore isn’t able to pass into our eyes. We also found out that while UV-B light doesn’t enter our eyes, it can cause growth on the eye surface, referred to as pterygia and pingueculae.

It is mainly UV-A light that actually passes through our cornea and into our eyes. Prolonged exposure to UV-A light causes damage to our retina. UV-A light has been linked to cataract as well macular degeneration. It may also cause photokeratitis, an inflammation of the cornea which can be pailful; and in extreme cases leads to temporary loss of vision.

It is important to note here that most LED grow lights emit UV-A light. While most grow lights don’t emit UV-B, few do have special add ons or supplementary lights that emit UV-B light (e.g. CLW SolarSystem 1100 UVB). Both UV-A and UV-B are harmful to our eyes; however, normal use of these lights don’t cause harmful levels of these spectrums.

Impact on Blue / UV light on our bodies

Since blue light occurs naturally in sunlight, our bodies have learned to respond to it over the millenia. Exposure to blue light makes our body produces a hormone (melatonin) that causes alertness. Over exposure to blue light,or exposure at night, impacts your ability to get good sleep.

Excess exposure to UV radiation has been linked to skin irritation, premature skin aging as well as skin cancer. Research also indicates that excess UV radiation can cause suppression of the bodies immune system.

Precautions and general good practises while using grow lights

In our finding, we discovered that while while all the experts suggests that LED grow lights are completely safe for use, there is still more work to be done, when it comes to research on exposure to excess blue light, or how much blue light is harmful. Therefore, here are a few tips that will help you remain additionally protected and work without any worries.

  1. Avoid looking directly into grow lights, especially for an extended period of time
  2. If you have to work under grow lights for a long time, especially during harvest, you may consider using a pair of grow room glasses
  3. If you have to work under grow lights for a long time, try and wear good overalls and avoid too much exposed skin
  4. If you have to work under grow lights for a long time, try to ensure that these are during daylight hours, so that your sleep is not impeeded
  5. If your lifestyle includes prolonged exposure to TV, laptops, mobile phone screens, then try and consume these in moderation for prolonged eye health
  6. Over the counter eye drops have a general benefit of cleansing the eyes and keeping them moist and hydrated
  7. Healthy sleep also ensures that, like all other parts of the body, our eyes get adequate rest and time to repair and regenerate

Is eye protection compulsory for LED Grow Lights?

Trendygrower.com - Use grow room glasses as a precaution for eye protection

As we mentioned above, LED Grow Lights do not produce levels of blue / UV light that are harmful to us. For most low power LED lights, grow bulbs fixtures and low wattage grow light panels, you don’t need eye protection. However, if you are more than a hobby / semi-professional grower; and are working under high powered lights for prolonged periods of time, we would definitely recommend getting grow room glasses.

LED Groom Room Glasses

Grow room glasses are specially designed for protection against a larger spectrum of light. The advantage of using these glasses is that they are configured to filtering out any harmful spectrums without changing the way your plants look. This will allow you to continue to keep a close watch and inspect your plants without any unusual colour changes.

One drawback of LED grow room glasses is that they are often tuned to the specific spectrum of a light. General grow room glasses will work with most LED grow lights that use blue and red spectrum; however, if you are using white light then you may want to considered special MH or HPS grow room glasses.

Can you use Sunglasses?

Sunglasses are tuned to block out specific light spectrums, therefore, when you use sunglasses in grow rooms, your plants appear discoloured or appear to have different colours. If you are okay with this, then you can definitely continue to use sunglasses. However, please make sure that these are proper UV protection sunglasses and not plain dark glasses from the flea market.

Which are the best LED protective glasses?

There are many brands of glasses to choose from. We recommend buying glasses from a company or brand that makes LED grow lights; and therefore understands the various grow light spectrums. We recommend Mars Hydro LED Grow Room glasses; that block out any harmful spectrums and are extremely affordable as well.

Conclusion

As an engineer at HighDroGro grow tents aptly put it, " “I don't have any factual knowledge in this area, kind of like our mom taught us - don't look at the sun!”

In conclusion, our research suggests that LED grow lights are not harmful to your eyes. Yet, we would prefer if you err on the side of caution and consider LED grow room glasses if you are exposed to high power lights for a prolonged period of time. At TrendyGrower.com, we are concerned about your overall well being, and would also request you to consider evaluating your lifestyle choices regarding prolonged TV, Laptop and mobile screen viewing. We love binge watching Netflix as much as anyone else, however, this research showed us that these screens actually cause us much more harm and exposure to harmful radiation than grow lights ever will.

Here’s wishing you all a happy, stress free and extended growing life!

References

  1. CELMA Report - Optical Safety of LED Lights 
  2. Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation And Your Eyes from All About Vision
  3. Health Effects of UV Radiation from US Environmental Protection Agency
  4. Blue light has a dark side from Harvard Health Publishing
  5. Grow Lights on Wikipedia

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