Dangers of LED TVs

By John Lister

Whether it's noise from personal audio players, radiation from cell phones or addiction to online chat rooms, a health and safety scare seems to accompany every new technology. LED televisions with their light-emitting diodes are no exception; some media reports suggest a possible risk to the viewer's eyesight. Most credible research suggests that there's little risk of damage from watching an LED TV beyond the danger inherent in watching any form of television.

Blue-Light Frequencies Singled Out

The LED television scare stems from concerns that particular light frequencies damage the watchers' eyes. Between the frequencies that are too low for us to see, such as the infrared beam from a remote control, and those that are too high for us to see, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun, lies a range that makes up visible light. The higher frequencies in this visible range are known as blue-light frequencies.

Blue-Light Tests in LED Light Bulbs

Some studies have raised concerns that prolonged exposure to blue-light frequencies harms the eyes. France's ANSES, a government agency responsible for health and safety, reported a risk that blue-light frequencies used in lighting could cause a harmful reaction in the retina, the part of the eye that receives light. The Complutense University of Madrid published a study making a similar suggestion, saying 99 percent of cells responsible for protecting the retina could be damaged by LED light bulbs. This is particularly significant as damage to the retina is not always repairable.

LED Television Connection

While most reports about the possible dangers of LEDs and blue-light frequencies focus on LED light bulbs, some media reports pointed to the use of LEDs in television screens as a possible source of concern. The concern is about the high-frequency light in all the LEDs that light the screen, regardless of their color.

Expert Exonerates LED TVs

Bobby Qureshi, an ophthalmologist at the London Eye Hospital, told the U.K.'s Metro newspaper that the University of Madrid study should not concern people. He noted that the Madrid study was based on exposure to a 100-watt light bulb from a distance of 1 foot for 12 hours a day, something far in excess of the exposure of an average person. The U.K.'s Which? magazine found that a 42-inch LED television uses only 64 watts in total, including all the power to operate the TV itself, not just the LEDs. According to Qureshi, the only significant risk to viewers of LED sets is eyestrain and associated headaches and dizziness, something that is true of all screens when they are used for an extended period.

Toxin Concerns and LEDs

A 2010 study published in Environmental Science & Technology and cited by Scientific American, found some LEDs contained levels of lead and arsenic in excess of those allowed by California law. However, it noted that breathing the fumes emitted by a broken LED light bulb would be unlikely to cause a medical condition. Any risk is reduced in a television where the LEDs are smaller and are protected behind the television's screen.