The American Academy of Ophthalmology reported last year that blue light does not actually cause long-term damage in the retina, but a new study conducted by a team of optical researchers at the University of Toledo begs to differ. Blue is one of the most common colors that companies use in their logos and on their sites—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr— because its a subtle, subdued color that makes for a relaxed rather than harsh digital look. But UT’s researchers found that blue light, unlike red, yellow, and green, mutates vital molecules in our eyes into toxic ones that kill off the photoreceptor cells in our retina, according to Fast Company.
Once these photoreceptor cells die, they are gone for good, as they cannot regenerate. So if your eyes get too much blue light exposure that is effectively killing off your photoreceptor cells, you have an increased likelihood of developing age-related Macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for people in their 50’s and 60’s. More than 2 million cases of this incurable disease are reported in the U.S. every year, and as of right now, it’s incurable.
“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” said Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, a biochemistry professor at UT. “No activity is sparked with green, yellow, or red light. The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type.”
UV and blue light-filtering eyewear is available to help people reduce their amount of damaging screen time, but Karunarathne hopes that this new knowledge will help them develop preventative methods like an eyedrop. But Amber Case argued in a different Fast Company article that reds and oranges, which are currently used by the military because they are “low-impact colors that are great for nighttime shifts” and are less likely to leave “visual artifacts” the way that the color blue does, will create healthier color schemes. Maybe it’s time for software engineers and designers to move away from cold colors and towards the other side of the rainbow.