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Blue light: Industry responses to our story

Marketplace reached out to the optical chains we visited, as well as regulatory groups, associations and some of the manufacturers of lenses featured in our story to ask them about blue light from digital screens.

This is what they had to say:

OPTICAL CHAINS:  

Hudson’s Bay Optical/Glasses Gallery

Hudson’s Bay Optical/Glasses Gallery tells us the information on Vision-Ease pamphlets and marketing materials found in HBC Optical locations is “incorrect” when it comes to suggested links to macular degeneration and cancer, is not authorized from head office, and will immediately be pulled from store locations.

They tell us they want to offer to their clients “the best customer experience based on the quality of our products, and consistent training to all our associates in respect of  eye health”.

Hudson’s Bay tells us they are “committed to providing the very best experience for our customers. We partner with qualified companies like Glasses Gallery/Hudson’s Bay Optical to provide specialized services that we know our customers value as part of the Hudson’s Bay offering.”

Vogue Optical

“There is a high volume of ongoing studies on blue light, some of which point to damaging effects on the eyes. As a result, many products have been brought to the market in response to consumers’ worries and are widely distributed.

Optical science evolves very quickly, and scientists are still looking into solutions to overcome problems that were not of concern ten years ago, before the massive marketing of electronic devices by manufacturers and equally massive adoption by consumers.

Our role as an eyewear retailer is not to arbitrate the debates between proponents and those who denigrate the merits of blue light lens filters for eyeglasses, but to recommend currently available products on the market based on customers’ lifestyle and needs, with the endeavour of providing them with the best possible vision. That’s what we relentlessly strive to do for thousands of people each week.

While it is obviously impossible for us to control all interactions between clients and advisers during their professional conversations, we are putting considerable efforts into educating our staff and we rigorously train them on an ongoing basis, so that they can:

Pave the appropriate knowledge about new products and new technologies that are evolving faster than ever before;
Educate consumers about what’s available on the market and help them make the best choices when it comes to their vision; and
Provide them with appropriate answers.”

LensCrafters

“LensCrafters is committed to providing our customers with an exceptional eye care experience. For decades, we have invested in the health of our customers’ eyes by introducing new technologies - from the exam room to frames and prescription lenses - with meaningful benefits for customers.  In recent years, numerous studies from some of the world’s foremost eye health authorities have shown that blue light is one risk factor in the long term health of the eye. A growing body of research points to blue light emitted from the sun, electronic devices and other artificial sources of light as potentially harmful to retinal cells and eye health.

More recent research has identified what is believed to be the most dangerous portion of the blue light spectrum, which is blue violet light.  It is important for consumers to distinguish harmful blue violet light from other blue light which is a natural part of regulating the human sleep cycle. 

While it is still early on in the exploration of blue light’s health impact, we believe that as a leader in the industry, it is important for us to inform customers about the potential risks of blue light and to offer technology that can reduce negative effects of exposure.

Our Blue IQ lenses reduce blue light in wavelengths between 415-455nm on the light spectrum, which we consider harmful blue violet light.  While we train our associates on all products, including blue light and Blue IQ lenses, some inconsistencies are possible in how individual associates articulate this topic across our stores. We plan to reinforce our in-store training as the awareness around the potential risks of blue light grows. As always, we encourage our customers to speak with their eye doctors to identify any vision problems and evaluate options for treatment.”

Hakim Optical

What follows is a condensed version of the correspondence with Hakim based on pertinent information provided.

“Hakim Optical is not and has never claimed to be a scientific research company in the field of Optics. Since 1967, we have served the public through “Provincially Licensed Opticians”. The Licensed Opticians, considered a branch of health care, are required to attend annual seminars to enhance and update their knowledge with the latest and the best technologies in their chosen field as it is required from all healthcare professionals.

There are three branches of health care professionals in the Optical field, recognized by the Ministry of Health that includes:
1. Ophthalmologist, a medical doctor/surgeon who specializes in the medical aspects of eye health care.
2.  Optometrist, performing sight-testing and intermediary eyecare health screening.
3.  Optician, trained in dispensing ophthalmic instruments including eyeglasses, contact lenses and prosthetic eye.
4.  Additionally, there are a significant number of researchers in Universities, Colleges, and Institutions in the field of optical health care who have dedicated their professional life to scientifically research a plethora of subjects related to eye health care including but not limited to, “the effect and prevention of blue-light (415 – 455 nm wavelength) on human eyes”.

For your information, each Licensed Optician is obliged by their Professional oath to protect and provide the public with the best available unbiased technical information regarding their eye health care. At Hakim Optical, the public always has the right to decide for themselves on all available information.

We can, however, confirm that we are not providing the public with an illegal or banned optical product.

We will like to close by stating that there is no evidence on harm from the Blue-light Filter upgrade in the optical lenses.

Hakim Optical management will continue to respect  and support the Licensed Optician’s obligation to protect and educate the public with all available information and options related to their eye health care.

Hakim Optical will proudly continue to fully respect and represent the optical health profession and fully support the professionals, Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, and Opticians representing it.

Since 1967, for over we have built our success on providing Canadians with the widest selection and latest available Ophthalmic Instruments at reasonable prices.”


LENS MANUFACTURERS IN MARKETPLACE EPISODE


VISION EASE

“VISION EASE stands by our Marketing materials. VISION EASE completely agrees that more science needs to be done as there are many conflicting reports on if electronic device light actually causes eye damage. tsx

Here are some points for consideration:

High Energy Visible Light does not have a common definition but generally is 380nm to 500nm
Some notified bodies see it as 380nm to 450/460 while others have it at 400-500nm
VISION EASE Clear Blue Filter product claims use high energy visible light as 380nm to 460nm
VISION EASE has adopted the ANSI Z87.1-2015 standard, which identifies the wavelengths of blue light hazard and identifies a peak Hazard Factor at 435nm to 440nm.

Science supports that 435nm to 440nm does have negative effect to the retina.

The most powerful and damaging source of high energy visible light is the sun.

That is why Clear Blue Filter is the only clear lens that has the Skin Cancer Foundation seal of approval as an effective UV filter.

Digital blue light depends on the source but in electronic devices intensity is much less than the sun however they do produce high energy visible light.

VISION EASE completely agrees that more science needs to be done as there are many conflicting reports on if electronic device light actually causes eye damage.

All blue light converges in the eye before the retina and causes chromatic aberration which causes eye discomfort (no debate here). Prolonged use of digital devices exposes the eye to blue light for a long period of time which causes eye strain (headaches, dry eye, etc). Wearing lenses that filter more blue light as well as a lens design with a special power will help consumers with less eye strain (multiple clinical studies by lens manufacturers).

Just because we don’t know if prolonged use of electronic blue light damages the eye do you not want to protect your eyes from high energy visible light from the sun?”


CHOICE BluSelect (as found at Vogue Optical)

“CHOICE BluSelect is a trademark of Centennial Optical Limited, applied to a family of six different lens monomers which filter ultraviolet (UV) light and the highest energy portion of high energy visible (HEV) or blue light.  We sell these lenses to Vogue Optical and New Look and they market them to consumers as BluSelect lenses.  BluSelect lenses are intended for everyday eyewear that can be worn throughout the day for most tasks and purposes, including computer work. We recommend an antireflection coating on the lenses for increased comfort and visual acuity. We recommend polarized sunglasses for outdoor use in bright sunlight.

As background, please see the attached documents concerning eye health and HEV light exposure, as well as the attached document published by the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) and information on their website:  https://opto.ca/health-library/blue-light-is-there-risk-of-harm

There are a number of factors that will affect the precise amount of blue light that is blocked or transmitted by a lens, particularly the lens material and prescription, which will tend to determine the thickness of the lens.  Generally, the thicker the lens, the greater the number of blue light blocking molecules imbedded in the lens material. Therefore, a convex plus power lens for near vision correction will provide more blocking at the center and less at the edges of the lens, and a concave minus power lens for distance correction will be the reverse, since it is thicker at the edges and thinner in the center.
Here are the transmission blocking measurements for CHOICE BluSelect 1.60 index non-prescription (plano) lenses at different HEV light wavelengths, comparing two different center thicknesses (CT), as measured by Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.:

CHOICE BluSelect 1.60 index


UV and HEV light transmission blocking rate*
Light
           Percentage Blocked
Wavelength
2 mm CT plano
1.2 mm CT plano
380-500 nm
42.2
39.1
400 nm
99.9
99.9
410 nm
99.9
99.7
420 nm
86.1
70.5
430 nm
30.1
20.2


*Measured at Mitsui Chemical's R&D lab

As the wavelengths get longer and lower in energy, it becomes arguable at which point you should consider blue light to be harmful or beneficial (i.e., blue-violet vs. blue-turquoise light). The potential for retinal damage is at the higher energy / shorter wavelength, blue-violet end of the spectrum.  At the longer wavelength / lower energy range of the blue light spectrum there are two ways to describe the effects of blue-turquoise light:
1)      Blue-Turquoise light is beneficial because it helps regulate circadian rhythm, boosts alertness, memory and cognitive functions.
2)      Because it does this, exposure late at night can interrupt your sleep patterns due to melatonin suppression, and sleep deprivation can lead to other health problems.

There is always a potential for confusion or conflation regarding which claims are being made for different products and the benefits they provide to wearers. The following notes may be helpful:
• The sun is the most powerful source of high energy visible (HEV) light. It is the highest energy portion of HEV light that has the potential to cause retinal damage with prolonged exposure.
• Digital devices and other LED light sources emit blue light that is within a lower energy range of the HEV blue light spectrum, as compared to the sun.

The main symptom that patients have reported to eye care professionals (ECPs) as a result of their increased exposure to digital devices and other LED light sources is visual fatigue, sometimes referred to as digital eye strain. Most people that use a computer or other digital device throughout the majority of their day experience visual fatigue as a result of prolonged focus on a screen at close range. The wavelengths emitted by these screens are also within the range that can cause melatonin suppression, which can disrupt regular sleep patterns, particularly due to prolonged exposure at night. Sleep deprivation, which is a common and serious health problem, also has the potential to contribute to other serious health problems.
Anecdotal evidence has shown that BluSelect lenses have been effective in reducing wearers’ visual fatigue by filtering a portion of the blue light.  I do not believe that anybody is saying that looking at your smart phone causes cancer or diabetes, but people that regularly use digital devices late at night should be aware of potential long-term health effects.
We promote BluSelect lenses as an everyday eyewear option that protects your eyes from UV and a portion of HEV light.

ASSOCIATIONS:

College of Opticians of Ontario

“Our role as the regulator for the profession of opticianry is to ensure that Ontarians receive high quality vision care.  We have a document called the Standards of Practice that clearly state that opticians shall only provide services that they know or believe to appropriately meet the needs of their patients.   The Standards can be found here.

If the College were to receive a complaint that an optician was selling a product to a patient that the patient did not need, we would conduct a thorough investigation with that standard in mind and consider what science, research, evidence and/or professional standards the optician relied on in their decision-making. We would also likely seek an expert report on the matter.

The body of research related to blue light is relatively new and continually evolving. The College regularly reviews our professional standards of practice to address emerging information and innovations in our industry and will continue to do, including considering research on blue light, to ensure Ontario opticians continue to deliver quality vision care to their patients.”

Ontario Opticians Association (OOA)

“It would be inaccurate for the CBC to claim that there is "no" scientific evidence that the blue light emitted by digital devices such as computer monitors, smartphones and tablets is harmful.
There is as much scientific research indicating that blue light exists and that it is, in fact, harmful as there is scientific research that reaches a different conclusion. At a minimum, the CBC should indicate that the evidence, at this time, is equivocal.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists frequently prescribe blue light filters for application by opticians.

When blue light filters are prescribed by optometrists or ophthalmologists Opticians are bound by law to provide them.

Opticians' clients often ask that blue light filters be attached to their eyewear, based on their experience with such filters, or after having done their own research, or based on their acquaintances' and colleagues' experience with blue light filters. There is an overwhelming number of clients who have expressed satisfaction with their blue light filters, in that they reduced or eliminated headaches, fatigue, eyestrain and the like.

Unless the scientific evidence reaches a point that conclusively determines that blue light is not harmful, opticians will continue to educate clients on blue light filters from all perspectives and apply blue light filters when they are prescribed by optometrists and ophthalmologists, and when they are requested by clients.”

Canadians Association of Optometrists (OPTO)/Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS)

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (OPTO) and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) directed us to their Joint (COS/OPTO)  position on electronic screens. The Canadian Association of Optometrists (OPTO) tell us “the information on our website about blue light has to do with all blue light, not just blue light from digital screens. Recognizing that the long-term effects of blue light exposure are still being determined, we note that it may contribute to certain conditions.”

OPTO tells us they “are not recommending lenses, filters or apps, just simply noting them [on their website] as an industry response to concerns about blue light.”

OPTO also says their current webpage on blue light is being reviewed and updated.


Opticians Association of Canada (OAC)

“The Opticians Association of Canada (OAC) is the advocate for Canadian Opticians; we are not a scientific research organization. That said, we believe and trust our Opticians are empowered to use professional judgement regarding any recommendations to the eye care consumer.

Opticians are front line providers of vision care. It is the role of an Optician to discuss consumer concerns regarding any eye care issues and be certain to offer ALL options and safety features that may lower risk of harm.

While we understand the entertainment value of controversial segments to your programming model, we can only hope you show all relevant studies to the public. There is a lot of evidence to support a potential risk of Blue Light.
We will leave the “debate” to the science community and faithfully inform the eye care consumer of the possible risk. Ultimately the consumer is in control and should have a choice. “

American Macular Degenerative Foundation (AMDF)

“The scientific evidence implicates blue light as a risk factor in contributing to the onset or progression of macular degeneration, as well as other eye diseases such as cataracts. However, the blue light emitted from the sun and the blue light emitted from electronic devices are significantly different. While most of the research agrees that UV blocking sunglasses are an important protective measure against sunlight exposure, the research on blue light emitted from electronic devices is contradictory and inconclusive.

Studies such as this one verify that blue light can cause damage at greater intensities, but the findings of such studies tend to get extrapolated by the press or marketing campaigns to implicate all blue light as damaging, including that emitted from electronic devices. However, this study, and others, did not show effects on living eye tissue. Furthermore, this, and previous research, shows damaging effects only when the light energy is 3 microwatts or greater. The light energy emitted from electronic devices is typically no greater than 1 microwatt.

We can't say for sure there isn't a cumulative effect of lower energy blue light; to date there is no clear evidence to suggest it.

But should people wear blue light blocking lenses for electronic use "just in case?"

A 2017 study by the Centre for Applied Vision Research of London and the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences of The University of Melbourne, Australia found no evidence that blue light blocking glasses offered any significant protection against eye fatigue, sleep quality, or macular damage.

AMDF's position is that people should definitely wear UV protective sunglasses for sun exposure, but right now there isn't much evidence to support wearing blue light blocking lenses for everyday electronics use. 
Little evidence currently exists to suggest either that this level of blue light exposure is damaging to the eye or that the current glasses on the market offer any significant protection.

Some blue light is healthy for the eyes, and even required for visual development in children. Studies continue on long-term exposure, and as science and technology advance our knowledge, we will keep you updated.”


Health Canada

“In Canada, prescription lenses, including prescription lenses that have been modified to block or reduce blue light to the eyes, are Class I medical devices.
Health Canada’s oversight role is to ensure that manufacturers of medical devices are compliant with the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and Medical Devices Regulations, including that the safety and effectiveness requirements of medical devices are met. The FDA (s.20) prohibits false, misleading or deceptive advertising of a medical device such as the promotion of claims without safety and effectiveness data.
In addition, as per the FDA, no person (including a retailer) can advertise any device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A to the Act, for example, cancer and glaucoma.  
Health Canada is following up with the companies to determine whether medical devices are being advertised or sold in Canada with unsupported health claims.”