Keith Gordon, vice-president of research at the Toronto-based Canadian National Institute of the Blind, says it would be prudent to stay away from white desks to reduce any hazard from over-exposure to blue light.
The effect of the white surface is ‘similar to that created for skiers by a bright sun on snow’.
‘White desks reflect anything coming out of the computer, so you’re getting a double whammy. If you’re sitting at a white desk and you have a fluorescent light, then it is going to reflect off the desk into your eyes. I would recommend people have dark-coloured desks,’ he told Canadian Occupational Safety magazine.
The direct connection between long-term exposure to blue light and retinal damage in humans has not been absolutely proven, Gordon stresses.
‘Typically, there’s not a lot of concern because of the light itself, but people spend hours looking at these screens, so there is a concern that if you spend your day looking at a computer monitor, with that amount of light, you could have long-term damage in the eye,’ he says.
It is important to note, however, that the direct connection between long-term exposure to blue light and retinal damage in humans has not been absolutely proven, Gordon stresses.
‘I don’t think it has ever been definitively said that long-term exposure to blue light can in fact damage the retina. But there’s an association, and there are animal studies that show that blue light can be toxic to retina cells,’ he says.
Gordon recommends the office workers use software to cut blue-light exposure, such as filter apps such as the f.lux, which is free, can be installed in computers and mobile devices to adjust light emitted to the time of day: bright during the day and low at night. Additionally, many computers and smart phones now have a blue-light reduction mode. Like the app, it automatically adjusts light and color at sunrise and sunset.
‘These are two practical things one can do that are fairly easy,’ Gordon says.
Workers can adjust the level of blue light emitted from their screens by simply decreasing the brightness of the screen or by altering the contrast by switching to white-on-black.
Safety managers can limit the amount of blue light produced by overhead lighting, Gordon says. He urges facility managers to avoid installing cool white or blue-white fluorescent tubes and instead specify ones that are coated, so they produce less blue light and emit a warm white light. He also recommends replacing flickering fluorescent tubes quickly because faulty tubes emit more blue light.