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Short Wavelength Light

Feb 2024

ICNIRP (2024). ICNIRP Statement on Short Wavelength Light Exposure from Indoor Artificial Sources and Human Health. Health Physics 126(4):241–248; 2024.

Concerns have been raised about the possibility of effects from exposure to short wavelength light (SWL), defined here as 380 – 550 nm, on human health. The spectral sensitivity of the human circadian timing system peaks at around 480 nm, much shorter than the peak sensitivity of daytime vision (i.e., 555 nm). Some experimental studies have demonstrated effects on the circadian timing system and on sleep from SWL exposure, especially when SWL exposure occurs in the evening or at night. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has identified a lack of consensus among public health officials regarding whether SWL from artificial sources disrupts circadian rhythm, and if so, whether SWL-disrupted circadian rhythm is associated with adverse health outcomes. Systematic reviews of studies designed to examine the effects of SWL on sleep and human health have shown conflicting results. There are many variables that can affect the outcome of these experimental studies. One of the main problems in earlier studies was the use of photometric quantities as a surrogate for SWL exposure. Additionally, the measurement of ambient light may not be an accurate measure of the amount of light impinging on the intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, which are now known to play a major role in the human circadian timing system. Furthermore, epidemiological studies of long-term effects of chronic SWL exposure per se on human health are lacking. ICNIRP recommends that an analysis of data gaps be performed to delineate the types of studies needed, the parameters that should be addressed, and the methodology that should be applied in future studies so that a decision about the need for exposure guidelines can be made. In the meantime, ICNIRP supports some recommendations for how the quality of future studies might be improved.

Read the full statement here.
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