No evidence that blue light damages the eyes despite lens shop claims: Internet Scambusters #904
This week we're continuing our coronavirus scams spotlight with a warning about fake test kits.
And we're taking a close-up look at lenses that filter out blue light. Do they work? And if so, do they help?
As we report, some sellers are making exaggerated claims about eye health scares, while there are easier and cheaper routes to stop the sleeping problems blue light supposedly causes.
Let's get started...
Are Blue Light Lenses a Scam? + Coronavirus Scams Update
— Coronavirus Scams Spotlight on Fake Covid Test Kits
The torrent of Covid-19 scams seems unstoppable. This week we're warning about fake test kits that are being peddled by door-to-door sellers.
The scammers are playing on fear and uncertainty about if or when tests will be more widely available and before proper home test kits become available online and in pharmacies (if that ever happens).
In a panic, many consumers are falling for the doorstep con and handing over $50 for a worthless "test." In some cases, victims say sellers claim they need to do the test themselves and have entered their homes and stolen items.
Don't fall for this. Research shows that even genuine kits that are arriving from China are only 40% accurate. And if reliable home tests do become available, they're unlikely to come from front door solicitors.
In the absence of a reliable home test, the best way to check for the infection and avoid wasting $50 is to monitor your personal health, looking out for symptoms.
Need to know more? Visit the new coronavirus.gov official site for information.
And do your friends and families a favor by passing on this warning to them.
— Looking for Clarity in the Blue Light Debate
Is blue light eyewear a scam? When you buy reading glasses with a built-in blue filter, you may be paying good money for something you don't need.
While the issue is being debated, lens makers and optometrists continue to offer these add-ons for a premium when customers buy new glasses.
Some even offer standalone blue light filtering glasses for people who don't normally need magnifying lenses.
Meanwhile, some eye experts and consumer campaigners say they're a waste of money.
And it's a lot of money. Global sales of the lenses are worth an estimated $18 million a year, a figure expected to rise to $27 million by 2024, according to MarketWatch.com.
While we on the Scambusters team are not health or optometric specialists and therefore can't offer advice, others who are say that filtering out the blue light that's emitted by phones, tablets, and computers serves no purpose for eye health.
It's not that the lenses don't filter out the blue, they say, but that there's no hard evidence that the rays do any damage. But that doesn't stop some sellers from suggesting they're dangerous.
A recent survey by the Canadian broadcaster CBC found that some eyewear chains were aggressively pushing the filters as essential. They allegedly made unfounded claims that without the filter, digital screens could damage retinas and lead to serious eye diseases like macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
Using hidden cameras, the broadcaster also caught one salesperson saying that blue light causes cancer. There's not a shred of evidence for this.
Others told a reporter posing as a customer that the light had "very sharp rays penetrating at the back of the eyes" and "it tears the eyes right out of you."
CBC quoted Dr. Rahul Khurana, on behalf of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), as saying: "Blue light fear, paranoia, is really out there. But there's no evidence to show it's truly dangerous and blocking it has not ever [been] shown to [have] any benefits."
Experts don't necessarily blame the salespeople for conning their customers. Sometimes, they truly believe what they're saying, having read misleading literature, including some from manufacturers.
However, the debate about the lenses' effectiveness isn't all one-sided. Some experts say they do have benefits.
For instance, the online medical advice site webMD.com says the Vision Council, which represents the optical industry, maintains that specialized glasses are just "one tactic" that might cut eyestrain.
Others point out that it's not so much blue light as lengthy overuse of digital screens generally that causes eye strain.
One reason for the confusion and controversy is that, in the US, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate eyewear and is not involved in approving claims or otherwise.
Add to that marketing tricks that enable firms to make vague claims that can make it seem lens filters are beneficial, without them actually saying so.
In the UK, one eyewear retailer was fined around $50,000 for saying that blue light damaged the retina.
The situation with blue light and insomnia is somewhat different.
There's some scientific evidence that the light from phones, tablets, and computers slows down the body's production of melatonin, the brain chemical that encourages us to sleep.
Blue light filters could help. But that's assuming there aren't other things keeping you awake, like worry or excitement. Or that you haven't just watched or read something that has your mind working overtime.
So, the AAO advises: "You don't need to spend extra money on blue light glasses to improve sleep -- simply decrease evening screen times and set devices to night mode."
Furthermore, if blue light stops us from making melatonin, then wearing filtering glasses during the day could actually result in us feeling unusually tired, since the main source of blue light is our good old sun.
Filter that out and melatonin production could ramp up, sending us to sleep at the wrong time.
In summary, there's no scientific evidence that blue light damages your eyes, and anyone who says different could be either ignorant or a scammer.
On the other hand, filtering it out at night may have a benefit on your ability to get to sleep quickly. But your best protection is probably to shut down your devices a couple of hours before fluffing your pillow.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!