The below is an excerpt from Chapter 19 of How to Save Your Eyes in the Digital Age, the Regulatory Perspective.
Concern about HEV blue light from digital displays is triggering policy discussions across the globe. Increasingly, governments are looking closely at efforts to minimize the harmful consequences of blue light from a regulatory standpoint. As the scientific community continues to identify the growing concerns over potential long-term eye and health impacts from blue light, it seems likely additional government attention and pro-active protective measures will gather momentum in the future. Below are some recent government actions.
ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, released a new report on the impacts of the LED systems on human health and the environment. This report, a collective expert appraisal based on a critical analysis of scientific data, confirms the phototoxic effects of short-term exposures to high-intensity blue light, shows that even very low exposure to light that is rich in blue in the evening or at night, disrupts the biological rhythms and thus sleep, and underlines the need to protect identified populations at risk. The Agency recommends that authorities should develop the research, adapt the current regulations based on the scientific data and improve information. In May 2021, the French Ministry of the Ecological Transition announced a new measure to limit blue light on toys having LEDs for children by 2022. The measure aims to protect the health of children under the age of ten who ordinarily do not have a fully developed crystalline lens. According to the Minister of Ecological Transition, the health effects of toxic exposure could be multiple, from the creation or accentuation of myopia, to sleep disturbances.
A 2018 communication states that the Chinese government has committed to implement a number of regulatory measures to combat health problems caused by excessive screen time, including the alarming increase in myopia among school-age children. In September 2021, China’s National Press and Publication Administration published new rules for kids and teens under 18 years old, limiting their online video game time to three hours per week. These new restrictions are a continuation of China’s efforts over the last 10 years to police the amount of time young people spend on video games. This originally stemmed from possible health concerns but was later expanded due to anti-addiction measures. Citing a rise of eye health issues in China, Zhejiang province issued draft regulation to limit screen time. The Zhejiang regulation would limit the use of electronic devices to 30 percent of total teaching time and encourage the issuing of paper homework to be completed by hand.
Taiwanese lawmakers approved the “Child and Youth Welfare and Protection Act” which allows the government to fine parents of children under the age of 18 who are using electronic devices for extended periods of time. This law follows similar measures in China and South Korea that aims to limit screen time to a healthy level.
Some laws aimed at restricting video game playing also have the effect of restricting screen time at night. The South Korea National Assembly enacted the Youth Protection Revision Act, also known as the Shutdown Law, in 2011. The law forbids children under sixteen from playing on-line video games after midnight. China, Thailand and Vietnam have similar laws, all intended to protect minors from excessive video gaming.
The World Health Organization issued new and strict guidelines concerning screen time for children under five. The guidelines stress that the motor and cognitive development of children is being negatively impacted by inadequate sleep on young children, as well as time spent sitting watching screens. The recommendation is for children to increase daily participation in active playtime.
Maryland’s House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously passed the Health and Safety Best Practices Digital Devices bill. It was signed into law by Governor Hogan soon after. The bill, HB-1110, requires the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to come up with a list of “best practices” to regulate how kids interact with screens in schools.
U.S. Senator Ed Markey and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington DC have proposed legislation calling for the National Institutes of Health to conduct a $40 million multiyear study of the effect of technology, screen time and online media on infants and older children.
In its guidelines for childrens’ after school programs, the state of California Department of Education recommends to “Limit recreational screen time to 30 minutes and total screen time to 60 minutes per after school session.” While California State Teachers called for Apple to study impact on children’s health and offer new solutions.
October 10th has been designated as Blue Light Awareness Day by the State of California. In addition to unanimous passage by the California Senate, the Blue Light Awareness Resolution (SCR-73) was ratified by the California Assembly on a vote of 70-0. Resolution SCR-73 was sponsored by Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician, state senator, and chair of the California Senate Committee on Health. SCR-73 identifies known and potential health hazards associated with exposure to high-energy blue light from devices for children and adults. The Resolution urges consumers to consider taking protective safety measures in reducing eye exposure to high-energy visible blue light. Jeff Todd, President and Chief Executive Officer Prevent Blindness, said at the time, “Resolution SCR-73 passed by the California State Legislature sends a message to the eye care sector, electronics manufacturers, parents and educators that we need to be taking the issue of blue light emissions and extended exposure to digital screens seriously, and undertake the necessary research to fully understand its impact. We commend the State of California for recognizing vision and eye health as an important public health issue in the context of emerging concerns related to blue light emissions.”
About the Author:
Jeffrey Rageth, Board Director and Government Affairs Advisor, has held various public and private sector executive positions, including Deputy Commissioner for the State of Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development. In addition he served as the Global Vice President of Government Affairs for 3M Company.