When deciding which home theater display device you should get—a projector versus a TV—eye health should be one of your primary considerations. Screens on televisions actually produce blue light, which is known to be eye-damaging.
So do projectors emit blue light? Yeah. Why is it a big deal? It’s because blue light has a shorter wavelength than other color wavelengths like green or red on an RGB monitor.
In the context of home theaters and devices with display screens, blue light isn’t as “cool” and “relaxing” as it might appear. This wavelength of light can actually be dangerous to your retinas, particularly when you stare straight into the barrel of your projector lens as though you’re putting your eye into harm’s way on the barrel of your pistol or shotgun.
What’s The Problem with Blue Light Anyway?
More to the point, blue light is dangerous to the eyes because of its short wavelength that allows it to directly access and burn through your eye lens and retina. It’s like the concentrated beam of sunlight focused by a magnifying glass that kids use to burn paper or insects.
The color blue might seem nice and cool to look at but it might as well be a high-powered laser to your retina and eye lens when looked at directly as a wavelength of light (or at the very least certain blue hues in light are deadliest to your vision health). Both projectors and TVs have blue light on them. To wit:
- Projectors versus TVs: When choosing the right display for your home entertainment setup, it’s usually TV versus projectors. Sometimes, computer monitors are also included as a choice but most users opt for HDTVs instead because they have their own sound system while monitors don’t. The main factors to consider when picking between a TV and a projector is image quality, screen size, and cost. However, those are features that vary from model to model.
- The Effects of TVs and Projectors on Your Person: Another important consideration when comparing TVs and other devices with screens to projectors is the effects of such products to you as a person or to your family’s health. You’ll be spending a lot of time watching TV shows, movies, and streaming content on either a TV or projector screen, so you better go for the safest option. With that said, did you know that both projectors and TVs produce blue light that can be harmful to your eyes?
- The Shorter Wavelength of Blue Light: The shorter wavelength of blue light can result in bad things when stared at directly and/or for a prolonged period of time with your naked eye. This is why you should never look directly at the lens of your projector and only view its projection through a screen. You should also avoid staring too close or too long on your TV screen as well for the same reasons.
- Projector Blue Light versus TV Blue Light: Actually, TV screens produce more damaging direct blue light so it’s recommended that you view them from a distance. Meanwhile, projectors have an indirect blue light that’s gentler on the eyes when you view it as intended on the big projector screen. Based on eye health, projectors are the better option compared to TVs but only if we’re comparing them a screen to screen.
- Projectors Produce Blue Light Too So They Can’t Be Safe, Right? Wrong. Projector blue light is only deadly to your eyes when you use it like a telescope or microscope. Don’t do that. Your blue light exposure is minimized because you’re viewing something that doesn’t hit your eye directly like a phone touchscreen or an HDTV monitor. The light bounces off a wall or screen before hitting your eyes, thus serving as filters for the UV-intense blue light. The projection surface absorbs some of the blue light.
- Projectors Are Gentler on the Eyes When Used Correctly: A projector’s indirect blue light that requires projection unto a screen is much gentler to the eyes because it’s not like you’re staring straight into a light bulb as in the case of a TV screen, computer screen, or cellphone touchscreen. On the flipside, if you were to stare at the barrel of a projector’s lens then that’s direct blue light that’s more focused and dangerous than merely staring on a TV screen.
How Can Blue Light Damage Your Eyes?
Ultraviolet light or rays—the same rays known to cause skin cancer, damage DNA, bleach clothes, cause blindness, and produce various other destructive results—are connected to blue light from the sun and from your electronic viewing devices. The 415-455nm band of blue light falls under ultraviolet intensity: The same UV rays that can cause various eye conditions as well as skin diseases.
UV anything is known to be harmful to the human body as well as anything else, including your car paint and outdoor furniture. It’s one of the reasons for sunburns and why when you’re at the beach, you put in UV-blocking sunglasses and cream.
Just because the calming hue of the sky is blue it doesn’t mean that directly receiving a beam of blue light to your eyes is necessarily harmless. To wit:
- On the Perspective of Eye Health: Arguably, this eye-damaging light is more prominent within a TV screen than a projector screen. As long as you use projectors as intended and never stare at its lens it’s much safer on your retinas than an HDTV, smartphone, tablet, PC monitor, or laptop screen. Prolonged blue light exposure can cause dry eyes, pain, fatigue, and eye strain. Cumulative blue light exposure can cause retinal cell damage and vision degradation as well.
- Both Millennials and Baby Boomers Are Exposed: Although it’s gone down in recent years, the average U.S. adult watches live TV for 4.5 hours a day and consumes on-screen media for 10 hours a day according to the Nielsen research firm. The amount of blue light exposure from that amount of TV watching is already pretty high for the Baby Boomers and their TV habits. However, even Millennials who are constantly glued to their smartphones—they spend 5 hours a day according to a 2017 survey—are also constantly exposed to blue light.
- Isn’t Blue Light Only Harmful When It’s From The Sun? No, it’s not. Blue light is a light wavelength not only found in natural sunlight. It’s also found in anything emitting light such as fire, TVs, computer screens, light bulbs, LEDs, and projectors. When people talk about blue light and eye damage, they’re specifically worried about high-energy blue-violet light in the 415nm to 455nm band. That’s the blue light that’s specifically the most damaging to your eyes, specifically their retinas and lenses.
- Blue Light is Everywhere in Modern Times: If you’re a movie junkie as well as someone who’s addicted to watching TV or playing games, then you should be wary of blue light. Aside from blue light from your TV or projector, your eyes are also exposed to screens found at computers and laptops at work and school. Chances are that you’re also constantly looking at a smartphone touchscreen that also emits blue light. Whether your TV is of the LED or LCD variety, both of those emit blue light as well.
- Blue Light Is The Major Cause of Eye Strain: Digital eye strain is mostly caused by blue light according to the BlueLightExposed.com website. Digital eye strain is a medical condition with symptoms that include dry and irritated eyes, difficulty focusing, headaches, back and neck pain, and blurry vision. Additionally, watching screens for so long is particularly detrimental at night since the contrast is even brighter during such hours. You can also end up with permanent eye damage due to macular and retinal degeneration from blue light overexposure.
- Can You Safeguard Your Eyes with UV-Blocking Sunglasses? Yeah, you can. However, they’re not ideal when watching TV shows or movies. It blocks not only the UV-intense rays but also the rest of the color, leading to a tinted experience. With that said, you shouldn’t resort to watching only black and white vintage shows or current shows in black and white. There’s no need to go back in time to watch films on the silver screen to save yourself from blue light. You should merely avoid overexposure to UV-intense blue light.
What Can We Do to Cut Back on Blue Light Exposure?
The blue light discussed in this article is part of the UV wavelength, thus explaining its destructiveness against your retina. It’s frightening to think that your TV and computer, as well as cellphones, are full of UV-tier blue light that can damage your eyes when you look at them, especially since they’re specifically made to be looked at. You can’t exactly put cream on your eyes to block UV rays and the sunglasses actually ruin your TV watching experience.
Thankfully, there are ways to go about cutting back on blue light exposure, such as reducing the amount of time on your phone or TV. You can also go the projector route since projector screens are usually far away and the light projected is indirectly seen by your eye. Projectors by nature have multiple safety features against blue light exposure such as adjustable screen size and indirect lighting. Remember to stare at the projector screen instead of the projector lens to ensure that the blue light remains indirect.