Blue light rots the brains of fruit flies

tomatoes and fruit flies
CC BY 2.0 These tomatoes filled our house with fruit flies/ Lloyd Alter

Is it doing the same for people?

Ever since my wife bottled her annual batch of tomatoes, our house has been full of fruit flies. We just can't get rid of them. I am almost at the point of being very unTreeHugger and buying a can of RAID or some other horrible insecticide.

But now I have another option; a new study has found that exposure to blue light, like you get from LED screens and lights, rots the brains of fruit flies. As Ed Cara of Gizmodo reads it,

The common fruit fly only lives a few months in the best of conditions. But those that had gotten the blue light special had much shorter lives than either control group, living only half as long. They also showed signs of damage to their retina and brain, and they couldn’t climb as well.

According to the study itself, Daily blue-light exposure shortens lifespan and causes brain neurodegeneration in Drosophila, it also gets worse as they age.

It should be noted upfront that the problem is not inherent in LED lights; they can in fact be any colour, especially in RGB bulbs that mix red, green and blue LEDs to whatever colour you want. Single-colour LEDs are often phosphor based, where a blue to ultra-violet LED excites phosphors in the coating of the bulb. This is how fluorescent bulbs worked too. It is also not the first study to find that blue light affects people or fruit flies; Cara at Gizmodo writes that "other studies involving human subjects have found a link between artificial light (which is typically mostly blue light) and poorer health, such as a greater risk of insomnia or other sleep problems." We have covered these in TreeHugger; see related links below.

Eurofase closeupLloyd Alter/ LEDs are so good now they have even gone steampunk/CC BY 2.0

But LEDs are evolving quickly. Blue ones were brighter, cheaper and more efficient, but manufacturers are tuning them to be warmer and put out less blue light, or even look like old warm yellow incandescents. Nonetheless, it might be a good idea to get rid of older, cheaper, bluer bulbs or move them to closets or basements where you are not under them all the time, and replace them with ones that are warmer. The researchers note that you cannot directly compare humans to fruit flies (though both can be very annoying), but...

Understanding the effects of blue light on various life processes is becoming an increasingly important health issue as humans are exposed to more blue-enriched LED illumination for most of the day, or even at night due to shift work and light pollution in large cities. However, long-term consequences of increased daily blue-light exposure across the human lifespan are not known.

However, we do now know that fruit flies are more stressed, age more quickly, die sooner and are dumber under blue light. I am going to crank up the blue on my Hues; maybe it will get rid of those fruit flies once and for all.

Blue light rots the brains of fruit flies
Is it doing the same for people?

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