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Published on April 29th, 2019 | by Sarah Dephillips


LED Light Therapy and EMF

LED Light Therapy – Helpful or Harmful?

A reader recently asked us about the safety of cosmetic LED light therapy in the form of a facial mask. The product is a face mask covered with tiny LED light bulbs on the inside. The user can change the color of the lights, achieving specific UV-free wavelengths with claimed benefits ranging from acne reduction to improved collagen production. We’re not getting into the accuracy of the cosmetic claims in this article. We rather want to address our reader’s primary concern – the potential dangers of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from using these types of products.

Understanding EMF

I won’t go into too much detail, because we already have an article explaining the basics:

But here’s the general idea – anything using electricity has an electric field. Electric fields are typically measured in volts per meter, and a higher voltage creates a stronger electric field. Anytime an electric current is flowing, a magnetic field is created. Magnetic fields are typically measured in Gauss or Tesla. When you combine the elements of electric field and magnetic field, you get an electromagnetic field (EMF) or electromagnetic radiation. The spectrum of electromagnetic radiation has many familiar terms, such as radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet light, x-rays, etc. Electromagnetic radiation is expressed in terms of wavelength, frequency, or energy, depending on the part of the spectrum you’re referring to. X-rays and gamma rays, which are extremely high-frequency, have the power to break molecular bonds. Radio waves and others at the lower end of the spectrum do not, but can still have effects on the human body.


What Kind of Effects?

This is the gray area. While EMF is a naturally occurring phenomenon, the ever-increasing use of electricity and electronics at home and work creates unprecedented exposure to EMF. According to the World Health Organization:

“Low-frequency electric fields influence the human body just as they influence any other material made up of charged particles. When electric fields act on conductive materials, they influence the distribution of electric charges at their surface. They cause current to flow through the body to the ground.

Low-frequency magnetic fields induce circulating currents within the human body. The strength of these currents depends on the intensity of the outside magnetic field. If sufficiently large, these currents could cause stimulation of nerves and muscles or affect other biological processes.

Both electric and magnetic fields induce voltages and currents in the body but even directly beneath a high voltage transmission line, the induced currents are very small compared to thresholds for producing shock and other electrical effects.

Heating is the main biological effect of the electromagnetic fields of radiofrequency fields. In microwave ovens this fact is employed to warm up food. The levels of radiofrequency fields to which people are normally exposed are very much lower than those needed to produce significant heating. The heating effect of radiowaves forms the underlying basis for current guidelines. Scientists are also investigating the possibility that effects below the threshold level for body heating occur as a result of long-term exposure. To date, no adverse health effects from low level, long-term exposure to radiofrequency or power frequency fields have been confirmed, but scientists are actively continuing to research this area.”

Quoted from “What Are Electromagnetic Fields?”

The WHO link above is actually one of the most thorough and helpful resources I’ve found to date on EMF safety, so I recommend giving that a read if you’re looking for more information on EMF exposure and health in general.


So What About LED Light Therapy?

LED lights fall into the low frequency category of EMF, which is good news. But it seems that different brands, types, and even colors of LEDs can produce slightly different frequencies. That makes it hard to put a numeric value on the electromagnetic field of a product with a hundred tiny LEDs with adjustable voltage and color. Furthermore, there’s very little (if any) peer-reviewed scientific research of the health effects of LED lights and EMF in particular. But here are some important things to keep in mind when deciding if or how to use a product like an LED light therapy mask:

  • The higher the voltage, the stronger the electromagnetic field.
  • The closer you are to ANYTHING using electricity, the stronger the electromagnetic field. According to the WHO, magnetic fields are SIGNIFICANTLY decreased at a 30 cm distance, making EMF exposure from household LED bulbs pretty insignificant. Putting any electric or electronic device directly on your body gives you the full exposure to that device’s electromagnetic field.
  • The WHO and ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) both state that research has not proven any detrimental health effects of long-term, low-level, low frequency EMF exposure.
  • Both organizations voice some concern that EMF might have greater effects on children than adults. To be safe, it’s a good idea to limit children’s exposure to such devices.
  • To give some perspective, cell phones have a higher EMF than LEDs. Scientists are giving way more attention to researching health effects of mobile phones than anything else emitting EMFs in our daily lives. It doesn’t seem that an LED mask is going to give you greater EMF exposure than having an hour long conversation on your phone. That doesn’t mean either one is bad or not bad, just gives a comparison to something most of us use daily without concern.

In conclusion… science just doesn’t have that many conclusions yet. Technology is moving faster than scientists are studying the impacts. Your body interacts with electric and magnetic fields, but science isn’t sure whether low levels of prolonged exposure are harmful in the long term. But we hope these points are helpful to you in deciding whether the benefits of LED light therapy outweigh the unknowns!

Further reading on EMFs and LEDs

Attribution-free image courtesy of Pixabay

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