Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs became pretty popular for indoor plantation and it is easy to see why. A review entitled “An Update on Plant Photobiology and Implications for Cannabis Production” (2019) listed, in one of its sections, the advantages of using LEDs as the artificial light source for your Cannabis plants. The study enumerated long lifespan, energy efficiency, and adjustable intensity and quality as the major advantages of LEDs (1).
Though many speak highly of LED, we still cannot remove speculations and doubts about this efficient and versatile light source. Questions and claims on LEDs surface about their effects on humans. Sure, they may get the job done and the plants flourish and flower, but what about the health of the growers? Do they pose danger?
The answer is: there is a need to be careful.It would not be true to say there is a hundred percent assurance that LEDs would not in any way harm the growers’ health. But do not worry or panic yet, we will discuss more in the following sections.
Top myths about LED Grow Lights
It is normal to be skeptical and to ask where is the catch in utilizing LED as the grow light for your indoor plantation. It cannot be all about reaping the benefits and no setbacks, right? There have been complaints in the past about attaining health risks seemingly correlated to using LED lights. Are these complaints warranted and proven?
Here are the top myths about LED and the revelation of the truth or falsity of such claims.
The Light emitted by LEDs is harmful to our eyes
There are LED grow lights which emit a dangerous amount of blue light that is harmful to the human eyes. Long, frequent, and strong exposures to blue light may cause the deterioration of our vision. However, this is a severe case. If you think about it, anything too intense harms us. Quick tours to the greenhouse to tend the plants would not equate to too much exposure to blue light.
One more suggestion, cannot we just tinker with the spectrums and program the lights not to emit blue light? The thing is, blue light is essential for both the vegetative growth and the flowering phase of our Cannabis plants. If you want to be cautious, there are protective eyewear available designedto see through grow lights (2). These grow lights-specialized eyewear would let you observe your plants and spot physical problems on them as the glasses aretuned to the specific spectrum your grow lights provide.
There is still a lot to research on regarding the effects of direct and long exposure to blue light. No absolute findings yet and the only piece of advice we can give you is to be careful. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Grow Lights can cause Cancer
Talking about the relationship between LED and cancerleads back us to discussing blue light. There has been a study published in 2011 entitled “Limiting the impact of light pollution on human health, environment and stellar visibility” found out that an LED bulb (which emits a white light that is blue light on the spectrum) suppresses the secrete of melatonin (3). Melatonin is a hormone which is known forits anti-cancerous properties and thus, it can be concluded that a lower melatonin level can be linked to a higher risk of cancer. However, the researchers of the study emphasized that, as melatonin is not primarily produced during the day, there is no harm in using the LED lights on such times. The caution must be on nighttime exposure to blue light.
Okay, hold up. So, this does not mean that LED grow lights directly cause cancer, right? Yes, no need to switch on to full panic mode while attending to your plants’ needs inside the grow room. No need to be paranoid every single time you turn the LED lights on.
Are LED grow lights bad for your skin?
Aside from blue light, LED grow lights can also contain ultraviolet diodes. Manufacturers have developed LED grow lights containing UV diodes to offer a UV light spectrum into their products. These help some plants, like Cannabis, to flourish better when exposed to the right amount of UV (4). The reason? The sun emits UV and we are trying to replicate the conditions of plants thriving outside. However, it has been proven that exposure to UV radiation is the leading reason why healthy skin cells turn into cancer cells (5).
Knowing all these, you should not be scared, though. The UV light degrees included in the LED grow lights are actually too little to be harmful. There are no reports yet of long exposures to LED grow lights leading or causing skin cancer. As a grower, you need to worry about a few things related to this topic. One, check whether your grow lights emit an unbelievable amount of UV light. The other thing is touching a super hot LED grow light. And this is even a little far-fetched will be explained in the next section.
Are LED grow lights a fire hazard?
One of the common attributes of LED grow lights is that they emit less heat and maintain low temperature as compared to other types of artificial light sources. This means less money spent on external cooling systems for you to deal with. Also, LED grow lights use less energy to produce higher amounts and intensity of light for your plants. This results in plants being healthier and more flourished.
Where does the myth that LED grow lights are a fire hazard come from? That we do not know for sure but are we not all skeptical of any electrical equipment of suddenly overheating and bursting into flames? All electric artificial light sources give off heat, LED grow lights included. This, in the most extreme cases, may make us think that they will overheat soon enough. As mentioned earlier, this is highly unlikely. What growers should watch out for is faulty wiring. There are times (more frequent than you would think) that the actual cause of the fire is the bad wiring and not the type of light used. Responsible growers should schedule check-ups here and then to look out for chewed or wet wirings.
Do grow lights give off radiation? (100-200 words)
To give a short and simple answer to this, it would be yes. As explained in the earlier sections, there are LED grow lights which emit UV light. These grow lights are full-spectrum LEDs. Full-spectrum LEDs are designed to replicate the natural light provided by the sun. These UV rays are involved in the photosynthetic processes and are thus, important to the plants.
When exposed too often and to intense degrees, the UV radiation can cause risks to the eyes, similar to the blue light issue. Eyes being exposed to UV light have been linked to cataract formation and retinal degeneration (6). Again, as advised earlier, use protective eyewear to shield eyes from the rays emitted from lights. It is always better to be cautious and prepared.
LED lights are dangerous
Are there hazardous elements or components contained in your LED grow lights that you should look out for? Back in the past, LED lights contained dangerous metals such as mercury (7). LED bulbs then created a scare when they have fallen and shattered to the ground. This is in the past, though. Improvements in research and technology have led to more hazard-free LED models. As a grower, you should not be worried anymore about the potential health risks your grow lights might contain. Beside, grow lights do not come in bulbs. They come in chips or strip lights, if that would help you get over the bulb scare.
According to the “Opinion on Potential risks to human health of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)” released by the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks on June 2018, there is no proof regarding LEDs emission from lamps and displays causing illnesses or any health risk among the general healthy population (8).The Committee reviewed the available studies and literature on the long-term effects of LED emissions and have found no concluding evidence for them to result in skin or eye health problems as long as the exposure is below the international agreed exposure limits. Folks, there you have it. There are guidelines manufacturers and researchers follow and as long as your grow lights adhere to such, there would be no problem at all. Your task is to check and investigate the products first.
Health is more important than successful and abundant yields. It is not wise to come to a point where you sacrifice yourself just to get the results you want for your plants. Purchasing additional protective eyewear or gears may initially cost you more money but it would benefit you in the long run. Remember, success does not lie solely on the yields!