Industry colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic are feeling dismayed about the recent ruling by a British regulatory agency against Boots Opticians for making “misleading claims” about its blue light-filtering lenses. Boots, a major optical retailer in the U.K., was fined £40,000 by the General Optical Council (GOC) for a newspaper ad for Boots Protect Plus Blue lenses.
The GOC took action against Boots following complaints about the ad received by the Advertising Standards Authority. The complaints challenged two claims: that the blue light from LED TVs, smartphones, sunlight and energy-saving light bulbs cause damage to retinal cells over time; that Boots Protect Plus Blue lenses protect against blue light from these sources. The Authority agreed that both claims were “misleading and not substantiated,” according to the GOC.
The GOC determined in its ruling that Boots “failed to obtain sufficient evidence” to justify its claim that “there is a direct link between harmful blue light and retinal damage over time,” and that “Boots Protect Plus Blue Lenses filtered out a meaningful amount of harmful blue light.”
In assessing the amount of the fine, the GOC said it recognized that “full admissions were made by Boots Opticians at the onset of the hearing, regret was expressed, some remedial steps had been taken to address the failings, and there was no risk of clinical harm to patients.”
It’s hard to understand the GOC’s rationale, or why Boots didn’t defend its claims—which don’t seem to be exaggerated or unsubstantiated—considering the growing body of scientific evidence that points to high-energy blue light as being an ocular hazard. One study, which blue light expert Gary Morgan, OD, calls the “holy grail” of blue light research, is “Age-related Maculopathy and the Blue Light Hazard.” (For more studies on blue light’s effects, see the compendium published by 20/20’s affiliate, Vision Monday, as part of its 2016 feature article, “Inside the Blue Boom.”)
In the aftermath of the Boots ruling, blue light may soon come under more scrutiny from government regulators. Lens manufacturers and researchers need to step up their efforts to provide scientific evidence that exposes the links between high-energy blue light and ocular damage. Optical retailers and eyecare professionals are counting on their support.
• Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology