Image for eBay / Myer’s new virtual reality shopping store ignores possible eye damage to the user

An article in a recent Mercury (page 50, 20 May)  “Myer and eBay launch virtual shopping” announced the launch of a virtual shopping site, allowing the user to browse and purchase items simply by looking at them.

It gives the user access to thousands of items simply by first downloading the eBay Virtual Reality Department Store app on their smart phone and then obtaining for free a foldout smart phone holder headset (called SHOPTICALS) for their smart phone which allows the user to place the phone immediately in front of their eyes and start virtually reality shopping.

When inserted in the headset the smart phone is about 2 inches from the user’s eyes, thus exposing their eyes to the phone’s light and microwave emissions when using the headset. This should be of concern to both Ebay and Myer, because of the existing evidence (see below) that placing a smart phone in such close proximity to the eyes poses a possible risk of eye damage to the user. If this turns out to be the case it additionally exposes eBay/Myer to the risk of a class-action litigation risk.

Consider the following excerpts:

1. From Digital Trends:

“No one knows for sure at this point if prolonged use of digital devices actually causes permanent damage to the eyes,” explained Gary Heiting, OD, senior editor of AllAboutVision.com, “but it’s well established that it causes eye strain and discomfort.”

Digital eye strain, sometimes referred to as computer vision syndrome, is well documented. If you’ve ever experienced dry or irritable eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, or head, neck and back pain after using a computer or smartphone, then you’re familiar with it.

A 2015 report from The Vision Council, Hindsight Is 20/20/20: Protect Your Eyes from Digital Devices, found that 61 percent of Americans have experienced eye strain after prolonged use of electronic devices — nearly 2 out of every 3 people. Long-term damage or not, we have an outbreak of eye strain on our hands.

2. From Your Sight Matters:

Tiny Screens Can Cause Big Vision Problems

As much as we depend on our mobile devices for viewing and responding to emails, checking the weather, reading headline news, and posting status updates on Facebook, our smartphones may be causing us some vision problems. Staring at those tiny screens can bring on an array of eye issues such as blurred vision, headaches, sore eyes, headaches, muscle strain and dry eye.

According to Jeff Taylor, M.D., Medical Director for YourSightMatters.com, at least 1 out of every 4 eye patients complains about eye strain due to reading text on a small screen. Normally, we blink about 15 times per minute, but this rate decreases by half when we are staring at our smartphone. As we squint to read these miniature screens, our facial, neck and shoulder muscles tighten, eyes become fatigued and vision can be blurred or strained. This series of symptoms is known as Computer Vision Syndrome.

Smartphones can also cause other issues as well. The iPhone’s newest update seems to affect balance and stability with the new icons zooming in and out. Users have complained of dizziness. Reading in bed can affect sleep patterns due to the blue light emitted from the screen. This light can decrease levels of melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep. For all the help that our phones and electronic devices offer, they are literally giving us a headache.

3. From BBC Newsbeat:

Smartphone overuse may ‘damage’ eyes, say opticians

Opticians say people are so addicted to smartphones they may be increasing their risk of eye damage. They are warning overuse from phones and other devices like computers, tablets, and flat screen TVs can lead to long-term damage.It comes as a survey of 2,000 people suggests under 25s check their phones thirty-two times a day. Optician Andy Hepworth said: “Blue violet light is potentially hazardous and toxic to the back of your eyes.

4. From Rebuild Your Vision:

What’s the Deal with Blue Light? Smartphone Light Damaging to Retina at Night

If you lie in bed or sit in the dark and play with your cell phone or other electronic devices, you could be damaging your eyes. Not only will using digital devices in bed cause a disruption in your sleep cycle, but the blue light that emanates from these devices has been linked to a variety of health problems.

Smartphone Light Damaging to Retina at NightThe blue light coming off of these devices is a part of the full light spectrum, so everyone is exposed to it during the day when out in the sunlight. However, when you are exposed to it at night, in the dark, at the high levels that are emitted from cell phones, computers, tablets, and other devices with LED screens, it can cause problems to your eyes and vision.

Problems Caused by Blue Light

When your eyes are directly exposed to blue light, it can cause the retina to become damaged. According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, damage to the retina caused by blue light can result in the development of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration causes loss of central vision and when that happens, you will no longer have the ability to see things in front of you.

5. And from Market Watch

Don’t give up your eyes for an iPhone

The biggest knock on smartphones is that all the apps, emails, viral videos, and text messages drive us to distraction, if not off the road. Spending half the day staring into a four-inch screen may also wreck one’s eyesight, new research suggests — and the devices may not be to blame so much as how we hold them.

David Allamby, an eye surgeon and the founder of Focus Clinics in London, recently coined the term “screen sightedness” and pointed out that according to his research, there has been a 35% increase in the number of people with advancing myopia since smartphones launched in 1997.

Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a condition caused by a combination of hereditary factors and environment, says Shlomit Schaal, an eye surgeon and assistant professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Louisville. It affects more than 30% of the population of the U.S. The environmental factors that contribute include “close work,” or stress on the eye caused by reading or otherwise focusing on a near object.

Using a smartphone strains the eyes in much the same way reading a book or staring at a computer monitor does, with one exception — the distance between the eye and the object. When a phone or other device is held close to one’s face, it forces the eye to work harder than usual to focus on text, says Mark Rosenfield, an optometrist who published research on the topic in The Journal of the American Academy of Optometry in 2011. The discomfort can eventually result in fatigue.

*Don Maisch PhD,has been involved in telecommunications standard setting since the early 1990s and was a member of the Standards Australia Committee setting exposure standards for electromagnetic fields. His PhD thesis examined industry influence and bias in telecommunications health risk assessment. He has recently written a book chapter on industry influence in Australian expert science committees which is due for publication in June 2015. Besides also writing about shortcomings with planned smart grids networks in Australia (see here) he is currently working on a thesis examining draconian US tax laws that have been accepted in an IGA by the Abbott government and how they affect the financial future of expat Americans lining in Australia.