Computers and radiation—Do we need to be worried?
The computers, we use daily all generate low frequency Electro Magnetic Radiation or EMR. The fact is that working users spend upwards of five hours a day in front of their computers, so should we be concerned about the effects on our health? Here is a quick recap on what the current thinking is about EMR. Most computers nowadays generate low and radio frequency Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) does recognise these as possibly carcinogenic. The physical effects of prolonged exposure to EMF are linked to serious diseases such as Alzheimers, depression and asthma as well as cancer. More common and less significant symptoms include headaches, tiredness and sleep disorders, dizziness, muscle and joint pains and heart palpitations. Be aware that children and pregnant women are more vulnerable to EMF.
In three percent of users (and this is growing) users develop a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity which causes them pain and discomfort at a far lower level of exposure to EMF. Studies are still being carried out on this subject—I guess this is one of the disadvantages of the 4th industrial revolution—which is technology based—that we currently live in. But there are risks, and the best way to move forward is to be as safe as possible.
Apart from EMF, other risks of prolonged computer usage include repetitive strain injury, back and postural issues and vision issues. I have written about how to resolve these in an earlier article, and any up to date health and safety regulations at your workplace should have clear guidelines on reducing risk.
So, how do we deal with EMF. The first step—and this is essential to reduce all risks facing regular computer users – is to take regular breaks. Some guidance advises 15 minutes off every hour to relax the mind and body. Personally, I would recommend a small break every 20 minutes—get out of your chair and take a short walk around the office and chat to colleagues. If you can get outside and get some fresh air, so much the better. Also, check that your computer or laptop is grounded. If it has a three-pin plug, then it is. If not, talk to your IT department about changing the plug on your lap or desktop.
Then look at your screen. If you are using a modern LED or LCD screen far less EMR is produced than the old CRT box type screens. If using the former, ensure that you are at least 12 inches away from the screen. If you are stuck with a CRT screen—you need to think about doubling that distance. Or swap it for a flat screen.
Regarding the rest of the computer, the bulk of EMF is generated from the power supply units—and that includes that box on your cable if you are using a laptop. Position these as far away from your body as possible. Never ever use your laptop on your lap. This is the way to get maximum EMF exposure and heat, especially to the reproductive organs, and a lot of research has been done on this connection on men and women.
Radio frequency radiation is a related risk that is on the increase because of the increased number of wireless devices we use in the home and office. Most of us are dependent on Wifi when travelling. To keep this to a minimum, think seriously about hardwiring your networks at home or the office. if not possible, consider switching them off when going to bed so that your body has a chance to recover and repair any prolonged exposure.
Remember, this applies to all Wifi enabled devices—including tablets and smartphones. I guess it won’t be long before the Internet Of Things increase the amount of wireless traffic wherever we are. So—should we be worried? The links between health risk and such exposure is verifiable. However, common sense should prevail—we all know when we are spending too much time on our devices.
And as studies progress we should be able to get a better understanding on the short and long-term effects of radiation and the use of technology – which for many of us is now a major and essential part of our daily lives.
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