We are being exposed to increasing levels of electromagnetic radiation, especially microwaves, from an increasing number of sources, including cell phones and towers, cordless phones, satellites, computers, digital TV, radar, wireless internet, and wireless LANs in schools. This radiation is having a demonstrably harmful effect on our health. Below are some measures we can take to protect ourselves.

A computer monitor emits radiation all around—more at the sides and back than in front, because of the flyback transformer. Monitors that adhere to the Swedish MPRII or, preferably, TCO standard emit the least, but it’s still a good idea to sit at least 30 inches from the screen (and 3 feet from a TV). If necessary, use 14-point type to make your work easier to see. If you know you’re not going to use the computer for a period of time during the day, shut off the monitor rather than sitting there bathed in its glow.

Maintain the same distance from other monitors. If the back of a monitor in the next office or cubicle is against a common wall or partition, avoid sitting within 3 feet of that spot. (This also applies to other office equipment that gives off radiation, like printers, copiers, faxes, and modems.) Hard drives emit radiation, so avoid placing the computer right next to you or on the floor next to your legs. Pregnant women are especially advised to avoid extensive computer work— preferably none, and 20 hours a week at most.

The liquid-crystal display (LCD) in most laptop screens gives off much less radiation than desktop monitors. However, the hard drive may still be a problem, because, as Blake Levitt points out in Electromagnetic Fields, it rests "literally on the user’s lap at genital level."

Cell phones and portable phones give off extensive radiation. The most common fear is cancer, but neurological problems tend to appear first. Levitt advises the following: "Because of serious concerns about the safety of this technology, it is recommended that people stay with wired models until more is known or strict national standards are in place. Also, keep in mind that you are not the only one affected by wireless items; so is everyone near you." Current standards do exist, but they’re not what could be called "strict."

Other significant sources of radiation to be avoided include fluorescent lights, microwave ovens (both because of leakage and the effect on food), electric blankets, and waterbeds (because of the electric heater). For a more extensive discussion, see Robert O. Becker, M.D., Cross Currents, and Levitt, Electromagnetic Fields.



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April 2005

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