Health Risks of Computer Screens

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Many people who use a computer daily do not consider the associated health risks. In particular, computer screens pose a variety of dangers, due to utilization of outdated technology or being set up improperly. With an understanding of these dangers and a plan to avoid them, you can use your computer with confidence that you will be safe.

Types

  • The primary health risks stemming from the use and overuse of computer monitors involve injuries due to repetitive strain of the eyes and neck. However, there has also been concern regarding the emission of radiation from monitors. Cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors have been shown to emit low levels of various types of radiation, including electromagnetic radiation and X-rays. However, multiple tests have been conducted to study the effects radiation from CRTs might have on health, and no evidence has been found of any risks. Nevertheless, anyone concerned about the effects of radiation exposure would be advised to switch to an LCD monitor, which has far lower emissions.

Causes

  • Overuse is the most common cause of repetitive strain from computer screens. It has been shown that people blink less when using a computer, which leads to dry eyes, discomfort and fatigue. Additionally, continually focusing on a visual object a constant distance away, such as a computer screen, can lead to eyesight degradation or impaired eye coordination. Neck and back strain can result from the monitor being at the incorrect viewing angle.

Identification

  • Chronic dry eyes are a sure sign of computer overuse. If you must resort to using eye drops every day, or several times per day, it is extremely likely you need to consider reducing your time spent at a computer. A recurring dull headache should also be considered a warning sign. A possible neck injury can be identified by an inability to hold the head still for extended periods without discomfort.

Prevention

  • Operating a computer in an ergonomically sound manner, with regular breaks, can help you avoid repetitive strain injuries. A computer monitor should be positioned so that the top of the screen is slightly below eye level, around an arm's length away and directly in front of you. If the screen is the proper distance away, it should not be necessary to bend the neck to view the entire area. Avoid using a CRT monitor that cannot handle a refresh rate of at least 85 hertz to prevent headaches, or use an LCD monitor. Work in an area that is neither overly bright nor overly dark, with the light source offset from the eyes at a 45-degree angle to avoid glare. Lastly, take regular breaks. Once every hour, a moment should be taken to stand up, move the muscles and refocus the eyes on different objects.

E-Waste

  • Many computer monitors contain chemicals and materials which are known to be toxic, most notably mercury and lead. If these monitors are disposed of in landfills, these materials eventually leach out, potentially polluting the water supply. A monitor should never be thrown away with household garbage. If you would like to dispose of an old monitor, it should be taken to a qualified electronics recycling facility.

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