Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Are Your TV and Computer Killing You?

Television sets have become as ubiquitous as rugs in homes across the world. A status symbol at one time, they are seen as furniture to be included for all but those who want to "cut the cord" and go TV-less. Likewise your computer in its many iterations of desktop, laptop, tablet and even cell. All of them sit awaiting your magical fingers to command them to bring forth the wonders you desire and you do desire them to do that throughout the day and into the night.

Kids hide under blankets in order to get more time on their electronic devices whether to text friends, watch videos or play games. Parents search for all the things they think that parents need to know in order to better raise their children or contend with some childhood illnesses. All of it is done with purpose, or maybe not, but that's for you to decide.

When the latest toy comes along out goes the old TV or laptop or cell to the local collection spot where it will be spirited off to a foreign country to foul their waters and kill their fish. But it's all in the name of progress and who can deny the steady, indomitable march of progress?

Through it all, how much thought have any of us given to the unseen "gift" of our electronic miracles? What could that unthinking, dumb (as computer scientists keep telling us) piece of plastic, tin and copper be doing if not just awaiting our commands? Well, maybe it's not doing anything while it waits, but what is it doing while it reacts? The question isn't so very new and it's again getting some traction.

Is there a story here and will it bleed sufficiently to get the media's attention yet again? Depends. How many kids have contracted the same type of cancer in one discrete area of the country? What could be happening? OK, there are other factors like ground water pollution, fracking, hi-tension wires, microwave towers and the list goes on. All of them may contribute in subtle ways to an accumulation just as x-rays plod along in their deadly accumulation in your sex organs. Each x-ray adds to the already growing stockpile and what will that mean? For one sterility and who knows, maybe cancer?

An article in today's Times revives the concerns and lays out the brief history of our view of electromagnetic waves and their danger potential. Thirty years or so of concern isn't such a long time when you consider that we've had TV since the late 40s, x-ray machines, known carcinogens,  have actually been around for 115 years. Yes, a long time, isn't it?

How do our TVs and computers fit into this disturbing mix? Continuing concerns have been expressed by Dr. David O. Carpenter, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of New York at Albany.  Carpenter sees the research evidence regarding concern for electromagnetic fields as growing and it points to what he views as the equivalent of the tip of an iceberg.

We really have no idea just how much damage or danger lies within our living spaces which are constantly being bombarded by these waves. And he's not alone in his concerns. Oh, and while you're at it, look up at the buildings around you and count the small microwave receivers that have sprouted like toadstools on roof tops and balconies.

The World Health Organization has viewed cell phones with a somewhat jaundiced eye. If you discount the actual waves themselves and review the literature, there would seem to be no problem here. But the WHO pamphlet goes on to explain that brain tumors and cancers may take years to develop and so, while not present at the time of the study, that does not discount the waves as a possible source for the disease. Tissue heating seems to be one concern. How much heat can your brain take from cell phone electromagnetic waves and not experience an adverse event (fancy word for side effects)? A new report on this issue will be forthcoming from WHO in 2015. Wonder what it will say.

The lens of the eye, too, can be damaged by electromagnetic radiation. It's not just dry eye that you should be concerned about here. Drops alone may have little effect on what's happening inside your eye's lens. Oh, yes, we do have cataract replacement surgery, don't we? How have the rates of this surgery been affected by the use of computer terminals over the past 30 years? Has anyone done a study to see if younger individuals are having cataract surgery now and it's no longer just a problem of an aging lens?

Do we need to wear some type of shielding or do the devices that we use need a bit of bioengineering to make them safer? I think I'll leave that to the scientists but it does some a worthwhile area to explore.