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What’s The (Gray) Matter?

Everyday Tech Myths: Signal To Noise
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Question: Can long-term exposure to radiation from computers damage your health?

Answer: I’m going to make you wait for the answer. No spoilers on this segment.

Many of us harbor this background uncertainty about computers and our health. After all, every few years, we get another round of headlines about how cell phones could be causing cancer, so shouldn’t bigger, badder PCs be even more of a risk? We bake in front of them for hours at a time, many of us every day of our lives. I’ve got three LCD screens about two feet from my face, a quad-core PC, speakers (wired and wireless), a wireless-emitting speaker control pod, five external drives, a structured wiring hub with wireless router in the closet behind me, and so on. If there’s a health risk, I of all people probably should learn about it...especially if it’s already melting my auditory cognition center.

Should I be worried? Well, when I searched for “computer radiation effects,” I ended up on blurtit.com, where there’s a question titled “Does Computer Radiation Has Any Ill Effects?” (Once again, you can tell something about the quality of a site’s content by the frequency of typos and errors in its text.) One answer went as follows: “Yes the computer radiation has some ill effects on the health of users. And it can harm his eyes or even his mind it can also cause to some severe pain or even death in a case that computer is being used continuously. Basically there is not radiation in the whole computer itself. The radiation area is basically Monitor of the computer due to the electronic rays it produces.” Oh, God, not the mind—that’s just what I was afraid of! Give me death, but don’t take my mind.

Another answer offered this: “Computer radiation is very harmful to the skin and general health because when we sit directly in front of the computer screen for long periods, we absorb the radiation emitted. Addressing this issue is very important. Computer radiation results in a sick feeling and even burns your skin and since most employees within the computing industry are not aware of this, they continue to suffer with ill health.”

You might remember how I’ve written before about crusading for the triumph of a little frickin’ common sense. With three 17" screens and 10 to 12 hours per day in front of them, if anyone could get “burned” skin from computer use, a pasty troglodyte like me would be it. I think we can safely disregard this fear-mongering drivel.

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