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Computer Radiation Protection

December 30, 2013

ComputersComputer Radiation Now at Danger Level
By EM Watch

Computer Radiation Health Effects

For many years it has been known that ELF radiation can cause, or contribute to, various health problems – ranging from sleep interference and allergic reactions, through to heart disease, cancer and alzheimer’s disease. To learn more about how computer radiation causes these health problems, see our EMF Health Effects page.

Most people would not want to sit at a desk under high voltage power lines. But they will happily sit a foot away from a computer screen, with a computer and printer on the desk next to them, and perhaps a power supply (UPS) near their feet.

They will work like this for several hours every day, for many years, absorbing as much (or more) ELF radiation than if their desk was close to a high-voltage power line! See our table of Power Line EMF Levels for comparison.

Computers contain power supplies, fans, drives and other electrical units which generate ELF radiation strong enough to cause concern at distances up to about 60 cm (about 2 feet). For example, the desktop PCs in our office each produce computer radiation of about 1 milligauss (borderline safe) at 60 cm, stronger towards the rear of the unit.

The magnetic portion of this electromagnetic radiation is the most dangerous part. It can penetrate just about anything (including, of course, you). It does not help to place a shield or screen between you and the computer. (See our page What is Electromagnetic Radiation.)

But this ELF radiation naturally falls away very quickly with increasing distance, because the radiation is from a low power source.

The simple solution is to position your computer as far away from you as cables allow (at least 60 cm, preferably more). If possible, keep it on the floor, not on your desk.

You want to minimise the computer radiation to all parts of your body, but especially your head and your trunk.

Computer monitor radiation

The item most likely to cause a health hazard in some offices is the computer monitor, or screen. The old box-shaped cathode-ray tube (CRT) computer monitors generally have quite high levels of radiation at around 30 cm.

The CRT computer monitor in our office produced 3 milligauss of radiation at 30 cm, measured from the front and 4 milligauss at the same distance from the sides. This is a fairly recent model. Computer monitor radiation from older equipment can be even higher.

A constant 3 mG of computer monitor radiation is a health hazard in itself, but remember that this same user is probably also absorbing low-frequency radiation from computers, printers, power supplies (ups), florescent lights and mobile phones as well as microwave energy from wireless modems, routers, networks and printers.

No wonder computer users get sick so often!

Fortunately, technology has come to our aid with the LCD monitor (the flat one), which emits minimal radiation. For example, the LCD screens in our office create an EMF of 0.3 milligauss at 30 cm, from the front or back – and practically nothing at the sides. This is a much safer level.

More recent still are LED monitors. I have one fitted to my laptop. EMF levels on this monitor are very similar to the LCD monitors, so nothing to worry about there.

Laptop radiation

Laptop or notebook computer radiation is generally lower than from desktop PCs, partly because the components are smaller, the laptop is battery-operated and the laptop screen is invariably an LCD or LED.

But the problem with laptop radiation is that you may be very close to it indeed, especially if you operate the laptop on your lap!

In fact, as you will see from our Table of EMF Values, laptop radiation may be as little as 1 milligauss at 30cm, but as much as 20 milligauss at point-blank range.

So keep your distance when operating your laptop computer. It should be positioned on a table or desk. Make sure that you are at least 30 cm away from it (except for your hands on the keyboard) to minimise computer radiation. A separate keyboard and mouse (not wireless!) would also be a good idea.

Laptop computers produce RF EMF when they are being used wirelessly, either with wi-fi or 3G connectivity. I use the wireless capabilities of my laptop for short periods when I am on holiday, but for normal usage in my office, I use a cable connection, and keep my laptop’s wireless ability switched off.

EMF from netbook computers (the little jobs) is similar to that from notebooks.

The Kindle book reading device produces no EMF in normal use. (The page display uses no power.) Only the tiniest flicker on my Trifield needle was observed when the page-turn button was pressed. But when using wi-fi or 3G communications a substantial RF EMF is produced, similar to a cellphone or laptop computer.

Radiation from computer power supply (UPS)

Many people have a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to provide backup power for their computers. These little guys pack a powerful radiation punch.

My UPS produces radiation of 20 milligauss at 30 cm, and over 1 milligauss at 1 metre, even when apparently switched off (but still connected to mains electricity, and charging its battery).

If you need a UPS, position it as far away from yourself and others as cables allow – I suggest at least 1.5 metres.
Radiation from larger computer/office equiment.

For larger (generally floor-standing) computer equipment such as printers, photocopiers, mini-computers and all racked equipment, assume that a substantial amount of computer radiation will be produced, unless you know differently.

Position these items at a safe distance (at least 1.5 metres) from where people work. (The occasional visit to the photocopier or printer need not be a cause for concern, because the duration is short).

For mainframe computer operators, engineers and other personnel, it is essential to measure both types of radiation with suitable meters, and minimise your contact with high-EMF areas.

Radiation from printers and other computer devices

Small (desktop) computer printers generally produce less than 0.5 milligauss at 60cm in standby mode and up to twice that amount when printing. As this is probably not be the only source of computer radiation at your desk, do not keep your printer too close to you.

Some corded desktop devices are practically harmless, including keyboards, mouses(!) [and] small speakers. The same applies to telephones (landlines only). You can have these as close as you like.

Large sub-woofers that are becoming popular as part of a home computer’s sound system can emit more than just (astonishing levels of) bass – ours produces 20 milligauss of ELF radiation at 0 cms, 3 mG at 60 cm (1′) and .5 mG at 60 cm (2′) whenever the speaker is powered (even when it is producing no sound).

So don’t use your sub-woofer as a footrest! It needs to be at least 90 cm (3′) away from you. (Closer than that it would deafen you anyway!)

Wi-fi Radiation from wireless networks, routers, printers and modems

Wi-fi information networks, wireless routers, modems and other wireless devices are becoming very pervasive. All of them emit electromagnetic radiation, mainly microwave or radio (also known as RF) radiation, as they keep in touch with each other.

These wireless devices are not safe. In fact there is strong evidence that the information content (pulsed digital signal added on to the microwave carrier) may interfere with biological processes.

Wi-fi networks are now installed in many public and private places. You may be exposed to them without knowing it.

Most concerning is the practice in some schools of installing wi-fi networks in the computer centre and classrooms. Children are particularly vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation. (See our page Who is at risk? Schools and libraries should always install wired networks.)

For your home and office too, rather use wired products. You may still be exposed to someone else’s wi-fi, but at least it will be further away. If you still have reason to be concerned, obtain a suitable radio-frequency EMF meter to run a check.
Achieving acceptable computer radiation levels

In most cases, applying these recommendations will cause computer radiation to be reduced to acceptable levels.

For example, in the small office where I work (about eight hours a day with two other people) there are three desktop computers and one laptop. We have arranged the office to minimise computer radiation for all of us:

  • Computer (tower) cases are all on the floor next to the user’s desk, as far away from the user as possible.
  • The UPS is far away from everyone – at max cable stretch.
  • Screens are all LCD.
  • There is no cordless equipment (keyboard, mouse, telephone etc.) in our office.
  • On a table next to my desk are two desktop printers and a laptop computer. The nearest printer is about 75 cm (30″) away from me. At this distance my EMF meter can barely detect it’s presence.
  • The computers and printers are all networked together into our (wired) office network .
  • Our internet connection is by DSL with a wired modem connected to a wired telephone line.

I don’t think there is much more we can do to reduce computer radiation, unless we change our line of work! So what’s the result?

Zero Radiation? Not quite

At my desk, my feet are exposed to electromagnetic radiation of about 0.5 milligauss and my head to about 0.2 milligauss, with an average whole body EMF of about 0.3 mG. The two other people who share this office have similar levels.

Microwave radiation levels in the office are fairly low (about 0.15 microwatts/m2). The microwave radiation is probably due entirely to the cell phone tower, which I estimate is just over 400 metres away.

I’d prefer zero radiation, but in the real world one has to accept a small amount!

Now arrange your own workplace

You can probably achieve similar or better levels in your home or office.

To optimise your exposure and check your results, you would need an EMF meter. A good one for low-frequency work (including computer radiation) is the TriField Electromagnetic Field meter and for microwave radiation you can look at the Electrosmog meter. They are both reviewed on our EMF Meters page.

But if you cannot lay your hands on a meter, great benefit can still be achieved just by stretching the distance between you and each item of equipment. You won’t know exactly how much you have reduced your exposure to radiation, but your health will still benefit!

And forget that myth about putting a cactus on your desk to absorb all the radiation in the room! It would be an easy solution, but it doesn’t work. Plants have no effect on EMF, I’m afraid.


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