Technology vs. Health
As slick devices take over our home and homes away form home, whispers of techno-health hazards keep flying. We get to the bottom of what's real, what's not, and when to opt out.
The situation: Just as we were chatting on our iPhones about our summer plans, the news broke: The World Health Organization had just classified radio frequency waves - the radiation we know most from cell phones - as "possibly carcinogenic." No new studies were hatched, just a review of existing relevant research, which led to a conclusion of "limited evidence" for certain brain tumors from cell phones - meaning there "could be some risk" and we should "keep a close watch." But alas, the ongoing wishy-washiness stems from the existing studies' being too small, too outdated, and too ill-designed to be definitive, explains Michael Wyde, Ph.D., of the National Toxicology Program.
The strategy: Minimize exposure. Read more here.
2. iTunes Alert
Now that smartphones have replaced iPods, they're also wreaking havoc on our ears. Overworked sensory cells die and leave behind scar tissue, resulting in an errant hum and dissipating hearing.
The strategy: Listen no longer than 90 minutes a day at 80 percent of maximum volume, and trade earbuds for noise-canceling headsets to avoid turning up the volume.
3. Wi-Fi Router
The situation: Can the technology that powers our Internet connection - and our lives - be the reason behind our blahs? Indeed, Wi-Fi routers emit radio frequency waves, just as cell phones do. And while we don't press them against our head, their emissions are constant and ubiquitous. Physiologists report that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce a biochemical stress response in cells, and some say this can, in the short term, cause those hodgepodge of symptoms known as EMF sensitivity, and, in the long term, make us vulnerable to inflammatory diseases and cancer.
The strategy: Unplug your home router and avoid public places with Wi-Fi when you're not using it.
4. iPad, E-Reader
The situation: Not that we're complaining, but what happened to those incessant iPad commercials? Holding up the iPad forces wrist- and finger-extension, leading to repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), says Frances Pisano, founder of ergoblog.com. Laying the iPad flat forces you to lower your head, which strains the neck.
The strategy: Prop up the screen with a rack or books. Bend your neck forward no more than 15 degrees, and look down with your eyes, not head.
The situation: If you're seeing crazier driving these days, it may be because drivers' brains are shrinking. As research out of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal suggests, road maps encourage us to pay attention to our surroundings, to learn street configurations, to figure out where we are in relation to our target destination (a.k.a "spatial strategy") and force us to exercise the part of our brain called the hippocampus. But when people navigate by simply doing as instructed ("stimulus-response strategy") - as they might do with a GPS - the hippocampus was less active.
The situation: From Georgia to Kansas, headlines have breathlessly reported on laptops that "bursted into flames!" And sure, it gets hot under there, but tremendously more common are burn injuries and heat rash - or, as the October issue of the journal Pediatrics called it, "toasted skin syndrome," which feels like a sunburn. The strategy: A docking system is best from a dermatologic and ergonomic perspective.
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