Safer Use of Computers
Page last updated May 10, 2013.
There are several kinds of EMFs, and you find all the three at a computer work station. These are magnetic fields, electric fields, and a relatively new form of EMF at computers, wireless frequencies. These are each discussed separately below.
The most harmful type of EMF at computers, although it is fast becoming the least common, is magnetic field exposure from the old cathode ray tube style of monitor, which is really a TV set. We would never sit as close to a television set as we do in front of a computer monitor. The field can extend three to four feet in all directions, even through a wall into another room.
This is rapidly becoming a non-issue with the use of flat screen monitors and laptops, both of which use LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display, technology or even newer LED, or Light Emitting Diodes to light up the screen. Neither LCD nor LED monitors emit magnetic fields beyond a couple of inches from the base.
If you still own a cathode-ray tube monitor, the best solution is to replace it with a flat screen stand-alone monitor or a laptop as soon as possible. They are much more affordable now than initially. If you are still really sensitive to even a flatscreen monitor or laptop, then purchase a remote keyboard and move the flat screen monitor or laptop further away. Find the setting in the Control Panel to change the pixel size on the screen (usually under "Display," and then click on the tab labeled, "Settings"). This way you can increase the size of the icons and font on your screen to see them from farther away. You can also purchase radiation screens and anti-static shields from Less EMF (remember you need to ground the shield).
There are also magnetic fields around every transformer that you have plugged into the power strip. The field extends out about 1-2 feet. The solution is to move the power strip away from your feet by at least three or four feet. A little distance makes a big difference.
There are also small magnetic fields produced from the motor of the hard drive inside the computers, but that is relatively small. Still, you should move a computer tower away from your knees by a few feet rather than having it right against your knee. Ideally move it outside the desk to the side as far away from you as possible. Once you move the computer, purchase extension data cables from Radio Shack, Frye's or Best Buy if your existing data cables do not reach between the computer and your keyboard, monitor and peripheral equipment.
Finally, if you have a laptop computer, there will be a magnetic field around the in-line transformer. Just move it as far away as the cord will allow and you should be fine.
You can reduce electric field levels at your computer workstation by replacing the electric power cords of most desktop computers, monitors and some printers with a shielded AC power cord available at Radio Shack for $10. If the existing power cord pulls out from the back of your computer, monitor or printer, take it to Radio Shack and show it to the clerk. Ask for the AC Shielded Power Cord, Part # 61-206, to replace it. Use that shielded power cord instead of the cord that came with the computer (unless you already have a shielded power cord, indicated by the word "Shielded" mixed in with the lettering imprinted on the cord itself).
Replacing the AC power cord with a shielded cord is not possible with most inline transformers, unless you have one that has a detachable AC power cord that has a plug on the appliance end that matches the shielded AC power cord from Radio Shack.
Laptop computers can also be sources of high electric field exposure while they are plugged in if they are ungrounded. (This is not a problem with desktop computers as they are already grounded through a three-pronged plug, but you must make sure the outlet has a properly working ground--see below.) Many laptops use a two-pronged plug at the wall outlet. When ungrounded, placing your hands on the keyboard can produce significantly high electric field exposure. This is particularly a problem if you spend hours each day on an ungrounded laptop computer, like several clients of mine who complain of marked fatigue and agitation when doing so.
If the 120 Volt line voltage AC power cord is already grounded (three-pronged), then the laptop will be grounded and there will be no problem. When the plug has only two prongs, however, then the laptop will be ungrounded. You also have an ungrounded situation when the computer plug is grounded but the outlet is an older ungrounded two-pronged outlet and you are using a so-called "cheater plug," or, the outlet has a third prong but a circuit tester shows that the ground is non-functional (you can purchase a Circuit Tester from any hardware store for $11).
When the laptop gets grounded, then instead of seeing 5,000 milliVolts (mV) or higher of electric field exposure on the body voltage test when you touch the keyboard, as I have seen with many clients with ungrounded computers, the level drops down to a healthy 100-200 mV. That is the range, or close to it, you want to see. If the electric field level drops but to a higher level, then what remains would be coming from non-metallic, plastic-jacketed "Romex" circuits in the walls, but at least you won't be tired all the time when you use your laptop.
If the laptop's power supply is not already grounded, there are several workarounds:
Reducing Electric Fields at Computers with Grounding and "Earthing" Pads
The discussion above has relavence to a topic that is big in the alternative medical community these days, and that is, grounding or "earthing" pads for your bed and computer work station. If you have high electric fields at your computer, some advocate that you simply put your feet on a grounded earthing pad.
While a body voltage meter will show a reduction in electric field exposure when you do this, the German building biologists found that you are in fact passing microcurrent and microvoltages through your body to the earth. Fortunately, the beneficial ions that are "pushed" up into the body from the wired connection to the earth are strong enough to counteract the deleterious electric field around you, especially when you touch the keyboard of an ungrounded computer, but many in my profession, including me, believe you are still better off grounding an ungrounded computer first and foremost using one of the options given above and then using an earthing pad for all of its benefits, rather than just solving the problem by using an earthing pad alone. You will be better off in my opinion if you do both.
I discuss earthing pads in more detail in my "Position Paper on the Proper Use of Earthing and Grounding Pads to Combat Elevated Electric Fields.
Wired Versus Wireless (Wi-Fi) Routers and Local Area Networks (LANs)
The most significant EMF at computer work stations today is wireless frequencies. Your network to the world wide web can either be hardwired, as it was in the "old days," or wirelessly between your computer and an Internet router. You can also connect to other computers and your printer through wireless, also known as Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi networks are in fact being used for many more purposes today, allowing you to connect your smart cell phone, camera and even appliances and your electric meter with your computers and with each other. The plan is to eventually have a total grid within and between homes securely sharing information. The problem is, research shows this to be detrimental and many have fallen ill as a result of exposure to these technologies.
Our goal is to show you how high speed Internet service can get to multiple computers in your house on the same Internet account without using Wi-Fi. We recommend that you set up a hardwired network or local area network (LAN). It doesn't matter how the data stream gets into the home (DSL from phone lines, or from cable or satellite). There is no problem with that from an EMF standpoint.
First you need to determine how many computers you have in use in the house and where they are located. The choices for a hardwired LAN are to run Ethernet cable from the router to each computer directly, or to have a hardwired network of Internet cable, most likely Category-6, installed in your walls. If your computers are all in the same room, you can simply run Ethernet cables that you purchase at the store from each computer to the router in the room.
If you have computers in different rooms or your router is in a different location than your computers, you would have a home-run wire installed in the wall from the router to a wall jack in each room where you plan to use a computer. Then you can purchase Ethernet cables of whatever length you want and plug into the wall. You can have portability within the room while being tethered to a wall Internet jack.
Once you have determined how you will get the data stream from your router to your computers, you next need to disable the Wi-Fi broadcast feature of the router. This can be done through the Internet browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari on a Mac) on any computer that is connected to the router (from any room) with an Ethernet cable or built-in Cat-6 cable. The router will stay on and function as a hardwired router with the Wi-Fi turned off. I can assist you with this if you are in Southern California, or you can call the Technical Services department of your router manufacturer and they will walk you through it.
Once you have done all this, you will still need to disable the Wi-Fi on your laptop or desktop computer (if it has built-in Wi-Fi), since this feature will continue to put out freqeuncies even if you are connected to your router with a hardwired cable as the computer tries to find a Wi-Fi router in the area.
To disable the Wi-Fi on your laptop, there is often a button that turns this on and off. If not, open the control panel and click on "Network Connections." You will see an icon for the "LAN or High-Speed Internet," which will say "Connected." That means you are connected through the Ethernet cable. Leave that alone. Look for the icon that says "Wireless." You want to right-click that and click to make it "Disabled."
The Choice of Using Wireless Tablets Compared to New, Slim, Lightweight Laptops
Tablets are very popular these days, and more and more people are switching over to using them for everything they did on their computer, including surfing the web and email. There is a problem with them, however, and for that reason, we recommend that clients choose one of the newer laptops on the market, such as the Mac Air.
The reason why we prefer a Mac Air, and any other new, slim, lightweight laptop, to tablets is because you cannot connect to the Internet with a tablet any other way except wirelessly. The only jack on a tablet is used to recharge the battery and to synch up with a computer to exchange and download files, but I was told that these tablets do not allow you to access the Internet through a computer that it is synched up with.
Any laptop, however, including the Mac Air, will have one or more USB ports. With all but the latest slim laptops, you can plug an Ethernet cable directly into the Ethernet jack on the side or back of the laptop. You can then get a long Ethernet cord and connect to the Internet that way, turning off the Wi-Fi feature on the laptop so you don't get exposed to the radio frequencies that still come out of the laptop as it looks for a Wi-Fi enabled router even if an Ethernet cable is plugged in.
Since the Mac Air is so slim, however, it does not have an Ethernet jack, but you can purchase a USB to Ethernet adapter cable from Apple that you can plug into one of its USB ports and then plug an Ethernet cable into the other end of the adapter
Then you can plug the other end of the Ethernet cable into any Ethernet jack on your router or in your wall, if you have an Ethernet network in your house. You should then put your Mac Air into Airplane mode, which shuts off the Wi-Fi radio broadcast feature, since you don't need it until you take the tablet out of the house.
When you leave home, you can then take your Mac Air out of Airplane mode to get onto the Internet using Wi-Fi. However, remember that now you are in the presence of "second-hand smoke," so to speak, so keep your use to a minimum until you can get back to a hardwired connection. Or, take an Ethernet cable with you, keep the Mac Air on Airplane mode and plug into an Ethernet jack at the coffee shop or library, if they have one, or at the hotel. Most hotel rooms still have an Ethernet jack available.
Protection From EMFs Caused By House Wiring
For steps to protect you and your family from the effects of electric and magnetic fields from house wiring, see "Tips for a Healthy Home" on this website by clicking here.
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