Radiation is all around us. The sun produces it as do our electronics; but how much radiation can a person of a given age be exposed to until said exposure results in adverse health effects (whether immediate or long-term and experienced some time down the road).
This is a blog post by an IT Worker and Tech Consumer intended to provide general thoughts about possible ways to theoretically improve one’s life, and is not intended to be used as medical advice or nutritional guidelines in any way, shape, or form. Please consult a physician, nutritionist or official government authority such as Health Canada‘s Healthy Food Guide, CMA, AMA or the CDC, along with numerous other sources to get a wider perspective, before making any life-altering decisions.
There are two types of radiation to worry about, namely: ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.
Non-ionizing radiation is a product of natural sources such as cosmic and atmospheric radiation , the largest of which is the sun which cause minimal damage as long as they are taken in limited daily doses (you are likely to burn your skin from ultraviolet light rays so bad that you’ll have to get out of the sun, before you harm yourself from the sun’s natural non-ionizing radiation). Airline pilots, stewardesses and other workers as well as military personnel and other frequent flyers tend to be exposed to elevated levels of cosmic radiation, which after enough accumulation (typically in terms of years), could cause some long-term health problems.
On the other hand, Ionizing radiation rays are the product of unnatural sources such as X-Rays, MRIs, Body Scanners at airports and assorted electronics, cause the most harm to the human body and have effects that reach to the genetic and molecular level.
Almost every electronic product we use today emits some kind of Electro-Magnetic Frequency (EMF), Heat or Electricity output. From cellphones to computers and from Refrigerators to Microwave Ovens. While the average Consumer’s electronics give off very low levels of Ionizing radiation, some are obviously much worse culprits than others. For mobile phones (cellphones) in particular, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a measure called the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) which measures values for cell phones (and other wireless devices). SAR is a measure of the rate of RF (RadioFrequency) energy absorption by the body from the source being measured. The following is a table of some of the top selling cellphone brands with both sales figures and SAR exposure rates shown:
|Apple iPhone||0.974||7 million|
|Apple iPhone 3G||1.39||35 million|
|Apple iPhone 3GS||1.19||43 million|
|Apple iPhone 4||1.17||28 million|
|Apple iPhone 4S||1.18||30 million|
|Apple iPhone 5||1.25||45 million|
|Nokia 1100||0.77||250 million|
|Nokia 1200||1.19||150 million|
|Nokia 1600||0.82||130 million|
|Nokia 3210||1.14||160 million|
|Nokia 3310||1.40||136 million|
|Nokia 2600||1.00||135 million|
|Nokia 6010||1.08||75 million|
|BlackBerry Curve||1.51||25 million|
|BlackBerry Pearl||1.38||15 million|
|BlackBerry Storm||0.93||2.5 million|
|BlackBerry Torch||1.44||3.5 million|
|BlackBerry Z10||1.26||1 million|
|Samsung GT-S5233S Star||0.88||30 million|
|Samsung Galaxy S||0.96||20 million|
|Samsung Galaxy SII||0.96||40 million|
|Samsung Galaxy SIII||1.58||30 million|
|Samsung Galaxy S4||1.43||60 million|
|LG L45c Optimus||0.91||10 million|
|LG VX8500 Chocolate||1.13||15 million|
|LG VX8575 Chocolate Touch||1.47||5 million|
|LG Chocolate 3||1.26||2.5 million|
|Sony Ericsson j300||1.12||15 million|
|Sony Ericsson K310i||1.52||15 million|
|Sony Xperia J||1.17||50 million|
|Motorola KRZR K1||0.90||15 million|
|Motorola C200||1.17||60 million|
|Motorola Droid Bionic||1.01||13 million|
|HTC Touch||1.25||2 million|
|HTC Magic||1.13||1 million|
|HTC Evo||0.89||2 million|
|HTC Thunderbolt||1.2||16 million|
Radiation Data courtesy of SAR Shield‘s Radiation Chart and Sales Figures couresy of Wikipedia.
One trend that presents itself as you look through the sales data and compare it to the radiation ratings is that the first generation of a device brand (regardless of line) tends to have higher radiation ratings than predecessors, and as they try to cram more and more features and computing power into subsequent releases of a given line, the SAR continues to spike sharply upwards, then finally as the brand matures they figure out how to better manage the power and radiation emissions and the SAR drops or maintains its level thereafter. So the takeaway is to buy mature product lines first, or, new product lines which received a very good SAR rating that was lower than older handsets (rare but happens). It may be better stay away from early adoption and first sequel releases until the line has been proven on the market for at least 2-3 years (about the typical cellphone contract duration). These days, practical every phone has the same functions anyway, so ask yourself, do you really need a phone with almost as much RAM/ROM as your laptop or desktop computer? Do you need a nuclear reactor (heatwise) in your pocket at all times of the day, just to send a text message, make a call, watch the odd video or comment on your friends’ status updates? Probably not, so go for the safer (and often times cheaper) established models not the latest and greatest.
Using a hands-free headset may help keep the high-powered wireless transceiver and heat-giving battery cells further away from your face, however if you’re switching to bluetooth or other radio transmitter you may just be trading one atmospheric pollution for another. Traditional radio frequencies are better than Bluetooth, which is better than a Wireless hotspot, which is better than using the phone directly next to your head. Any speaker phone or voice command functions built into the phone itself could also go a long way if you can handle the frustration of trying to get it (or the person on the other side) to recognize what you are saying as you repeat yourself over and over (again, perhaps trading one form of bodily stress for mental stress and extra work which surely doesn’t help that much). Either way, carrying (when not in use) and holding (when in use) the phone away from your head and body whenever possible (especially when a call is connecting or large amount of data is being pulled down from the mobile network), and reducing durations of use, especially by children, will be a helpful course of action on the short-term. When it comes to larger devices like tablets, e-readers or laptops, never use those items directly on your bare skin, or on your legs/crotch region (even through clothes the heat they generate can be enough to cause damage to sperm count and/or potential have carcinogenic side-effects in both males and females).
Other Radiation-Emitting Products/Services
Some other common radiation emitting products and services of concern (according to the FDA) include:
- Cabinet X-Ray Systems (Closed X-Ray Systems)
- Information on Cell Phones
- Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
- What is Computed Tomography?
- Dental Cone-beam Computed Tomography
- Laser Light Shows
- Laser Products and Instruments
- Medical Lasers
- Ultraviolet Phototherapy Equipment
- Medical X-ray Imaging
- Mercury Vapor Lamps (Mercury Vapor Light Bulbs)
- Microwave Ovens
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
- Radiofrequency & Microwaves other than Ovens
- Security Systems
- Sunlamps & Sunlamp Products (Tanning Beds/Booths)
- Televisions and Video Display Monitors
- Ultrasound Imaging & Ultrasound Products
- Ultrasonic Therapy/Diathermy
- X-Ray & Particulate Products
Keep in mind that there are also several natural sources of radiation which we are constantly coming into contact with, including:
- Cosmic Rays
- Earth’s Organic Radioactive Elements
- Solar Ultra-Violet Rays (UV-A & UV-B)
- Dissolved Radioactive Materials in Drinking/Bathing/Swimming Water
- Air-Born Natural Radioactive Particles & Gases
Radiation Exposure Limits
Surprisingly, it took a while to find the actual Radiation Exposure Limits for any given country, but according to the Government of Canada – Nuclear Safety Department at least in Canada:
“the effective dose limits for the public is 1 mSv in one calendar year“
Furthermore, the United States Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it takes approximately 400 REM of radiation to present a risk of death due to single-dose exposure and a 5-10 REM exposure to obtain a measurable detrimental effect to the health (blood chemistry changes). Since the Canadian annual limit of 1 mSv is approximately 0.1 REM that means you would have to get 500 times the annual dosage at once to have an immediate or unavoidable side-effect from one-time exposure.
Where things get tricky is in the “cumulative exposure” that happens by getting very small amounts, over-and-over again, typically due to occupational, environmental or nutritional factors. This is precisely why Radiation Therapists, Nurses and Oncologists, along with certain Airport/Airline personnel, Nuclear Energy workers and Nuclear Engineers are all considered high-risk groups and need to constantly carry around little “radiation dosimeters” to monitor their hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and/or yearly exposure levels (depending on situation).
Us IT Workers tend to spend a lamentable time in front of the computer or attached to our mobile devices from cellphones to tablets, laptops and everything in between. As a result, we tend to be exposed to elevated levels of ionizing radiation and need to be particularly careful about our surroundings and in order to limit exposure and risks. Steps you can take:
- Distance – Always keep at least 80 cm (31.5 inches or 2’7″) away from your screen for the sake of your eyes, and especially keep this distance away from the vent of your computer or laptop, and keep the area around the vent clear of obstructions such as loose papers and other objects. Computers can quickly overheat when the vent becomes blocked or dusty, so be sure to frequently clean your workstation, desk or other areas you tend to use the computer most.
- Temperature - Work in an environment where you have clean air, great circulation and suitable temperature.
- Air Quality – Reducing airborn particulates by filtering your air is a great way to reduce the amount of toxins your body has to process.
- Plants – Again on the air quality topic, keeping plants nearby can help filter the air in your immediate workspace; but not just that, certain household plants such as Cactus and can actually absorb radiation while they improve air quality in your home.
- Nutrition – Your body has the capacity to fight off or recover from the negative side-effects of radiation exposure. A diet rich in Vitamins A, B, C and D as well as essential minerals and nutrients such as Iron, Potassium and Calcium, will help you ensure good health and the ability to minimize harmful side-effects. The following are good foods for those with higher exposures:
- dates (high in Iron and Vitamin B3)
- bananas (high in Potassium)
- carrots (high in Vitamin A)
- spinach (high in Vitamin A)
- mangos (high in Vitamins A & C)
- wheat and whole grains (high in Vitamins B1 & B6)
- pasta (high in Vitamin B2)
- seeds/nuts (high in Vitamins B3 & B6)
- asparagus (high in Vitamin B3)
- sweet potatoes (high in Vitamins A & B3)
- broccoli (high in Vitamins B3 & B5)
- avocado (high in Vitamin B3 & B5)
- leafy green vegetables (high in Vitamins A, B7, B9 & D)
- lean animal meats including Oyster (high in Vitamin B12)
- oranges (high in Vitamin C)
- apples (high in Vitamin C)
- blueberries (high in Vitamins A & C and antioxidants)
- cherries (high in Vitamin C and antioxidants)
- eggs (high in Vitamins B7, B9, B12 & D)
- mushrooms (high in Vitamin D)
- sunlight and fresh air (great source of Vitamin D, but see note on limiting exposure)
- Upgrade – Not to add to the massive amount of e-waste produced every year, but upgrading your computer to a newer model can significantly reduce your radiation exposure. Even a 5-year old laptop can produce up to 80% more radiation than today’s models, so check your ; and consider e-waste recycling your old computer and electronics if you have a program in your area.
- Disconnect – Researching, designing, testing, developing, hacking, testing some more, reporting to team, virual meetings, webinars, demonstrations, constantly communicating online; these are the minimum things that an IT Worker is expected to do in order to reach that often sought after “superstar” status, but these days its also increasingly common that it be required just to be given a “good employee” status on a performance review. For this reason, its incredibly important to remember to give yourself a break periodically and completely disconnect (for stress reasons as well). No checking one more email, no more tweaking, no more industry news articles or journals, just unplug and relax and do something (a hobby maybe, or activity with your friends/family) unrelated to IT.
There is no cure for radiation poisoning so it is up to you to limit your exposure to it. This can be achieved by increasing the time gap between exposures. If you have a lot of radiation producing devices in your home this may be hard to do. There should be at least one room that is safe for you and your family at all times, this which will help you stay in top health to reduce the effects of radiation.
On a related note, it may shock the average reader to learn that the east coast of North America will end up suffering just as much if not more than Japan as a result of the nuclear fallout and continued leaks of radiated cooling water and particles released into the air at Fukushima, following the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown on March 11th, 2011. So even on prevalence of technology in our lives alone (Fukushima notwithstanding) it’s wise to start taking steps to prepare yourself and your family for what seems to be an imminently more radioactive future.
In an increasingly connected world where we seem to absolutely need technology in our lives to subsist and continue to move forward and improve our disposition, it’s important to remember what really matters most and that’s your health and wellness. Don’t give in to complacency but at the same time don’t let paranoia or irrational fear cloud your judgement when it comes to issues of managing your health or that of your immediate family. Get informed and take reasonable measures to limit exposure.
- Government of Canada – Nuclear Safety Department – Exposure Guidelines
- Government of Canada - Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission – Types and Sources of Radiation
- United States of America government – Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – List of Radiation-Emitting products
- United States Government – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Health Effects of High-Dose Radiation Exposure
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Radiation and Cancer, But Were Afraid to Ask
- Wired Child – Protecting Our Children from Wireless Technology – Which Products are More Dangerous?
- Visual Radiation Guide (INFOGRAPHIC) by xkcd
- Holy Fukushima – Radiation From Japan Is Already Killing North Americans
- Fukushima’s Radiation: BC Health Risk, or Fish Tale?
- MIT modeling the spread of radioactivity in seawater
- California Slammed With Fukushima Radiation
- Fukushima radiation kills bees – and Trees across North America
- Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) For Cell Phones: What It Means For You
- WHO/IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans
- Mobile phone radiation and health
- Radiation Extremes: 5 Highest and Lowest Rated Smartphones
- Five Ways to Minimize Cell Phone Radiation
- Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use
- On Call: Are you carrying your phone wrong?
- Cell phone radiation levels – 20 lowest-radiation cell phones (United States)
- Cell phone radiation levels – 20 highest-radiation cell phones (United States)
- Top Safe Cell phones that are not actually safe
- The trouble with the cell phone radiation standard
- Cellphone radiation self-defense guide
- Radiation Exposure Chart shows Dangers of Radiation Therapy
- Radiation effects from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money
The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:
1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.
2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.
3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.