How to Avoid the Health Risks of Computers

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

How I avoid the risks of computer use
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » How to Avoid the Health Risks of Computers

I use a computer quite a bit… it comes with the blogging territory. I even use computers late at night when I’m supposed to be avoiding blue light and relaxing.

Certainly, modern computers have brought immeasurable benefits, but they also come with their problems (aside from the very real risk of getting sucked into a Facebook and Pinterest black hole!)

The Health Risks of Computer Use

My main concerns with prolonged computer use are:

  • Electromagnetic radiation exposure
  • heat (from laptop)
  • blue light exposure (especially at night)
  • Sitting and posture concerns

I’m a big believer that we shouldn’t shun technology, but we should use it responsibly. It isn’t likely that technology is going away anytime soon so I wanted to find ways to mitigate the problems and reduce the risks of computer use. I’ve found ways to address each of the above risks and I now feel safer about using a computer.

Electromagnetic Radiation Exposure

I used to think that the dangers of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) were overblown until I really started researching it. We are only beginning to uncover the many problems with EMR and what we know so far can be pretty scary. The good news is that there are ways to protect against the harmful affects by limiting the time we spend on these devices, not using them close to our bodies and shielding our bodies from them when possible.

There are several types of radiation emitted from many computers, especially laptops, and they come with different risks.

Types of radiation

One device I use to mitigate these types of radiation with my laptop is called a Defender pad which helps on several of these fronts.

Re-cap of Physics

Because of the nature of energy, radiation is exponentially stronger the closer you are to it. Its strength actually decreases radially as you move away from it. In physics, it follows the inverse-square law. The intensity is proportional to 1/distance squared.

This means, if you are 2 inches away from the source, you experience ¼ the amount of radiation exposure as you would if you were just 1 inch away from it. If you are 4 inches away from it, you now experience 1/8 the amount of radiation you would have if you were just 1 inch away. This is why a lot of cell phone manufacturers recommend you keep your cell phone at least several inches away from your body at all times.

The defender pad puts some distance between my lap and the computer and is shown to block all of the frequencies an heat from the computer:

Defender pad laptop radiation protection

I got my DefenderPad here and use it anytime I’m using my laptop, even if I use it at my desk.

I also use an earthing mat under my arms if I’m sitting at my desk and using a computer as there is some evidence that the grounding effect of an earthing mat can help:

There have been some preliminary studies on the effects of grounding on cortisol levels and inflammation (PDF) and I’m confident that research will continue in this area. What fascinates me most is the testing done in thermographic imaging, which basically shows a heat map of the body. Heat patterns can signal inflammation in the body.

earthing How to Get Healthy While You Sleep

The above thermographic image was taken of a woman who complained of stiffness and chronic pain. The first picture was taken before earthing, and the second, after just 30 minutes of earthing.

I use the Defender pad and an earthing mat for double protection.

Blue Light Exposure

I wrote before about why I avoid blue light at night and how I use special orange sunglasses to accomplish this. From that post:

There is a lot of research showing that blue light after sunset can disrupt circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin production but recent studies are showing that this has even more serious consequences.

Think about it, until the invention of electric light bulbs, people relied on the sun for the majority of their light and used only natural sources like candles, campfires and lanterns after dark (all orange lights). With the dawn of modern electricity, we suddenly had the ability to stay up with lights on for many hours after sunset.

With computers, TVs, tablets and phones, this use has extended even more and these new technologies are especially high in blue light.

Electricity brought many benefits, but it also gave us the ability to mess with our circadian rhythm and our sleep cycles.

Researchers have known for years that shift workers and those who are regularly up late at night are at a higher risk for various cancers but more recent research shows that even recreational exposure to blue light for a few hours at night can have a negative effect.

Some researchers even promote the theory that the disruption of natural circadian rhythm from (blue) light after dark is a big contributing factor to the rise in obesity and chronic disease. (1) There is even evidence linking this disruption of the sleep cycle to higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. (2)

From Harvard Medical School:

Study after study has linked working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be so bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there’s some experimental evidence (it’s very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.

(3)

Shift workers and those up after 11 PM seem to be especially at risk for the negative effects of blue light, but the research is showing that any of us who are up after dark looking at sources of blue light (TV, computer, etc) are at risk. Since my work day begins when my kids go to bed at 8, avoiding these things was not an option so I looked for another solution.

Since my workday often begins when my children go to bed after dark, I’ve been using orange glasses like these and a free computer program called f.lux to minimize blue light exposure and protect my melatonin levels.

Sitting and Posture

I’ve written before about the dangers of sitting and how it is much worse than we realize, and many people sit while using a computer:

Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. – Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic

Dr. Levine further explains that sitting not only increases the risk obesity, but also the risk of cancers (like lung, endometrial, breast and prostate), heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and more.

His research and an analysis of many recent studies show that each hour we spend sitting takes about 21 minutes off of our lives (smoking only shaves 11 minutes off of your life. The jury is still out on how many minutes each donut takes away).

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • We burn 50 less calories per hour when sitting (compared to standing)
  • Sitting can cause the muscles to atrophy or tighten in certain places and lead to things like back pain
  • Research is also showing that sitting for long periods causes the muscles to release less of the enzyme Lipase which controls proper breakdown of fats
  • Sitting for long periods can reduce insulin sensitivity and increase risk of insulin resistance
  • Sitting too much for an extended time can reduce bone density

A simple (and free) solution is to just stand when using a computer. I’ve stood at a counter before or placed some boxes on my desk to keep my computer at the right height. I eventually just invested in a stand-up desk to simplify things, but just find a way to stand as much as you’re able.

I personally have this standing desk which I found for under $200 and it has lasted me several years and is still in great shape. I keep it in the corner of a room and it actually takes up less space than a conventional desk. Another unexpected benefit: my little kids can’t reach the top of my standing desk, so it is one of the few safe places in the house I can keep my camera or other delicate equipment.

I’m sure we will continue to find out more about all of these risks of computer use, especially of electromagnetic radiation, but these are the steps I personally take to minimize risk.

How often are you on a computer? What do you do to do you protect yourself?

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

56 responses to “How to Avoid the Health Risks of Computers”

  1. Zahra Avatar

    Hi,
    Great advice, and thank you for the links. Just a note on standing, it can cause varicose veins, especially if you are a person who is likely to get them
    (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/varicose-veins/causes/).
    My mum has this issue, and does not want to sit for long periods (as you explained…) so her solution is walking on the spot as she works! I haven’t tried it yet but am planning to, thought maybe you can give it a try 🙂

  2. Madelyn Avatar

    Hi there. I am new into researching EMF’s and what I am learning is terrifying me! I am trying not to overwhelm myself and go crazy, especially as I am pregnant with baby #2. I work in an office surrounded by technology. Do you think this is worthwhile to switch out my ergonomic bluetooth keyboard and mouse? Anything else I can do while at work? I am also in the midst of purchasing a Himalayan salt lamp to leave on my desk.

    I ordered the same salt lamp you own, the Levoit lamp with the wood base, however it has a dimmable switch which I have been trying to avoid. Apparently dimming switches produce a lot of dirty electricity and on/off switches are better, but since there have been so many salt lamps that have been recalled and/or had cord melting or explosions, I am most satisfied with Levoit’s track record for safety. However, I have read in multiple sources that the dimmable switches can actually cancel out the benefits you get from the salt lamp. What are your thoughts?

    My husband works from home on a laptop. He does not keep it on his lap, he uses a standing desk or the kitchen island, and tries to avoid using it plugged in, but do you think a defender shield mat is still effective even if the laptop is not on his lap?

    Do you find any value in those maternity products that supposedly block emf’s? Like the belly armor band that you wear underneath clothes, but terrible reviews (uncomfortable, hot, bunches up, sizing issues, questionable whether it even works) and the belly protection blanket, but I stand at work a lot so blanket does not seem like a great option and it only covers belly, not back, sides, etc. so I don’t know how helpful it is anyway. Am I being too paranoid?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      A Defender Pad is definitely still helpful even if the computer resides on a desk or counter. And yes, I used the maternity products that block EMFs and was really grateful for them!

      1. Brier Avatar

        I have terrible net and can’t read threw the comments and barely the article, so sorry if this question has already been asked. BUT ANYWAYS. Moved in to help take care of my grandparents, well mainly to help my granfma get on the mend after a surgery and they have all of this, and it really bothers me and notice when qere all outside, we don’t feel as ad, which of course makes sense, but im trying to slowly adjust and rearrange and make a positive to the negative of all of this, since its not my stuff and yes my home but its my grandparents home 1st and foremost, and they’re not fully into the idea and belief completely yet. And they are having dish satellite come n and put n a hopper dish box or 2, and i am not letting the one be put back n my room or my kids room. So one will go downstairs n living room and they get 2 free bc theyre long time customers, and planned to put n my room. But I’d prefer not to. But it is nice when grandma wants to watch her shows and then the kids will watch a movie or something. But my tiance wants in our bedroom, kids want n 5heir bedroom and none of this is happening, so the only other option would be to possibly put it in the sitting room, which is downstairs and a room- caddy corner to the living beside grandpsrents room, and then dinning room snd kitchen. S yadvice or ideas, thank you kindy in advance

  3. Ethan Avatar

    Hi. I am very concerned about being exposed to radiation from my laptop.
    I just received a DefenderPad from DefenderShield and unfortunately it DOES NOT reduce the intensity of EMFs coming from my laptop. How do I know, you ask. I have a Trifield 100 XE Meter which allows me to measure EMF radiation. Is my pad a lemon or are all of their pads defective? I am very disappointed and will ask for a full refund.

  4. Jeff Avatar

    Hi. Thanks for your article. I am searching for a new laptop (Mac Air?), low EMF emitting. Do you or anyone have info? Peace

  5. Nicole Avatar
    Nicole

    Does anyone know about the little stick-on radiation protection devices made by Aires Tech? It sounds too good to be true, and I don’t know if they really work. They are made for cell phones, microwaves, cars, tablets, smart meters, and more.

  6. Launa Avatar

    Hey! Do you know of any problems with EMF and food? Our alarm panel is close to our food in the pantry and it makes me nervous… any ideas? Any help would be great!
    Thanks!

    Launa

  7. Kristen Crane Avatar
    Kristen Crane

    Love this post! I use f.lux for my laptop to reduce the blue light at a certain time. It works in the background of your computer and you can disable it for up to an hour if need be. I have mine set to start getting dimmer around 8pm.

  8. Dasha Avatar

    Defenderpad doesn’t work. I rented a professional EMF meter and Defenderpad is absolutely worthless. The most of radiation was coming from our smartmeter, wifi and microwave. I was surprised that EMF blocking fabric (Maternity nursing cover) did work. It produced the best result when folded.

    1. Susan clinton Avatar
      Susan clinton

      I use universal guards on my wifi’ router, microwave ,cordless phone and base, tv, printer, blue ray player wii laptop computer, desktop with base, toaster, vitamin. Use Harmonizers to lower the dirty electricity wear pendant to deal with ambient emf from outside sources plus cell guard for phone. I structure my filtered water to single file aligned structure using MRET technology. The gauss meter readings are still elevated but the noise field frequency is interpreted by the cells as being bio friendly. This is validated by live microscopy of blood samples and biofield testing devices as well as clinically reduced symptoms. Smart meter s can have a cage with screen duct tape and woven copper wire. I can send the you tube link. I would also put two universal guards on the smart meter.in addition to the cage. Smart meters are almost as bad a a cell tower. A cordless phone worse than a cellphone.

  9. Samantha Haddad Avatar
    Samantha Haddad

    Hi Katie,

    Hope you are well. Do you have any advice on how I can protect my kids from radiation? We live near cell phone towers… Here in South Africa it is more about the money than people’s health! We also do not have the variety of products available in the USA.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Kind regards,

    Samantha

    1. Susan Clinton Avatar
      Susan Clinton

      Only recently this issue has had some public concern because electro pollution causes oxidative stress and chronic inflammation which can cause long term health problems and compound existing ones. I took action to protect my family 4 months ago when i began using some emf/emr protective products (cell guards, universal guards, pendants, harmonizers, MRET water). I had significant reduction of somatic complaints (headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, brain fog) in myself as well as my children. The technology transmutes the harmful emf to bio-friendly wave forms that don’t stress the cells. You are right to be concerned about wifi and cell tower radiation-the cell phone is the cigarette of the 50s where more than half of the physicians smoked and did not realize they were cutting years off their lives.

  10. Mark Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I love your site and wanted to weigh in on this discussion of EMR and EMF protection. I just finished my graduate degree in BioMedical Engineering and have been studying EMF and its effects on the body for almost 10 years. There is more and more medical research being published that suggests we need to take precautions!

    When thinking about EMF protection, one should consider the lead vests used by X-ray technicians. Obviously this EMR / EMF is very different from X-ray radiation, but the same physics applies when trying to block it. A physical shield is required between your body and radiation source ( laptop / cell phone / tablet / etc). You don’t need a lead vest, but you do want a shield that is approximately the same size as the electronic device.

    There is another way to achieve EMF protection and a WIFI-free home, WITHOUT having an electrician rewire the house to add ethernet cables. Look up “powerline adapters”. They let you use internet through your home’s existing electrical wires.

    I would love to help more if I can, regarding the latest science on how to protect yourself, test your devices, etc.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    1. Mark Avatar

      Hi Katie,

      Again, I love what you’re doing on this blog! 🙂

      I’m a little surprised that my 2 comments were combined, and my website link was removed. I know that you don’t have enough time to focus on EMF protection, so I am offering free help and consultation to your followers. I hope that they buy a product from me at some point in the future, but even if they don’t I am just glad to help them live healthier lives. However I cannot do that unless they’re able to get to my site.

      I made sure that my link was in accordance with your policies. After all I am offering valuable advice and expertise regarding the subject matter of this blog post, and my website is 100% relevant to your post and my comment.

      I hope you can reconsider adding my web link:
      https://harapad.com/

      Thanks!
      Mark

      1. Wellness Mama Avatar

        Hi Mark,
        I’ve changed the link in this comment to an informational link from your website, which is in accordance with the policies. You originally included a link to your homepage, which was not a specific article or resource that specifically contributed to the conversation. I changed the link to one of your blog posts that directly relates to the post topic. I typically do not allow links to pages or websites that are specifically product based, especially if I have not personally tried the product to be able to vouch for its quality.

  11. Tonya Avatar

    Defender pad for laptop…Gia Cell Guard for phone and tablet…does this sound the like best plan for barrier protection with Wi Fi in the home? Or am I missing something? I’m not quite sure how to make a Wi Fi-free home with my step daughter’s school tablet that she’s assigned from school for homework? As well as our phones…it seems everyone’s phones have the internet…

  12. Stephanie Avatar

    Hey Katie! I know this post is OLDER, but do you have any suggestions for a young momma who can’t break away from the technology spiral? I want to get a meter to detect EMF radiation in our home and pinpoint hot spots, but what about keeping my phone in a phone sleeve while it’s on and in use? Have you heard of such and do you recommend one over the other?

    Thanks and keep up the amazing work!!

  13. Myrna De Jesús Avatar
    Myrna De Jesús

    Has anyone heard of or tried the SmartShield360? It’s supposed to protect the user from EMF radiation emitted from smart phones, smart meters, cordless phones, and Wi-Fi including 4G mobile data networks, and other wireless and electrical devices.

    This is the company’s website/home page: emf-smartshield.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *