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Laptop – A Convenient Health Hazard
Laptop has revolutionized portability of computers which led to the size reduction in the form of tablets and smart phones. Internet and wifi have become the basic necessities which almost replaced food and clothing!
These devices have allowed people to use internet almost everywhere and become an integral part of life. Everyone will agree that there is no harm in having a laptop. But the problem is that people strain their eyes and sit in unsuitable postures for long hours. You can see most of the youngsters use their leisure time on their laptops watching movies, surfing, or even working.
High performance laptops generate much more heat than the usual desktop computer. Laptop radiation cannot be seen by the naked eye, but it can pose real dangers to our health. Laptops have internal parts that heat up and radiate. They generate low-frequency radiations referred to as electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from storage and computing processing. When laptops use Bluetooth, WiFi, and wireless cellular connections, they emit higher frequency, radio frequency (RF) radiation. All three of these sources are very close to your genitals, skin, and muscles. Your exposure to these dangerous radiations may create bodily reactions such as skin rashes and muscle soreness. In some cases, infertility can occur.
Laptops have fans that exhaust hot air and can greatly exceed 110º Fahrenheit. These fans keep the operating temperature stable inside the computer, insuring proper performance, but the exhausted hot air exposes users to potentially harmful health effects.
Impact on Fertility
Research has shown that a rise in temperature by 1 degree Celsius in the sac surrounding the testicles, known as the scrotum, leads to a decrease of synthesis of normal healthy sperm by 40%. A study carried out by the State University of New York at Stony Brook revealed that for a person who uses his laptop on the laps, the median temperature rise in the scrotum is around 2.6 to 2.8 degrees Celsius. You may place the laptop on a surface or laptop stand instead of your lap when you are using it.
The heat from the laptop on the lap also causes skin and groin burns. To protect themselves from burns, certain people place a pillow between their lap and laptop. This can turn out to be more dangerous as the air vents of the laptop are blocked. The fans work faster but only to circulate a heated air that cannot escape. There are high risks that your laptop plastic back cover melts and causes more serious burns. There are very comfortable and safe lap rests for your laptops which can be bought from stores or through the internet.
Excessive typing causes the wrist to press against the edge of the laptop’s border which is sharp in certain models. This causes compression of nerves and blood vessels leading to wrist and finger pains due to insufficient circulation of blood to the extremities of the hand.
The eyes need rest and the lenses inside them have to relax after stretching. When using laptops or computers in general, the muscles that control the lenses remain in a static position depending on the number of hours you stare at the screen. To protect the eyes from strains, frequent pauses are recommended. It is advisable to watch distant objects so as to allow the muscles to relax.
The brightness of the screen is also important. Too much brightness or light from another source reflecting on the screen into your eyes can be harmful to the retina. You may choose a suitable brightness as well as switching on the lights to dampen the amount of light from the laptop screen.
Spine and Nerves
When we use a laptop for prolonged periods, the spine is hunched and the vertebrae and the discs begin to degenerate. While using a laptop, our neck-curve straightens and affects the spring-like mechanism. When under pressure, the discs suffer a process of spinal degeneration. The long hours can send the nerve into irritation mode. This can lead to arthritis and nerve damage. Using a laptop for long durations is like literally converting yourself into a “bundle of nerves”.
Less Risky Ways of Using a Laptop
For occasional use find a chair that is comfortable and that you can sit back in. Position your laptop in your lap for the most neutral wrist posture that you can achieve. Angle the laptop screen so that you can see this with the least amount of neck deviation. Consider using an external keypad that allows for easy repositioning.
If you use your laptop at work as your main computer, position the laptop on your desk/work surface in front of you so that you can see the screen without bending your neck. This may require that you elevate the laptop off the desk surface using a stable support surface, such as a computer monitor pedestal.
Use a separate keyboard and cursor positioning input device, either as one unit or as separate units. You should be able to connect a keyboard and mouse directly to the back of the laptop or to a docking station. Use the keyboard on a negative-tilt keyboard tray to ensure a wrist neutral posture. Use an external larger touch/number/gesture pad, an external touch pad, or a mouse on an adjustable position mouse platform. Also please follow the postural guidelines for working at a computer workstation.
If you are a mobile professional who will be frequently transporting your laptop, think about the weight of the system. The word system means the weight of the laptop plus the required accessories (e.g., power supply, spare battery, external disk drive, zip drive, CD-R, DVD, etc.). Many lightweight portables can become as heavy as regular laptops when you add the weight of all of the components. If your laptop and its components together weigh 10 pounds or more, you should certainly consider using a carry-on bag that you can pull along.
Take a Break
Take short breaks every two hours and keep the eyes off the screen every half hour for a minute or two. Make regular breaks a habitual routine. If you are moving around, there is a lot less stress on your muscles and joints. Regular breaks will relieve the upper body tension.
If you can’t use a separate keyboard and mouse, an alternative is to find a chair that allows you to recline slightly. This will allow you to position the laptop keyboard and mouse in such a way that it would exert the least strain on your neck. Angle the screen slightly upwards so you can view the screen without having to bend your neck too far down.
While working long hours in front of a laptop, make sure you have an active lifestyle when you are not working. If you work out regularly, swim at least occasionally, and keep in touch with real people than the images and pictures on your laptop, then you will remain sane for a long time!