HEALTH

ERRING ON THE SIDE OF SAFETY

NORA UNDERWOOD August 6 1990
HEALTH

ERRING ON THE SIDE OF SAFETY

NORA UNDERWOOD August 6 1990

ERRING ON THE SIDE OF SAFETY

HEALTH

In 1980 and 1981, reports of miscarriages and birth defects among women who worked on video display terminals (VDTs) led scientists to sound the first alarms about possible health risks associated with electrical emissions. The source of the VDT emissions is electrical coils that control the flow of electrons inside a cathode-ray tube—the image-forming unit in a television set or VDT. During the past decade, public concern has increased about the effect of the emissions on VDT users. So far, no one has presented any conclusive evidence to link vdts—-used in the writing of

this story—to health problems. But, said David Charron of the Hamilton-based Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, “If we’re erring, it’s on the side of safety.”

During the past decade, scientists have found some evidence that VDT emissions may be hazardous to pregnant women. A study carried out during the early 1980s in Oakland, Calif., that involved 1,583 pregnant women found a higher rate of miscarriages among women who had worked with VDTs. Although scientists say that more research is needed, most experts recommend that pregnant women take precautions by sitting at least an arm’s length away from the terminal to protect the fetus from the emissions—or not use VDTS at all. At the same time, other researchers, including Michael Wiley, associate professor of

anatomy at the University of Toronto, have found no evidence to link VDT use to adverse fetal development.

Some scientists say that suspected links between electromagnetic fields and cancer could apply to VDTs. In the face of growing concern, some manufacturers have started making VDTs that give off lower-frequency emissions. In late August, IBM Canada Ltd. will begin marketing its new Personal System/1 home computers, with new technology that reduces emissions. IBM spokesman Stan Didzbalis said that the company was responding to consumer demand. “We’re convinced VDTs are safe,” he said, “but as long as questions are raised, we have to act responsibly.”

NORA UNDERWOOD