Cell phones and tablets: Health risk and what to do

Cellphones and laptops are part of our world; however, they are also a health risks as described in the previous blogs: Wireless devices may cause harm  and  Screens will hurt your children.  For a superb  summary of current  research data  see Louise Kuo Habakus’s  post,  An open letter to Apple Inc. It points out the dangers of tablets and smart phones’ radiation.

A poetic summary of risks and what can be done, read Lawrence Klein’s  poem, Cell Phone Harm,

Phone Harmful: Poem

by Lawrence Klein

Keep mobile phones, tablets or laptops away from your body,

Wireless Devices may cause harm, this research is not shoddy,

Cervical spine stress caused by your communication possession,

Your head forward position increases cervical compression

 

On top of that there is an increase risk of brain cancer

It is enough to make you pause, before you answer,

Keep your cell phone away from your body and place

it in your purse or outer coat pocket, not near your face!

 

And use your speaker phone or ear phones instead

of placing the phone directly against your head.

It is impossible to belief that that only a few years ago,

there were no cell phones. So now when you go

 

home, put the phone away so you can be with your family.

Cell phone use is ubiquitous, sometime you need to get free!

 

Copyright Lawrence Klein 2015

http://bit.ly/153YcMS

 


Cellphone harm: Cervical spine stress and increase risk of brain cancer

It is impossible to belief that that only a few years ago there were no cell phones.

When I go home, I purposely put the phone away so that I can be present with my children.

I just wonder if the cell phone’s electromagnetic radiation could do harm?

Cell phone use is ubiquitous since information is only a key press or voice command away.  Students spend about many hours a day looking and texting on a cell phone and experience exhaustion and neck and shoulder discomfort (Peper et al, 2013).  Constant use may also have unexpected consequences:  Increased stress on the cervical spine and increased risk for brain cancer.

Increased cervical spine stress

As we look at the screen, text messages or touch the screen for more information, we almost always bend our head down to look down. This head forward position increases cervical compression and stress. The more the head bends down to look, the more the stress in the neck increases as the muscles have to work much harder that hold the head up. In a superb analysis Dr. Kennth Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery 0f New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, showed that stress on the cervical spine increases from 10-12 lbs when the head is in its upright position to 60 lbs when looking down.

weight of headFigure 1. Stress on the cervical spine as related to posture. (From: Hansraj, K. K. (2014). Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surgical technology international, 25, 277-279.)

Looking down for a short time period is no problem; however, many of us look down for extended periods. This slouched collapsed position is becoming the more dominant position. A body posture which tends to decrease energy, and increase hopeless, helpless, powerless thoughts (Wilson & Peper, 2004; Peper & Lin, 2012). The long term effects of this habitual collapsed position are not know–one can expect more neck and back problems and increase in lower energy levels.

increased risk for brain cancer and inactive sperm and lower sperm count

Cell phone use not only affect posture, the cell phone radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation by which the cell phone communicates to the tower may negatively affect biological tissue. It would not be surprising that electromagnetic radiation could be harmful; since, it is identical to the frequencies used in your microwave ovens to cook food. The recent research by Drs Michael Carlberg and Lennart Hardell of the Department of Oncology, University Hospital, Örebro, Sweden,  found that long term cell phone use is associated by an increased risk of developing malignant glioma (brain cancers) with the largest risk observed in people who used the cell phone before the age of 20. In addition, men who habitually carry the cell phone in a holster or in their pocket were more likely to have inactive or less mobile sperm as well as a lower sperm count.

What can you do:

Keep an upright posture and when using a cell phone or tablet. Every few minutes stretch, look up and reach upward with your hands to the sky.

Keep your cell phone away from your body such as putting it in your purse or outer pocket of your coat

Use your speaker phone or ear phones instead of placing the phone against your head.

Enjoy the cartoon video clip, Smartphone Ergonomics – Safe Tips – Mobile or Smart Phone Use while Driving, Traveling on the Move.

References:

Agarwal, A., Singh, A., Hamada, A., & Kesari, K. (2011). Cell phones and male infertility: a review of recent innovations in technology and consequences. International braz j urol, 37(4), 432-454. http://www.isdbweb.org/documents/file/1685_8.pdf

Carlberg, M., & Hardell, L. (2014). Decreased Survival of Glioma Patients with Astrocytoma Grade IV (Glioblastoma Multiforme) Associated with Long-Term Use of Mobile and Cordless Phones. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(10), 10790-10805.  http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/10/10790/htm

De Iuliis, G. N., Newey, R. J., King, B. V., & Aitken, R. J. (2009). Mobile phone radiation induces reactive oxygen species production and DNA damage in human spermatozoa in vitro. PloS one, 4(7), e6446.

Hansraj, K. K. (2014). Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surgical technology international, 25, 277-279.

Peper, E. & Lin, I-M. (2012). Increase or decrease depression-How body postures influence your energy level. Biofeedback, 40 (3), 126-130.

Peper, E., Waderich, K., Harvey, R., & Sutter, S. (2013). The Psychophysiology of Contemporary Information Technologies Tablets and Smartphones Can Be a Pain in the Neck. In Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 38(3), 219.

Wilson, V.E. and Peper, E. (2004). The Effects of upright and slumped postures on the generation of positive and negative thoughts. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.29 (3), 189-195.


Cartoon ergonomics for working at the computer and laptop

I finally bought a separate keyboard and a small stand for my laptop so that the screen is at eye level and my shoulders are relaxed while typing at the keyboard. To my surprise,  my neck and shoulder tightness and pain disappeared and I am much less exhausted.

How we sit and work at the computer significantly affects our health and productivity. Ergonomics  is the science that offers guidelines on how to adjust your workspace and equipment to suit your individual needs.  It is just like choosing appropriate shoes–Ever try jogging in high heels?  The same process applies to the furniture and equipment you use when computing.

When people arrange their work setting according to  good ergonomic principles and incorporate a healthy computing work style numerous disorders (e.g., fatigue, vision discomfort,  head, neck, back, shoulder, arm or hand pain) may be prevented (Peper et al, 2004). For pragmatic tips to stay health at the computer see Erik Peper’s  Health Computer Email Tips.  Enjoy the following superb video cartoons uploaded by Stephen Walker on YouTube that summarize the basic guidelines for computer, laptop and cell phones use at work, home, or while traveling.

Adult or Child Laptop Use at Home, Work or Classroom

Healthy use of laptops anywhere.

Mobile or Smart Phone Use while Driving, Traveling or on the Move.


Technohealth reminder

Digital devices connect us to each other, provide information from the outside world, allow us to work anywhere as long as there is Wi-Fi, and foster a 24/7 live style. It is almost impossible to remember driving without a smartphone that guides us to where we are going, or using it to find a restaurant or a  place to stay. Being captured by the screen and the useful information, we may not be aware of the possible deleterious effects. Depending how the devices are used, they may contribute to disturbed sleep, increased attention deficit disorder in children, increased pedestrian death rates when the person is captured by the screen and not attending to the environment surrounding them, and increased cancer risks through antenna radiation. Some of the dangers have been integrated in a new poster, Mobile Phones: Ringing up the Danger, reprinted below from the website, http://www.cheapnursedegrees.com/mobile-phones-danger/

At the bottom of this poster are my suggestions to optimize technohealth while working with digital devices.

Slide1Slide3

Poster reprinted with permission from: http://www.cheapnursedegrees.com/mobile-phones-danger/

Suggestions to improve technohealth

Reverse and interrupt Stress Immobilization Syndrome

  • Interrupt your computer work every few minutes to wiggle and move
  • Breathe diaphragmatically
  • Get up and do large movements (stretch or walk) for a few minutes.
  • Take a short walk or do other movements instead of snacking when feeling tense or tired.
  • Smile and realize that work stress it is not worth dying over
  • Install a computer reminder program to signal you to take a short stress break such as StressBreak™.
  • Eat lunch away from your computer workstation.
  • Stand or walk during meetings or when talking on the phone.
  • Turn off LED, TV or computer screens an hour before bedtime to promote restful sleep.

Reduce the possible harm from digital device’s antenna radiation

  • Keep your phone, tablet or laptop in your purse, backpack or attaché case. Do not keep it on or close to your body.
  • Use the speaker phone or plug in earphones with microphone while talking.  Do not hold it against the side of your head, close to your breast or on your lap.
  • Text while the phone or tablet is on a book or on a table away from your body.

 

 


Look up! Be aware and be open new possibilities

How is it possible that one is lonely while being connected to hundreds of Facebook friends, networked with even more LinkiedIn  colleagues,  and continuously sending and receiving Tweets and texts?  Are we so captured by the digital devices that we do not notice the actual reality around us? Watch Gary Turk’s remarkable video and then remember to look up and connect with others.


Social media: Alone or together?

Pushing a baby carriage the caretaker texts or talks on the phone instead of cooing the infant. Dining at restaurants, couples check emails, search the web, text, or tweet telling others what they are doing instead of talking with each other. In hallways at universities students  collapse against the walls looking at their tablets or smart phones instead of meeting other students. In lecture halls students text or search the web instead of processing the class materials. In their cubicle at work employees email and text instead of walking over to the next cubicle to share information. On the sidewalk pedestrians text while being oblivious to the environment.

Presentation2

All new innovations and inventions have a positive and negative side (e.g., nuclear medicine and atomic weapons). When adopting the new social media and technologies, use the precautionary principle by respecting our evolutionary background.  In-depth communication and sharing is healing and nurturing, thus create/demand enough time to explore and connect in actual face-to-face synchronous communication with family, friends and colleagues.

Most new technology has been met with naysayers until it has been integrated appropriately into our lives. Nevertheless, I am concerned how social media may substitute for actual communication. It may allow us to present our persona and hide our real self as our messages ping back and forth. This same asynchronous communication is also true for letter writing except that it takes much longer to receive feedback in return. The obvious difference between texting/tweeting and letter writing is the possible depth and length of the communication. The addictive social media communication may hinder social and emotional growth which is developed during actual face-to-face communication. Before deciding whether the social media causes harm –anything that is beneficial may also in excessive dosages cause harm– read Alison Gonik’ essay, The kid who wouldn’t let go of ‘the device which was published in the March 22-23, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

Although there are many advantages of the new digital devices, there may also be unintended consequences. These consequences are superbly explored by professor Sherry Turkle,  founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self,  in her book,  Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other and in her Ted talk, Connected but all alone.

These concepts are also graphically illustrated in the video clip, The innovation of loneliness.

 

 


Screens will hurt your children

We park children in front of tablets, smartphone, computers and TVs.  The visual and auditory stimulation captures their attention. It is a superb baby sitter.  We substitute electronic displays for human attention.

baby

To distract the baby at dinner in a restaurant, we hand the baby a smartphone.   To have some private time, we let the child play games on the tablet.  To reduce stress before dinner, we hand the child the tablet to watch video clips or play games. The short term benefits of letting handheld devices capture the child’s attention may have long term costs.

The child sits, sits and sits while being captured by the rapid changing visual scenes and auditory sounds instead of playing and enhancing motor development.  The addictiveness of electronic devices occurs because we automatically attend to and are captured by rapidly changing stimuli—it is new and could be dangerous. This reaction to attend which is continuously evoked by the handheld devices may occur at the expense of developing self-directed attention.

The handheld devices expose the brain and dividing cells to electromagnetic radiation which can harmful. This is the radiation by which hand held devices communicates with connect cell phone towers or the server as it connects to the web.

From the precautionary principle and the numerous research studies, young children should limit the use of hand held devices. I totally agree with Cris Rowan’s superb blog, 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12, which is reprinted below with her permission.

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12

Cris Rowan pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, speaker, author

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics state infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology, 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day (AAP 2001/13, CPS 2010). Children and youth use 4-5 times  the recommended amount of technology, with serious and often life threatening consequences (Kaiser Foundation 2010, Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012). Handheld devices (cell phones, tablets, electronic games) have dramatically increased the accessibility and usage of technology, especially by very young children (Common Sense Media, 2013). As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’m calling on parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devices for children under the age of 12 years. Following are 10 research-based reasons for this ban. Please visit zonein.ca to view the  Zone’s Fact Sheet for referenced research.

1. Rapid brain growth
Between 0 and 2 years, infant’s brains triple in size and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).

2. Delayed Development
Technology use restricts movement, which can result in delayed development. One in three children now enter school developmentally delayed, negatively impacting literacy and academic achievement (HELP EDI Maps 2013). Movement enhances attention and learning ability (Ratey 2008). Use of technology under the age of 12 years is detrimental to child development and learning (Rowan 2010).

3. Epidemic Obesity
TV and video game use correlates with increased obesity (Tremblay 2005). Children who are allowed a device in their bedrooms have 30% increased incidence of obesity (Feng 2011). One in four Canadian, and one in three U.S. children are obese (Tremblay 2011). 30% of children with obesity will develop diabetes, and obese individuals are at higher risk for early stroke and heart attack, gravely shortening life expectancy (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). Largely due to obesity, 21st century children may be the first generation many of whom will not outlive their parents (Professor Andrew Prentice, BBC News 2002).

4. Sleep Deprivation
60% of parents do not supervise their child’s technology usage, and 75% of children are allowed technology in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation 2010). 75% of children aged 9 and 10 years are sleep deprived to the extent that their grades are detrimentally impacted (Boston College 2012).

5. Mental Illness
Technology overuse is implicated as a causal factor in rising rates of child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar disorder, psychosis and problematic child behavior (Bristol University 2010, Mentzoni 2011, Shin 2011, Liberatore 2011, Robinson 2008). One in six Canadian children have a diagnosed mental illness, many of whom are on dangerous psychotropic medication (Waddell 2007).

6. Aggression
Violent media content can cause child aggression (Anderson, 2007). Young children are increasingly exposed to rising incidence of physical and sexual violence in today’s media. “Grand Theft Auto V” portrays explicit sex, murder, rape, torture and mutilation, as do many movies and TV shows. The U.S. has categorized media violence as a Public Health Risk due to causal impact on child aggression (Huesmann 2007). Media reports increased use of restraints and seclusion rooms with children who exhibit uncontrolled aggression.

7. Digital dementia
High speed media content can contribute to attention deficit, as well as decreased concentration and memory, due to the brain pruning neuronal tracks to the frontal cortex (Christakis 2004, Small 2008). Children who can’t pay attention can’t learn.

8. Addictions
As parents attach more and more to technology, they are detaching from their children. In the absence of parental attachment, detached children can attach to devices, which can result in addiction (Rowan 2010). One in 11 children aged 8-18 years are addicted to technology (Gentile 2009).

9. Radiation emission
In May of 2011, the World Health Organization classified cell phones (and other wireless devices) as a category 2B risk (possible carcinogen) due to radiation emission (WHO 2011). James McNamee with Health Canada in October of 2011 issued a cautionary warning stating “Children are more sensitive to a variety of agents than adults as their brains and immune systems are still developing, so you can’t say the risk would be equal for a small adult as for a child.” (Globe and Mail 2011). In December, 2013 Dr. Anthony Miller from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health recommend that based on new research, radio frequency exposure should be reclassified as a 2A (probable carcinogen), not a 2B (possible carcinogen). American Academy of Pediatrics requested review of EMF radiation emissions from technology devices, citing three reasons regarding impact on children (AAP 2013).

10. Unsustainable
The ways in which children are raised and educated with technology are no longer sustainable (Rowan 2010). Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology. A team-based approach is necessary and urgent in order to reduce the use of technology by children. Please reference below slide shows on www.zonein.ca under “videos” to share with others who are concerned about technology overuse by children.

Problems – Suffer the Children – 4 minutes
Solutions – Balanced Technology Management – 7 minutes

The following Technology Use Guidelines for children and youth were developed by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist and author of Virtual Child; Dr. Andrew Doan, neuroscientist and author of Hooked on Games; and Dr. Hilarie Cash, Director of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program and author of Video Games and Your Kids, with contribution from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society in an effort to ensure sustainable futures for all children.

Technology Use Guidelines for Children and Youth

hrs device use
Please contact Cris Rowan at info@zonein.ca for additional information. © Zone’in February

Follow Cris Rowan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zoneinprograms