In eye health and sleeping patterns. Vision Impact

In the 21st
century, digital technology has significantly impacted the Americans’ daily
lives. Digital technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops
have been useful and convenient in schools, workplaces, and in healthcare.

Although electronic devices have help us live practical lives, they emit
radiation. Radiation “consists
of several types of subatomic particles, principally those called gamma rays,
neutrons, electrons, and alpha particles, that shoot through space at very high
speeds. They can easily penetrate deep inside the human body, damaging some of
the biological cells of which the body is composed” (Department of Physics and
Astronomy, n.d.). Since the United States of America is one of
the most digitally savvy countries in the world, Americans should be concerned
about the rising levels of radiation from digital devices because it negatively
affects health due to bright light exposure from light-emitting diodes (blue
light radiation), constant exposure to radiofrequency energy, and Americans’ addictive
use of digital devices. Its health consequences are visual health issues, sleep
disorders, and cancer. The most effective ways of avoiding radiation are by taking
protective measures of one’s eyes from the screens of digital devices and
learning how to limit usage of wireless technology.

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Facts

Light-emitting diodes
(LED) are used in to make the screens of digital devices. According to Edison
Tech Center (2013), LED is a “light source which uses
semiconductors and electroluminescence to create light.” The LED business is becoming a growing
industry used in digital displays and lamps in the US. The lamp businesses are
currently “facing a tough competition among from consumer-electronics
firms, particularly Asia’s Samsung, LG and Sharp,” which are makers of digital
devices (Statista,
2018). According to Statista (2018), “light-emitting diodes are
expected to reach a penetration into the lighting market of approximately 61
percent” in 2020.  The harmful aspect of LEDs is that it emits
blue light radiation, which is a high-energy visible light.  Yoshiki
Kuse, Kenjiro Ogawa, Kazuhiro Tsuruma, Masamitsu Shimazawa & Hideaki Hara
(2014) defined blue light as having a wavelength between “450 to 495?nm.” Despite
the fact that visible light is an example of non-ionizing radiation, it has
been proven that prolonged exposure can affect eye health and sleeping patterns.

Vision Impact Institute (2016) states that “the wavelengths within the blue-violet portion of the
light spectrum that are considered… most harmful to retinal cells range from
415 to 455 nanometers, and most of our devices emit a high level of blue light,
typically around the wavelength starting at 400 nm.” Moreover, statistics
show that “more than 75 percent of American adults report checking their
digital devices in the hour before going to sleep, which disrupt sleep patterns
by increasing alertness in the brain” (Vision Impact Institute, 2016).

            On the other hand, radiofrequency
energy is commonly seen in wireless devices such as cell phones, Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth, and radio and television signals. American Cancer Society (2016)
defines radiofrequency energy as “a type
of non-ionizing radiation, which has enough energy to move atoms in
a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to ionize (remove
charged particles such as electrons).” Figure 1 shows the electromagnetic
spectrum. Although the frequency of such devices have been controlled by their
companies for safety, “it has been known for many years that exposure to very
high levels of RF radiation can be harmful due to the ability of RF energy to
rapidly heat biological tissue” (HPS, n.d.). 

Figure 1. The electromagnetic spectrum. Taken from: National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2017, June 15). Electric &
magnetic fields. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/emf/index.cfm

Lastly, the use of digital technology has been increasing
in the United States. Reason being is that “the digital market leader is the
United States with a digital influence factor of 49 percent” (Deloitte Digital,
2016). Figure 2 shows the percentage of each type of digital device owned by
Americans. The Vision Council conducted a survey that reveals “nearly
90% of Americans use digital devices for two or more hours each day and nearly 60% of Americans use digital devices
for five or more hours each day and 70% of Americans use two or more devices at
a time” (Vision Impact Institute, 2016). Furthermore, Scott Sikes (2014) found
that “in 2011, Internet usage alone
was up to 2.2 billion users compared to just three million users in 1990.” Children
have also been affected by these demographics, wherein “children 8 and younger spent about 15 minutes
a day staring at a mobile screen in 2013 and now they spend 48 minutes a day; 98%
of American households with kids under 8 own a mobile device” (Howard, 2017).

Not only that, but workplaces require these devices to
be used. Statistics show that “43 percent of adults work in a job that requires prolonged
use of a computer or tablet” (Scott Sikes, 2014).  Therefore,
the high accumulation of American households owning a digital device and its
prolonged use can be a factor to why radiation levels are high.

Figure
2. Most commonly owned devices in the US. Taken from: Pew
Research Center. (2015). Technology device ownership: 2015. Retrieved from

http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/29/technology-device-ownership-2015/.

Copyright 2015 by Pew Research Center.

Why The Problem Exists

The consequences of exposure
to blue light radiation from digital devices is visual health issues and sleep
disorders. According to Pew Research Center (2015), “roughly one in three Americans
own a smartphone, computer, and a tablet.” Since all those devices emit
blue-light radiation, high-energy light such as LEDs can dry out the eyes.

Vision Impact Institute (2016) revealed that “65% of Americans report
experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain” after two hours of using a digital
device. Such symptoms include: sore and dry/watery eyes, headaches, blurred or
double vision, and increased sensitivity in the eyes (Mayo Clinic, 2015). Reason
being is that Gregory Good (2014) found that “retina was most sensitive to light at the shorter
wavelengths (maximum sensitivity shown at 441 nm).” A Harvard study found that “after chronic exposure
of high energy visible blue light, one can expect to see long range growth in
the number of macular degenerations, glaucoma, and retinal degenerative
diseases” (Harvard Health Publishing, 2012). So, prolonged use of devices increase sensitivity in the
retina, which can cause more vision problems. A study has shown that “in 2009, the number of people with nearsightedness (myopia) has
increased from 25% to nearly 42% in the last 30 years” due to the increase of
owning digital devices among Americans (Conaway, 2012). On the other hand, Americans
do not realize that their heavy attachment to their cellphones disrupt their
sleeping patterns. According to Daniel Aeschbacha, Anne-Marie Chang,
Charles A. Czeislera, and Jeanne F. Duffy (2015), “A representative survey of
1,508 American adults recently revealed that 90% of Americans used some type of
electronics at least a few nights per week within 1 hour before bedtime.” This is due to the fact that the artificial bright light sends
signals that keep them awake. The National Sleep Foundation and Swedish
researchers found that “nearly
two-thirds of Americans say they’re not getting enough sleep, and a link
between heavy cell phone use and increased sleep disorders in both men and
women” (NWPC, n.d.). Thus, a reduction in digital device use would
lessen the harmful effects of such devices.

Besides blue light radiation, the consequence of constant
exposure to radiofrequency energy from wireless devices is cancer. One of the
principle mechanisms of radiofrequency energy is that through its emission, it
can heat tissues. World Health Organization (2014) declares that “at the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the
energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in
negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body.”
Therefore, the result of heating can alter DNA matter, which could lead to cancer.

Since the number of cell phone users have been increasing rapidly, the more the
radiation increases and surrounds them. According to National Cancer Institute
(2016), “as of December 2014, there were more than 327.5
million cell phone subscribers in the United States…which is a nearly
threefold increase from the 110 million users in 2000.”
Consequently, minimizing
the use of wireless devices could lessen the damaging exposure to the body.

Causes of The Problem

            The cause to why
radiation from digital devices affect health is through the constant exposure
of light-emitting diodes (blue light radiation). Since blue light radiation
have shorter wavelengths, these “High Energy
Visible (HEV) wavelengths flicker more easily than longer, weaker wavelengths, which
creates a glare that can reduce visual contrast and affect sharpness and
clarity” (Blue Lights Exposed, n.d.). The retina can only absorb so much
light before it gets damaged. According
to the study of Daniel Attia et al. (2014) on eye
risks regarding LEDs, “the interaction of blue light with
molecules constituting the retina or accumulating in the retina with aging or
in pathological conditions is susceptible to induce damages to RPE cells,
photoreceptor cells and to ganglion cells.” Moreover, the high luminosity of
the LEDs affects sleep. Blue light is said to “boost alertness and regulates
our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, that tells our bodies when to
sleep. This artificial light activates photoreceptors called intrinsically
photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), which suppresses melatonin” (“Device Light,” 2017).

            The reason behind radiation
affecting health because of

Solutions

            In
order to avoid radiation levels from affecting the body, one should protect
one’s eyes from the luminous screens of electronic devices. First, it is
important to limit the usage of such devices. Focusing on a bright screen for a
long time can strain your eyes, so it is vital to give one’s eyes a break. According
to Timothy J. Legg (2017), the 20-20-20 rule prevents and lessens symptoms of
eye strain. The 20-20-20 rule states users to take a 20 second break for every
20 minutes, and look 20 feet away from the screen (Vision Impact Institute,
2016). During the 20 second break, one should blink repeatedly to help
replenish the tears from one’s eyes. Second, it is advisable to dim the light
of the devices’ screen or use a screen glare filter to lessen the amount of
illumination that causes eye irritability. There is an option in Apple devices
called “Night Shift” which shifts the screen into a warmer color, reducing the
amount of blue light. Third, maximize the distance between the user and the
device. According to Dr. Mark Rosenfield, people are as close as 7 inches to their screens
and there should be a distance of 12-14 inches between the face and electronic devices
such as smartphones and tablets (Adlesberg, 2011). For computers, the
recommended distance would be 20-40 inches placed directly in front of the user
(United States Department of Labor, n.d.). For more information on the proper
placement of the monitor and its reference tools, refer to Figure 3. For
televisions, Samsung (n.d.) recommends viewers to follow the formula “viewing distance (in inches)
divided by 3 = recommended TV size.” And lastly, always consider the lighting
environment. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health (2018) suggests that
“a good visual environment will have
sufficient light, coming from the right direction and not cause obscuring
shadows; provide good (but not excessive)
contrast between the task and the background.” With these safety precautions,
Americans will be aware of the dangers of the screens of electronic devices.

Figure 3. A photo of the proper way
of positioning the monitor and its reference tools. Taken from: American
Optometric Association. (n.d.). Computer vision syndrome. Retrieved from

https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome.

Copyright 2018 by American Optometric Association.

            Another
solution would be learning how to limit the usage of wireless device to avoid
radiofrequency energy from affecting the body. To reduce exposure to
radiofrequency energy from cellphones, use hands-free tools such as
“speakerphone mode, earphones, or headset” (Federal Communications Commission,
2016). Answering a call directly
interacts with the cellphone tower, which emits high radiofrequency energy that
can be absorbed through the head. Therefore, “hands-free
tools reduce the amount of radiofrequency energy exposure to the head because
the antenna, which is the source of energy, is not placed against the head” (National Cancer Institute, 2016). Moreover, instead of answering direct calls, messaging
would be another alternative. When cellphone is not in use, it should be stored
away in a backpack or a purse, “not in a pocket, bra, or belt holster; because
its antenna tries to stay connected with a cell tower whenever it’s on” (Federal Communications Commission, 2016). If the
device is low on signal, it is best to avoid using it. According to the Federal
Communications Commission (2016), such devices “put out more RF energy
to connect with routers when the signal is weak.” It is vital to be educated
with these guidelines to prevent the harmful effects of radiofrequency energy
to the body.

 

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