Health Hazards of Modern Gadgets & Gizmos
The top ten gadgets that changed the world are debatable. Nevertheless, popular choices would be the television, telephone, camera, movie camera, microwave oven, video cassette player and recorder, video gaming consoles, Sony's Walkman, IBM's personal computer or PC and the first cell phone released in 1996, by Motorola. The latest gadgets include superior versions of DVDs, smart phones, camcorders, laptops, iPods, iPhones, the Blackberry, PCs, computer notebooks, pedometers etc.
That modern gadgets have changed the world, is a gross understatement. No one wants to go back to the days of no television, no washing machines and certainly, no cell phone. Hi-tech gadgets are proliferating by the dozen, as companies vie with each other to catch the eyes of gadget freaks or just time-pinched consumers.
Yet, rising from the din of MP3 players, DVD film premiers and podcasts is an ever increasing evidence, braced by scientific work, of the ill-health effects of modern gadgets.
The study done by Carnegie Mellon University found that spending one hour a week on the Net led to an average increase of 1 percent on depression scale, a loss of 2.7 members of the Net users social circle and increase of 0.4% on the loneliness scale.
Intel Apple computer along with Hawlett Packard has kick-started US 1.5 million US dollar- study on the effects of Internet on society. According to a spokesperson of the companies, 'People who use the Net lose more of their friends, are lonelier and more inclined to depression than non-Net users. Greater use of the Net is associated with a decline in size of the social circle, social contact and family communication'.
A brief outline of how these gadgets and their hazards to health are described below:
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
Almost all modern gadgets produce electromagnetic fields or EMFs, be they powered by electric, electronic or battery sources.
According to scientists, EMR (electromagnetic radiation) from EMFs, can be disruptive to the human body's own natural energy fields. Like x-rays, these waves are not blocked or weakened by objects in their way. They pass into our bodies upsetting normal cellular function and biological processes. EMR can cause headaches, tiredness and even immune system disorders. Scientists believe that appliances such as electric hair dryers, shavers and bedside digital alarms are more dangerous due to their proximity to the human head.
According to the World Health Organization, 'electronic smog', created by electricity is 'one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences'. New evidence has linked 'electropollution' with a rise in cancer, birth defects, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, depression, learning disabilities and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Some persons like Kathleen Lucas, of Glasgow are so sensitive to electromagnetic fields that they are actually incapacitated by modern gadgets.
Cell Phones- Can 'Fry Your Brains'
For those who believe in the perils of the mobile phone, the fact that graver side-effects like cancer take years to show up after exposure to cell phone radiation, is solely responsible for the free run of these gadgets.
A recent study by Finnish scientists found a 40 percent increase in the risks of brain tumor for those who use these phones for more than 10 years. The brain tumor was most likely to be located on the side of the head where the phone was held. In addition, a Swedish study has found that brain cells could be destroyed by mobile phone radiation, which means that the present generation of teenagers run the risk of going senile before their middle-age!
In India and the US, clinical trials have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones very frequently have reduced sperm counts.
Obviously there is also some media hype on some of these issues. However there is no question about the ill-effects of EMF and especially the radiation released by cell phones and their effects on the brain of children. The scientists are to some extent underplaying its ill-effects. At present most scientists are agreeable that children under eight should not be permitted to use mobile phones; a warning sidestepped by most lawmakers.
Stress at home, at work
Hi-tech gadgets created to supposedly reduce stress, often result in the opposite. Jarring ring tones, high-decibel tunes on iPods and headsets, as well as blaring music from the television's pricey sound systems account for noise pollution, which in turn cause headaches and hearing loss.
Like the ear, the eye too gets hit badly by modern gadgets. Hours of computer work, or computer play such as games have created a boom time for optometrists and eye ware stores.
Slouching in front of the television or any screen for that matter, coupled with the continuous use of computer keyboards or phone keys for text messaging has brought about its own share of orthopedic problems.
All these problems result in bodies beginning to function less and less efficiently, in the process causing more stress.
Meanwhile, manufacturers are trying to create ergonomically better-designed gadgets which cause less health problems and which can accomplish more functions in a lesser time. Sadly, this ultimately backfires in the form of more workload per worker. More work translates into more sedentary lifestyle, less recreation and exercise and ultimately, more stress.
Modern gadgets come with many risks. As most are electrical or electronic, there are chances of electricity leaking causing minor shocks, burns and even electrocution. Faulty appliances can even set off electric fires. Toddlers with their inane curiosity are especially vulnerable to electric hazards.
Battery-operated devices such as mobiles phones can also be dangerous. A battery can overheat or explode resulting in third-degree burns or even start a fire. Nokia has recalled 46 million of the BL-5C batteries manufactured between December 2005 and November 2006 by the Matsushita Battery Industrial Co. Ltd for this very reason. They recorded approximately 100 incidents of over heating globally but reported no serious injuries or property damage.
(For a list of phones with such recalls go to medindia blogs)
Modern gadgets can also compromise road safety. Hi-tech gadgets or gizmos like iPods, iPhones and cell phones etc come with multimedia facilities. This means that users can jive to their favorite tunes, watch movies or even browse the Internet all while answering a call or even, driving. Unfortunately the human body may not always be that efficient. This multitasking can translate into car accidents or even distracted pedestrians walking right into oncoming traffic.
Gadgets like the Internet-enabled PC, satellite TV and mobile phone have created a unified international audience. Though the benefits are many, technology has grabbed its pound of flesh too.
For one, it is now easier for anti-social elements and crime to spread its tentacles. Anti-social lyrics in popular songs, which spill out of ear phones and headsets can subtly bring about a rise in racial differences and hate-crimes. The young, impressionable mind can get influenced by the lyrics and this can lead to alteration in their outlook and lifestyle. The hard rock and metal music is often criticized for this very reason.
The television, Internet and gaming consoles can leave their addicts strapped to the screens for countless hours, creating a host of personal and social problems. One such is loss of communication in families. In addition to the wave of consumerism and materialism created by hi-tech gadgets, the obsessive desire to possess these gadgets has boosted the incidents of thefts and crimes.
Hi-tech gadgets have come with the added burden of their disposal. Modern appliances such as PCs, laptops, mobile phones, fax machines, TVs etc., dumped into landfills are creating mountains of electronic waste or e-waste. Every year 2.2 million PCs, 3 million fax machines and over 6.5 million telephones, both fixed and mobile are discarded.
Most of these devices contain lead, platinum and other heavy metals. They pollute the environment and create the increased risk to the health of all living organism as most of the pollutants creep into drinking water, crops and affect the food pyramid.
The search for safe and eco-friendly methods of e-waste disposal and recycling still remain one of the major challenge of the millennium.
Hazards to the Ecosystem
Humans are not the only victims of hi-tech gadgets, which modernization has let loose.
One vivid example is the mysterious 'colony collapse' of honeybees rampant now in US and continental Europe.
According to concerned scientists, clinical trials with mobile phone handsets have proved their theory that the radiation given off by hi-tech gadgets and cell phones disrupt the navigation systems of the honeybees. This would prevent the inhabitants of the hive from being able to return to it.
Now, what makes this ill effect of the modern gadget so scary is that bees are indispensable to the pollination of crops, and hence the production of food for human consumption. Albert Einstein once quoted "If the bees disappear, man would have only four years of life left'.
Modern gadgets have quietly taken away the 'spring in our steps.' For one we hardly need to step-out for any of our wants and a modern fully equipped apartment can do away with almost any chore mentionable.
As these gadgets lure us with more rest and less stress, we pay for it with lifestyle disorders such as obesity, diabetes, heart ailments, hypertension and infertility problems to name a few.
For in his attempt to create a more convenient world, man is unwittingly paying the highest price - his health.