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Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?

RT monitors are directly linked to a disease which may have affected entire generations.

Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?
Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?

For decades when walking into a computer lab or home office, you surely saw the large boxy computer screen taking up a huge chunk of desk real estate. These old-school behemoth monitors are formally called cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. Cathode ray monitors work by moving high voltage electron beams back and forth across the screen. These beams pass by and light up phosphor dots in a glass tube, which in turn illuminates the screen.

This technology has long been touted as having major health risks to those who have had prolonged exposure to cathode ray monitors. In fact, these monitor screens have been proven to have a direct link to the formation of a brain tumor, and their extensive usage for years may have put an entire generation at risk to these tumors. This is one of the main reasons there has been a large scale phasing out of the use of CRT monitors in favor of LCD or LED flat screen monitors. Not only are they far more space friendly, but they are far safer for the user.

Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?
Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?

So, what makes cathode ray monitors so dangerous? The risk lies in the radiation. When the high voltage electron beam is generated, so are various types of radiation. In a medical setting under carefully supervised circumstances, we know that radiation can be extremely helpful and even curative. However, prolonged exposure to uncontrolled radiation can have dire circumstances. We see this with multiple types of radiation. UV radiation can give us sunburns and skin cancer. Radiation from nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl or bombings caused thousands to have radiation sickness or even develop cancer. Therefore, it is really no surprise that after spending thousands of cumulative hours in front of radiation emitting cathode ray monitors, many individuals found themselves fighting for their lives with brain tumors.

The types of radiation that users of cathode ray monitors are exposed to are ultraviolet and x-rays. X-rays are emitted from CRT monitors due to the fact that they use high voltages. It is important to note that color monitors release a much higher number of x-rays than black and white monitors, therefore, it is only the users of color CRT monitors that need to be concerned. It is important to note that the x-rays coming from monitors are still far less than x-rays used by doctors to diagnose medical conditions.

The second type of radiation exposure risk in long term users of cathode ray monitors is UV radiation. Small amounts of ultraviolet radiation escape the screen. Although not directly linked to getting a brain tumor, UV radiation is in no way benign. It is known to cause skin damage and cancer and has even been connected to vision loss.

Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?
Are CRT monitors (cathode-ray tube) safe?

Many of you may remember your parents telling you not to sit too close to the television while you were growing up. This is because old TVs also used cathode ray tubes. When color television was invented, the radiation put out by these sets increased exponentially. The closer you sat to the screen, the higher exposure to the harmful effects that you might have. This is another reason CRT monitors have proven to be so risky. When working at a computer all day and staring at that screen, you cannot sit far away from it. It would be impossible to see what you were doing if you maintained a truly safe distance.

Tube television sets and cathode ray monitors leak radiation in a downward fashion, typically in the shape of a crescent. It was advised by the surgeon general to sit at least 6 feet away from CRT televisions and take care to particularly avoid being near the sides, rear or bottom of the set. Now this was easy to do with TVs. You could position them down low or even on the floor and easily sit far enough away to mitigate the radiation risk. Not so much with cathode ray monitors. In order to see your work screen, it has to be placed directly in front of the users face in close range. This put users of these monitor screens in the prime radiation exposure path hour after hour, day after day.

Not only were workers who used these color computer monitors placed at extreme risk, young people who spent a lot of screen time for class were getting repeated radiation. This was particularly concerning due to the fact that children and youth are still developing. Their brains are still maturing and creating proper neuro-pathways, and their other body systems are growing as well. Not only has the radiation exposure from CRT monitors been shown to damage and mutate brain tissue, but it has been shown to cause potential damage to the reproductive system, as well. Both these ill effects could create life altering damage and impact.

As it came to light just how damaging radiation exposure from cathode ray monitors and associated devices, the government took action to regulate the amount of radiation that could be leaked from cathode ray monitors and similar devices. The FDA is responsible for testing and evaluating monitors, televisions, and microwaves. Corporations must have their products tested and certified before they can ever be marketed to the general public. The threshold for radiation emission must not be exceeded or the device cannot be sold to consumers and will be deemed unsafe.

But is any radiation exposure truly safe when it is occurring consistently? Science shows the effects of repeated radiation exposure to be cumulative in nature, and all those hours of close up exposure to the radiation leaked by cathode ray monitors has now been linked to serious health complications in users, including brain tumors. It is recommended that CRT monitor usage be eliminated, and in large part, this technology is now obsolete. Most schools and corporations are now favoring incredibly safe LCD and LED screens. This is comforting to know when sitting at your workspace. However, for those that suffered years of exposure to cathode ray monitor radiation leaks, we can only hope the damage done isn’t life altering or ending.


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