Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Computers Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

I love my computer! I think most people who have them do. But those of us who spend a great deal of time tapping away at our keyboards would be horrified to discover what evil lurks inside our computers. I'm not talking about the viruses and trojans that nasty hackers like to foist on unsuspecting computer users, causing agonizingly endless hours of hassle, I'm talking about the hazards from simply using your computer!

Let's start with your keyboard:

ICKY BACTERIA: You have a greater chance of getting sick touching your keyboard than sitting on a public toilet seat! According to a consumer group in London, keyboards have 5 times as much harmful bacteria as toilet seats. That's comforting to know, considering the amount of time we use our computers versus the amount of time we frequent public restrooms. And who sits on those seats, anyway? I know I don't.

While food can be found in the keys, much more lies beneath. Swabs of more than 30 keyboards discovered bugs related to staph infection and e-coli. "If you sneeze or blow your nose you’ll put viruses on there, which can spread colds. And, even worse, if you go to the toilet and don't wash your hands afterward, you'll put coliforms on there,” explained Dr. Peter Wilson of London’s University College Hospital. “All of these can cause disease in other people.”


REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY: Spending long hours at your keyboard can also cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Repetitive Strain Injury. Although experts at Harvard Medical School seem to think that even 7 hours of computing isn't likely to cause the syndrome, others think there is a definite risk. This University of Nebraska website has some interesting information on how to determine whether you have it, and some handy recommendations for how to prevent it. Prevention is always the key to better health!

BLOOD CLOTS: Another hazard of spending too much time attached to our computers is the possibility of Deep Vein Thrombosis, the same thing that can occur when you spend extended periods of time confined to one space, like long airplane flights, or long drives. A New Zealand study of office workers found that they had a higher risk of developing these potentially fatal blood clots.

Then you have eye strain, gases from the plastic in the computers, radiation, toner from laser printers.

It's enough to convince you to give it all up. But I know I won't. So, rather than chuck your computer check out some of the solutions for safer computing.


Clean, clean, clean: Wipe your computer keyboard (and or laptop surface) with alcohol wipes or some kind of disinfectant. Spray on a cloth or paper towel and wipe down. Make sure it is safe for the computer, though. And clean out the keyboard with compressed air. While you're at it, clean that mouse, as well! Another major harborer of bacteria.

Break, break, break: Take breaks. Get up and walk around. Do some exercises. Give your eyes a break by not focusing intently on the screen for long periods of time. Shift focus from the screen to distance and back.

Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate: Make sure the room where your computer is located, is well ventilated. Go outside every once in a while and breathe some fresh air, that is, if you don't live in a smog-filled city like Los Angeles.

Have fun, but be safe!

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