Healt at Risk in Computer Addiction
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By keeping in view the ISO standards which emphasize the assessment of use of a product, this research aims to assess the prolonged use of computers and their effects on human health. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between extent of computer use (per day) and carpal tunnel syndrome, computer stress syndrome, computer vision syndrome and musculoskeletal problems. The second objective was to investigate the extent of simultaneous occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, computer vision syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders among computer users. The sample in this exploratory study consisted of 120 employees and students. Self administered questionnaire was used as an instrument in this field survey study. The findings confirmed that computer related health disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, computer vision syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders occur simultaneously among prolonged computer users such as employees and students.
The simultaneous occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, computer vision syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders is more among employees than students and those who are both employees and students. Employees who use computer daily for more than four hours are more likely subjected to the risks of all these four health disorders. The study concludes that by observing some rules of using computer, minimizing and treating of these disorders are possible. Keywords: Computer, Prolonged use, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Computer Vision Syndrome, Health Disorders, Employees, Students. Abbreviations: Electromagnetic Field (EMF), Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Inventory (LCI). INTRODUCTION Contemporary technology revolution has made our lives with so much convenient that people would hardly imagine life without computer, internet, cable TV, cellular phones, various tools and gadgets. Computers are one of the main tools in businesses, educational institutes, offices, homes and even in cars. On one hand, these technologies including computers have made lives so much easy but on the other hand have created many risks for human health. The negative risks associated with the usage of these technologies are increasing with their growing demand day by day.
Every electronic device including computers and laptops produce a form of Electromagnetic Field (EMF). This EMF is actually a non ionizing radiation which release energy from these electronic devices that is not enough to ionize the atoms, hence instead of removing electrons it only excites the electrons. This energy brings negative effects to human health. By using computers, laptops or even sitting in computerized workplaces an individual is exposed to the dangerous waves. These radiations may cause rapidly or slowly several health hazards. It means that individuals especially employees spending number of hours for working on computer are directly exposed to the harmful effects of EMF. ISO quality standards emphasize the need of measuring the quality of products throughout its life cycle i.e. from raw materials to disposal. The purpose is to produce safe environment and its components by examining the impacts of products on it.
Thus, it is necessary to examine the direct or indirect effects of computers on human health because the world at this time is heavily dependent upon computers and it is human beings that use computers. Therefore, this study has made an attempt to investigate the reported health disorders among individuals working at computerized workplaces as a result of prolonged computer use. By conducting a field survey, computer users were asked to highlight health disorders they are facing due to extensive use of computers. The scheme of study is as follows: After introduction, ISO 14040 Life Cycle Assessment, effects of electromagnetic fields and other risk factors on human health are discussed. After it, Research Methodology, results and findings are elaborated. Conclusion and recommendation are discussed in the last section of this paper. Literature Review Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) According to ISO 14040, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) refers to the “notion that for a fair, holistic assessment the raw material production, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal (including all intervening transportation steps) need to be assessed”.
It consists of three approaches Life-cycle management, Life-cycle inventory and Life-cycle impact assessment. The areas of protection in life cycle approach are human health, ecosystem quality, climate and resources. Life cycle impact assessment can be said as a holistic approach for environmental impacts. It represents measure of impact of a particular product e.g. computer which can damage one or more areas of production as shown in Figure 1. It not only takes into account the toxic emission from chemicals, but also considers land use, human health, radiations and loss of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Figure 1 shows the life cycle inventory approach. It consists of life cycle results, midpoints (14 categories such as ionizing radiations, photochemical oxidations, global warming etc) and damage categories (human health, ecosystem quality, climate change and resources).
The Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) methodology suggests a practical execution of a combined midpoint/damage approach, linking all types of Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) results via 14 midpoint categories to 4 damage categories (Iftekhar Uddin and Jannatul Ferdous, 2010). In one study Socolof, Overly and Geibig (2005) by using life cycle approach examined the environmental and human health impacts of functionally equivalent 17inch CRT and 15-inch LCD computer monitors. They found that water eutrophication and aquatic ecotoxicity impacts during life cycle analysis were greater for the LCD while all other impact categories (e.g., resource use, energy, ozone depletion, landfill space use, human health toxicity) were greater for the CRT monitors. In another study Duan et al (2009) also conducted the life cycle assessment (LCA) to investigate the environmental performance of Chinese desktop personal computer system which follows the ISO14040 series.
The results of their study also confirmed the environmental effects of computers. Figure 2 provides an overview of these results. In both of studies, the effect of computer life cycle phases on environment including human health is confirmed. By keeping in view the ISO standards which also emphasize the need of assessment of use of a product, this research aims to assess the prolonged use of computers and their effects on human health. Electromagnetic fields and Human health Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible lines of force that occur whenever electricity is being conducted. The two types of electromagnetic fields are ionizing and nonionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms. The loss of an electron with its negative charge causes the atom (or molecule) to become positively charged. Non-ionizing radiation is a series of energy waves composed of oscillating electric and magnetic fields traveling at the speed of light. Nonionizing radiation is found in a wide range of occupational settings and can pose a health risk to exposed workers if not properly controlled (Smith, 2010). Computers are also one of the sources of electromagnetic field.
However, because of complexity of the computer circuit the radiation mechanism of every part of a computer is not easy to explain therefore, currently no “electromagnetic radiation model” for whole computer system is available (Hong-xin et al., 2003). One of the reports of NYSUT federation explains that when a ray of oscillating electrons hit the bright surface of a computer screen, it produces a radiant image along with emitting radiations in the environment. These electrons hitting the computer screen also produce pulse electromagnetic radiation (PEMR) which continues for a number of hours even after the turning off the computer and negatively affect living cells. The hazardous effects of these electromagnetic fields on human health are not explored in a comprehensive manner in research. There are few studies concerning this issues e.g (Barnes, 2006; Mercola, 2010; Kanapeckas et al., 2007). These few studies have focused on the effects of prolonged computer usage on health in form of ion depletion in air, environment due to monitors, radioactive emission from monitors (xrays/gamma rays, ultraviolet); glare and reflection from monitors; electrical field radiation, electromagnetic field from monitors; static voltage build from monitors; chemical outgases from computer hardware materials and ergonomics (Lee, 1994). Briggs-Kamara1et al., (2009) conducted a research to investigate the impact of computer and photocopier operations in environment of Nigerian University. Their study confirmed that radiation profile of the University shows on the whole health risks.
Risk factors Awkward posture Repetition Duration/lack of recovery time Force
Description Includes computer keying with the wrists bent reaching for the mouse Performing the same motion such as keying, using a mouse, or other task every few seconds or on a continuous basis for hours at a time or even the whole work shift Working long periods at a computer or other job without breaks and changing tasks The effort it takes to move an object or to remain in a sitting, standing or other position for a long time (prolonged static exertion). Another type of force, known as contact stress comes from pressure against a part of a body, such as resting the wrists against a hard and/or sharp edge
Uncomfortable environment Organization of work
Poor air quality, improper lighting, glare, noise and other conditions Includes factors such as staffing levels, scheduling, workload and job pacing, electronic monitoring, performing monotonous tasks, and the amount of control workers have over how they perform their jobs. These are sometimes referred to as psychosocial factors
Source: AFSCME, 2006
Chad-Umoren et al. (2006) in two separate studies evaluated the radiation profile of the indoors and outdoor environment of physics laboratory of the Rivers State College of Education, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Kanapeckas, et al (2007) in their study measured radiations of electromagnetic fields at 124 workplaces in 42 rooms of Kaunas University of Technology (KUT). They found that radiation level is well below the measured harmful level. Several researches conducted by Center for Radiological Health and Devices, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Bell Laboratories show that Computer video display terminals “…emit little or no harmful ionizing (e.g., x-rays) or non-ionizing (e.g., infrared) radiation under normal operating conditions.”
As there is lack of comprehensive research regarding hazardous effect of computer radiations, therefore, some sources warn about violent impacts over people’s health while other sources are in doubt about these effects. The reason behind this is that mostly researchers have analyzed statistical data, for example range of frequencies and level of radiations etc; thus, it is difficult to evaluate the pure impacts on health. Additional Risk Factors for Human Health According to Marriam- Webstar Dictionary (2010) risk factor is “something that increases risk or susceptibility”. It can be said as the probability to occur a particular disease in a person. It can include working conditions as well. The risk factor associated with prolonged use of computer may cause many health problems. The most common risk factors that are source of most of health problems or injuries in computer users are shown in Table 1 and figure 3. Many researchers have confirmed that these risk factors have caused several diseases. The effects of computer work have been reviewed by some researchers. Punnett and Bergqvist (1997) reviewed 56 epidemiological studies on effects of computer work and concluded that use of computer and keyboard directly causing hand and wrist disorders and less consistently causing neck and shoulder disorders.
Blatter and Bongers (2002) found that about four hour use of computer per day produces musculoskeletal disorders of neck or upper limb in women and six hours or more of computer use causes these symptoms in men. Keir et al., (1999) in their study calculated carpal tunnel pressure among 14 individuals working with 3 different mice. They confirmed that use of mouse is a cause of increasing carpal tunnel pressure. Some other disorders are also associated with prolonged computer use. Many researchers (e.g Sheedy, 1992; Smith and Stammerjohn, 1981; Costanza, 1994) consider eye- related symptoms as more frequently occurring health disorder among computer users. It is known as Computer Vision Syndrome. Yan, eta.,l (2008) categorized its symptoms in three: (i) eye-related symptoms (e.g. “dry eyes, watery eyes, irritated eyes, burning eyes”), (ii) vision-related symptoms (e.g. “eyestrain, eye fatigue, headache, blurred vision, double vision”), and (ii) posture-related symptoms (e.g. “sore neck, shoulder pain, sore back”).
In another study Wang et al., (1998) found that if computer is used more than 30 hours per week and more than 10 years, depression, obsession and somatic disorders increase. Adair, Ashley and Chou (1997) complained that studies regarding health effects of electronic devices including computers are characterized by inadequate assessment of field study. No single study fully distinguished the effects of video display terminals use on eyes, musculoskeletal system and job related stress. The review of literature also shows that frequently occurring health problem related with prolonged computer use are carpal tunnel syndrome, back, neck and shoulder problems, computer vision syndrome and stress.
The researches conducted in this context have investigated these diseases separately. Still, no research has been reported in which all these frequently occurring diseases are studied together. Therefore, to fill this research gap, the present study by using field survey approach intends to investigate the prevalence of these diseases among prolonged computer users. The main aim of the study is to find a relationship between extent of computer use (per day) and carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, computer vision syndrome and neck and shoulder problems. The research questions addressed in this study are: To what extent carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, computer vision syndrome and musculoskeletal problems occur simultaneously among prolonged computer users?
Is there any association between extent of computer use (per day) and carpal tunnel syndrome, computer stress syndrome, computer vision syndrome and musculoskeletal problems? METHODOLOGY The study adopted field survey approach as primary data source for investigating the research problem. The nature of study is exploratory. Self administered survey was used because in survey, researchers cannot direct the state of respondents, hence helps to generalize the results (Yalcinkaya, 2007). Secondly survey is able to provide a complete picture of affected computer users and also able to increase awareness about these health issues. Sample In this research individual user of computer was the unit of analysis.