Does Exposure to Computer Terminals Harm Your Baby?

Computer terminals are the TV-like monitors that display the words and picture from your computer. These screens are also known as video display terminals (VDTs) and cathode ray tubes. In the early days of television, TVs emitted some forms of ionizing radiation (like x-rays). However, since the 1960s, TV tubes have used lead shields to eliminate this radiation. Modern TVs and VDTs do NOT emit any ionizing radiation. They do, however, emit electromagnetic radiation in other wavelengths such as radio waves and magnetic energy. The amount of non-ionizing radiation emitted by modern TVs and VDTs is NOT Òbiologically importantÓ. The scientific data to date do NOT support a significant link between exposure to computer terminals and problems with birth defects, preterm labor or fetal growth.

In the 1970s and 80s, some small, retrospective studies showed a “statistically significant” link between miscarriage rates and job-related, VDT exposure greater than 20 hours per week. These studies have been criticized by researchers for lack of control variables…..for instance, other studies done on women in similar settings have shown increases in miscarriage rates independent of VDT exposure when different job categories were analyzed. Also, studies from Italy, Finland, and one by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health could not find a relationship between VDT exposure and miscarriage.

Hundreds of millions of young women have had significant exposure to VDTs. It is reasonable to assume that if there is a significant association between VDTs and poor pregnancy outcomes, it would have jumped out of the epidemiologic literature by now. The substances in this world that cause birth defects are usually discovered within a year or two after their release to the public (for example, thalidomide, isotretinoin, etc). If there is a link between VDT exposure and problems in pregnancy, the risk is very, very low. There is certainly no increase in an identifiable patterm of birth defects (the acceptted measure for a teratogen).