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How to Set Up a Safe Computer Workstation For Your Child During COVID-19

Mar 23, 2020

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How to Set Up a Safer Computer Workstation For Your Child During COVID-19


EHT has created this resource on how to set up a low-EMF computer/laptop/tablet workspace for all the families setting up telework for themselves and their children now doing school online at home.  

 Download TipSheet on Safer Ways to Use Computers 


With Covid-19 rapidly spreading around the globe, families are sheltering in place and setting up telework and education at home. People are on screens more than ever before. Thus it is more important than ever to take care of our eyes and health by reducing electromagnetic exposures. Environmental Health groups are sharing strategies for safer tech use for kids at home. 

EHT has created this resource on how to set up a low-EMF computer/laptop/tablet workspace so that your workstation is as healthy as possible. 

Disclaimer:  If you are experiencing symptoms – headaches, sleep issues, rashes, etc.. from EMF exposure (microwave sickness) you will need to take additional measures than are on this page.  www.electricalpollution.com is a great online resource. We also highly recommend contacting a professional, such as Building Biologist, who can inspect your home or other location, take measurements, and create a professional remediation plan.  This is not medical advice. 

Cell phones, computers, and all the wireless screens now ubiquitous in our lives create electromagnetic (EMF) exposures from both the wireless networks and the electrical systems they use. Medical organizations and hundreds of scientists recommend reducing these wireless radiation and EMF exposures. In addition, screens have very high levels of harmful blue light, also a type of electromagnetic radiation and blue light can damage our sleep and risk irreversible eye damage, especially for children. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly written to the US government calling for a review of our wireless radiation limits because children are more vulnerable to cell phone and wireless radiation because they have thinner skulls, a unique physiology, and bodies that are still developing.  

In short, here are some steps you can take right now.

  • Set up your computer/laptop/tablet station on a table with a chair. Not on your lap.
  • Move electrical wires and electric equipment away from your body
  • Reduce the blue light from all screens with blue light blocker films or glasses.
  • Eliminate wireless radiation from your computer by setting up wired instead of Wi-Fi  internet connections.
  • Ensure you are not sitting directly next to transmitting antennas- for example as Wi-Fi router or Virtual assistant speaker, or Wi-Fi printer on the desk next to your body.
  • Use a corded telephone, not a cordless phone or a cell phone. (We show you how to get one easily of you do not have a phone line.)
  • If you only have a cell phone, keep it at a distance on speaker and minimize use.
  • Connect tech peripherals and accessories with cords and cables- not Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This includes your printer, keyboard, mouse, speakers, microphone, headphones, and game controllers.
  • Always ensure there is background light on when you use a computer.
  • Charge devices away from working/sleeping/living spaces and preferably during the daytime. Do not use a cell phone while it is charging.
  • Do not use or sleep with a powered on or charging cell phone/tablet/laptop.
  • Do not use a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or wired headset for sound. Use an airtube headset.

Please watch Theodora Scarato Executive Director of Environmental Health Trust review how to set up a healthy workstation step by step in the video below.

Yes. You can do this. Want to take it step by step? Read on. 

Types of EMF From Screens and Computers

When it comes to screens and electronics, there are different types of non-ionizing EMF exposures doctors are cautioning us about. The two we will tackle today are wireless radiation which is radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Cellular antennas and extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields from the electrical system (referred to as ELF-EMF in this post for simplicity).  

Thankfully practical changes as to how we set up a computer workstation can often drastically reduce the levels of these types of EMFs. 

Children and Pregnant Women are Most Vulnerable

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, “the average radio frequency radiation energy deposition for children exposed to mobile phone RF is two times higher in the brain and 10 times higher in the bone marrow of the skull, compared with mobile phone use by adults.” Multiple research studies report cell phone radiation penetrates more deeply into children’s brains (Fernandez-Rodriguez 2015, Fernández 2015, Mohammed 2017) in comparison to adults. A 2018 study that investigated the wireless radiation exposures into the brain of teenagers from cell phones found that teens who used cell phones up to their head had decreased memory performance after one year. 

When it comes to screens, research also has found that Wi-Fi radiation from tablets penetrates more deeply into children’s brains (Ferreira 2015)

In the newly published study, Kaiser Permanente researchers found pregnant women’s magnetic field EMF exposure associated with ADHD.  The research team has previously published replicated findings of increased miscarriage  and in addition increased obesity and asthma in prenatally exposed children. Thus, low EMF computing is critical for pregnant woman who are now teleworking. 

As families set up computer workstations at home, we hope they can integrate these practical steps to reduce exposure to wireless radiation and other electromagnetic fields. We also hope this information inspires everyone to get involved in the critical efforts to create meaningful long lasting policy changes. 5G should be halted.  Governments should pass laws to reduce EMF exposures and schools and workplaces should have safe technology networks and infrastructure. 

10 Steps to a Safe and Healthy Computer Workstation

1. Set up the Computer Station with a Table with a Chair 

Computers, laptops, and tablets should always be used on a hard surface, rather than against the body. All wireless screens emit two types of EMFs, radiofrequency wireless radiation and electric and magnetic lower-frequency EMFs. As distance from the source increases the intensity of these fields will decrease rapidly, therefore electronics should never be on the lap. Always use devices on a table. Another reason for using a table is because bending over to stare at a screen can result in text neck and other damage to the spine and posture. 

Position the Screen to Just Below Eye Level.

The Maryland Department of Education has issued best practices on digital devices along with this flyer showing proper positioning.  According to Dell (a Chromebook manufacturer) laptops were never designed to be safe full-time workstations – they require modifications to make them safer ergonomically. 

  • Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at—or slightly below—eye level.
  • Once the monitor is raised to the correct height, the keyboard is at an awkward angle, so an external keyboard is recommended, along with a mouse. 
  • Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen.
  • Position the monitor at least 24  inches from your eyes—about an arm’s length distance. If your screen is larger, add more viewing distance.
  • Keep glare down by adjusting the screen position.
  • Ensure your feet are resting flat on the floor. 

A special thank you to Screens and Kids for directing EHT to the Dell instructions.

2. Reduce the Blue Light from All Screens

Blue light is well understood to impact our sleep and worse, it can damage the eyes, especially children’s eyes as they are more vulnerable. Light at night is linked to cancer and can cause or worsen many health problems because it robs us of the natural healing that happens during deep sleep. Many health authorities recommend we eliminate and reduce blue light to protect our health. Practical steps include:

  • Use a blue light blocker covering for all your computer/laptop/tablet screens including cell phones.
  • Use blue blocking glasses when you are working on the computer (This does not protect skin.) 
  • Some people will use a blue light blocker (which is a thin film that sits unnoticable over the screen) and then also a 100% blue blocker of hard thick plastic at night. However be aware that many of the thinner unnoticable blue light coverings on the market do not protect 100% blue light.
  • Download a program (like Iris) onto your device that will automatically reduce blue light at night. 

Shopping list

Support our non profit by shopping with these affiliate links. This allows us to continue to spread awareness and provide resources. We only share items that EHT staff uses. 

3. Step by Step Instructions on How to Eliminate Wireless From Your Computer/iPad or Tablet with Wired Internet Connections 

Wired internet connections not only eliminate radiofrequency emissions but also will improve the performance of videoconferencing, especially if you have several people in a home online at the same time. 

Step 1. Use an ethernet cable to connect your computer/laptop/tablet to the Internet. 

  • First figure out what type of port your computer has. If it has a place to plug in an ethernet cord then all you need is an ethernet cord and plug one end of the cord into your computer and the other end into your modem. 
  • However, many laptops and tablets do not have an ethernet port. Instead they have a USB or lightning port, so you need to get an adapter that plugs in to convert the USB or lightning port into an ethernet port. Then all you need is an ethernet cord and plug one end of the cord into your device and the other end into your modem. 
  • If you need an adapter, purchase an adapter that is a “[name of your port here] Ethernet LAN Wired Adapter.” For example, if you have a Lightning port, choose an adapter that says “Lightning to RJ45 Ethernet LAN Wired Adapter.” Double check that it is compatible with your device make and model; and make sure the name is “Wired” or “Corded” (not wireless). 

Tip for connecting multiple computers: Use an ethernet switch if needed. A switch is another small adapter that plugs in for ethernet and allows you to “split” one ethernet line into several. Switches are inexpensive and may be essential if you have more than one computer in your home. Some modems have built-in switches where you may see a few extra ethernet ports where you can plug an ethernet cord into your modem.

Step 2. Learn how to turn off the wireless/Bluetooth antennas in your laptop, tablet, and computer. 

  • Now that you have connected it by ethernet, you need to turn the Wi-Fi and any other wireless antennas to OFF in the settings of the computer/laptop/table. Why? Because even though you now have a cord connection, your device will still send out wireless signals unless you turn off the wireless antennas. Be sure to turn Bluetooth OFF as well. 

Step 3. Learn how to turn off the wireless antennas in your Wi-Fi router/modem

  • As an easy first step you can do today, power off the Wi-Fi router at least at bedtime and whenever Wi-Fi is not being used. 
  • Then, ask your Internet provider how to connect with plug-in cords and turn off the antenna features of your modem or router. Some companies allow you to manage the wireless antenna settings online so that you can simply turn them off at a specific web address that your Internet provider or modem manufacturer can tell you. However, the antennas inside the modem/router might automatically reset to ON in some circumstances, for example, whenever your modem is reset by you or your Internet provider, whenever the electricity is disrupted, or when your Internet provider makes big changes to its system that you might not realize are happening behind the scenes.
  • The best thing to do is get your own modem and router that does not have any wireless capability. This way you can be sure there are no sneaky wireless emissions. Some users say they need the wireless option so then we recommend getting a separate Wi-Fi router that has an easy-access switch on it you can push ON and OFF.

Note: Information on grounding your ethernet cord can be found here.

Videos that make it simple

No more WiFi: How to wire your house for Internet

How to Connect a Mac to an Ethernet Network

Shopping List 

Note: Information on grounding your ethernet cord can be found here.

Adapters for computers without ethernet ports: Remember to check make and model. 

Step-by-step instructions on hardwiring cell phones to the Internet

Thankfully  you can connect most cell phones, iPad and many tablets to the Internet with an ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi.

Note: This will allow you to use many applications on your phone, but not all of them.  Usually you can do everything your previously did with Wi-Fi for example. Remember to put the phone in airplane mode and disable the Wi-Fi and the Bluetooth.

  •  Get the correct adapter for the phone.
  •  Plug an ethernet cable into the output of your router/switch and plug the other side into  adapter for your phone.
  •  Put the device in airplane mode and be sure to turn OFF Wi-Fi , Siri and Bluetooth.
  • EHT recommends limiting  use of this set up and preferring  other. forms of communication  (landline phone) because it still creates ELF exposures. Note: This set up can increase electric and magnetic fields, even though it eliminates the wireless source. Liz Menkes, Certified Building Biologist states that the Foinnex lightning to ethernet adapter can convey a grounding and shares that, “It is important to use components that convey grounding in order to reduce the electric fields. Here are components that my colleagues and I have tested that successfully convey grounding.  You need all three of these components:1) Foinnex lightning to ethernet adapter.  Other brands of adapters we have tested do not convey grounding. This is the only adapter I am aware of that conveys grounding.  There may be others that I am not aware of.; 2) Shielded ethernet cable (such as cat 7);3) Ethernet grounding adapter kit.”

Videos make it easy

Ethernet for smartphones and tablets

Wired Ethernet LAN Connectivity for Your Android Phone

Connect Android or Laptop to Ethernet cable or any USB device using Ethernet/USB Adapter

How to use Ethernet/LAN on mobile phone/Android 8.0

 

4. Use A Corded Telephone

Every office needs a telephone. Ideally, subscribe to a copper landline service. Use a corded (not cordless) phone instead of a cell phone. Copper landlines are the most secure in cases of emergency, and they always work even during an electricity outage. However, many people are not able to get a copper landline and use other types of safe corded telephones. 

If you cannot get a copper landline in your area, options for corded phones include: 

  • Purchase a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system and be sure the equipment is not wireless. Then run a corded line from the VoIP station to your corded (not cordless) phone. 
  • As an example Magic Jack —MagicJack is an extremely cheap VoIP provider that works by using your existing Internet connection to make and receive calls.  MagicJack provides a plug-and-play device (like a USB drive) that you can connect to your computer or high-speed modem to start making local and long-distance calls.  There is a low annual fee for the service with no additional charges for phone calls.
  • Purchase a telephone line connection from your Internet provider. This allows you to plug a corded phone into the modem.  
  • Use Skype or another Internet application with a wired connection for voice calls. 
  • Here is how you text to cell phone without a cell phone. Go to  Textnow.com — Sign up for a free virtual phone number and text for free to people who use cell phones.  Send images and make phone calls from your computer like Google Voice without being concerned about keeping your calls and data private.  Call anywhere in the US for free. (Note: All of these platforms have security risks.)

Trade-in your home/office cordless phones for corded phones. 

  • Most home/office cordless phone base stations constantly emit intense levels of wireless microwave radiation regardless whether or not any connected cordless handset is in use. The cordless phone handsets also emit microwave radiation. However, if you have a corded landline system (that does not have extra cordless handsets), there will be no wireless radiation emissions. This simple step can substantially reduce your daily microwave radiation exposures.
  • Corded phones (with the curly cord) are easily found in stores or online. We recommend choosing a low-EMF phone as some corded phone handsets emit strong magnetic fields. Phones that have the dial pad on the handset tend to have higher electromagnetic fields (EMF). If you want to have caller ID you will want to purchase a phone that is “line powered” so that it uses a battery and does not need to be plugged into electricity. 

Shopping List

5. Use Safe Tech Accessories 

Connect tech peripherals and accessories with cords and cables: this includes your printer, keyboard, mouse, speakers, microphone, headphones, and game controllers.

Your first step is to inspect the device or its instructions to see if you can turn off the wireless antennas so it operates connected by a cord. If it does not have corded capability, replace it with one that does, preferably without any wireless/Bluetooth capability or at least with the capability to turn off the wireless and Bluetooth capability. Often you can order these accessories online.  

  • A mouse with a cord usually has no wireless radiation emissions (there is no setting to change).
  • Be sure to use cords to connect game stations and controllers: Choose gaming devices that have the option to connect the hand controllers with a cord.
  • Wi-Fi printers are a hidden source of constant Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth emissions. The safest choice is a non-wireless printer that connects to the computer with a cord. Some wireless printers allow the wireless antennae to be turned off via an internal network setting, so contact the manufacturer for directions if your printer has wireless connectivity. For some machines, the “OFF” setting is retained in memory, but for some machines you must reset to “OFF” each time you power on. Also, whether or not the “OFF” setting is retained, during each powering on start-up procedure some machines do self-diagnostics that include checking the ability to emit a very strong Wi-Fi signal, so it is wise to distance yourself from the device during its start-up procedures. 

Shopping list

6. Move Electrical Wires and Electric Equipment Away from Your Body

Ensure the modem, printer, all cables, and all wires are as far away from your body as possible. It is worth it to organize them into an area along the wall as far from where you sit, as much as you can. Every inch of distance makes a huge difference. 

Note: Do not sleep wth your cell phone or electrical equipment near your body.  Instead use a battery powered alarm clock.

Shopping list

7. Lighting

Always ensure there is background light on when you use a computer. Do not use a computer in the dark. However, do not use fluorescent lights, especially  in a desk lamp sitting on your work desk. These fluorescent lights can leak UV rays, emit high levels of blue light, and contain toxic mercury. Strong bright LEDs close to your face also can impact your health due to the blue light.

Learn more about how to reduce electromagnetic interference and safer lighting here

8. Charge Devices in a Safer Way

Use wired charging systems for devices. Do not use wireless charging systems. 

When you charge a phone or other electronic device, the device and cord will emit stronger levels of various types of electromagnetic radiation. 

  • Charge devices away from working/sleeping/living spaces and preferably during the daytime. Do not use a cell phone while it is charging. 
  • Do not sleep with a powered on or charging cell phone/tablet/laptop. 

Use your laptop running on battery (rather than while charging) as much as possible.

People often use their laptops while plugged into the charger. However various types of EMFs are more intense emissions from a charging laptop because the device is plugged into electricity, especially if you are using a two-prong power cable (that isn’t grounded). Read how laptop manufacturers clearly state the human body conducts electricity from the laptop with a two prong plug here

  • Charge your laptop during breaks and away from your body. When you sit down to work, unplug the charger from the wall and from your device. Ensure the laptop is charging on a hard surface, not a soft cushion. Whenever your device has finished charging, unplug it from the charger and unplug the charger from the electrical power. 

Use a three prong grounded power cable

  • Use a grounded power cable. A grounded charging cable has three prongs in the plug that goes into the wall electrical outlet. Mac laptops do not come with a three-prong plug but you easily can order it online and connect your charger to it. 

9. Sound: Do Not use a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Wired Headset. Use an Airtube Headset. 

You heard that right. Wired headphones from your computer to your ears can allow some electromagnetic radiation to travel up the wire and directly into your brain. Prefer a wired speaker, or if you need a headset use airtube headsets. The airtube stops the EMFs from traveling to your head. 

Bluetooth or wireless headsets will create wireless radiation exposures right near your head.

10. Measure the Levels Yourself. 

Understanding the actual intensity levels of the various types of electromagnetic radiation in your home is very important. You will detect sneaky sources of EMFs and also have a great tool to raise awareness among family, friends, and in your neighborhood.

Meters shown in our video

Safe Living Technologies is a company that sells Safe and Sound Meters and many materials to reduce EMFs https://slt.co/Products/RFMeters/SafeandSoundProIIRFMeter.aspx

The Acoustimeter  with lights that show peaks and averages can be found at https://amzn.to/3dRoTcb.

Note: there are many meters on the market. You might want to get your library to get a grant so that people can check one out of the library.

 

If you follow these steps you will be able to reduce a large amount of unnecessary electromagnetic fields from your computer area, therefore significantly reducing the dose intensity and duration of your firsthand and secondhand EMF exposures, and reducing the EMF footprint you make. These are the basics. 

However, for more health-protective choices or if you may be experiencing EMF-related impairment or illness already, there are more steps you can take.

Please check out www.electricalpollution.com which has more details on how you can furthur reduce EMFs. See also  Jeromy Johnson’s website for more resources on reducing EMF in your home. 

We also highly recommend contacting a professional, such as Building Biologist, who can inspect your home or other location, take measurements, and offer practical tips, especially if the steps you take on your own seem to not be helpful enough.  Jeromy Johnson  also has professionals in the USA and internationally. 

Additional Resources

Safe Tech Shopping Checklist

Environmental Health Trust has compiled a list of items you might need below.  By shopping using the affiliate links on this page we -as a non profit- will earn a small commission. Your support of Environmental Health Trust allows us to expand our resources and outreach to help us spread the word about safe technology. 

For Blue Light

Ethernet adapters for computers/tablets/cell phones: Remember to check the make and model.

Ethernet Adapter for IPad

Telephones

For Charging

Three prong Extension Cord Wall Cord Cable for Apple Mac iBook MacBook Pro 

Accessories

Radiofrequency EMF Meters

Electromagnetic Interference  can be found by a Radio Shack AM Radio Model 12-467   found on ebay.

 

 

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