Written by Bukola Adebayo
A gadget is a device or appliance having a unique purpose and function. At the time of their invention, gadgets are often way ahead in terms of novelty and uniqueness. This is what makes them so desirable and 'cool.'
That modern gadgets have changed the world is an understatement. No one wants to go back to the days of no television, no Internet and definitely no cell phone.
Each day, tech companies churn out the latest versions of laptops and mobile phones, while household and kitchen appliances are not left out.
While it is easy to get caught up in the rave of the moment, there is increasing scientific evidence linking 'electropollution' to the rise in cancer, birth defects, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, depression, learning disabilities and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
According to the World Health Organisation, 'electronic smog,' created by electricity, is "one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences." Experts therefore warn that it is important that one is fully aware of the ill effects of these modern gadgets on health.
Researchers at Carnelle Montelle University, Toronto, Canada, in a report titled, "Tech Injury," give a brief outline of how these gadgets impact human health.
This syndrome is associated with mobile phones, laptops and tablet use. The report states that those who engage in texting or simply reading while hunched over laptops easily strain their necks. Chiropractors say the pain can be severe.
The experts note that this habit affects blood circulation, which can lead to tennis elbow, whereby the exterior region of the elbow becomes sore.
Doctors in India say they see between 30 and 40 patients suffering from texter's neck every month, and they are mostly youngsters.
Physiotherapist and posture specialist, Dr. Lauren James, says those who hunch over laptops while working are prone to back pain due to bad posture. James notes that incorrect posture directly affects the shape of the spine and causes pain in the muscles of the back and the shoulders.
She says, "Eighty per cent of laptop users face the risk of nerve damage due to poor posture. Slouching on the chair while using the laptop carries the same risk, as it causes dowager's hump or the curving of the upper back."
This is popularly known as texter's thumb, which James says is caused by heavy texting. According to her, people who spend at least four hours each day tapping on their laptops or cell phones are at risk of developing this condition.
"This is for those who enjoy texting and spend hours chatting. Texter's thumb starts with a shooting pain, burning sensation, as well as numbness in the hands. The strength in the hands of the patients also decreases and they find difficulty in maintaining a grip on everyday objects," she states.
Corrective measures include wearing braces on the hands, which can be quite embarrassing for youngsters and adults who are mostly afflicted with texter's thumb.
Electromagnetic radiation hazards
According to scientists, EMR from EMFs can be disruptive to the human body's own natural energy fields. Like X-rays, these waves are not blocked or weakened by objects in their way. Rather, they pass into our bodies, upsetting normal cellular function and biological processes. EMR can cause headaches, tiredness and even immune system disorders.
Electromagnetic radiation is part and parcel of any electronic device, with mobile phone radiation and mobile phone towers being the most under the public's eye. EMR is associated with brain tumour, childhood leukemia and genetic damage under long term exposure, researchers say.
Scientists believe that appliances such as electric hair dryers, shavers and bedside digital alarms are more dangerous due to their proximity to the human head.
According to scientist and EMF expert, Dr. George Yao, the typical American is hit by electromagnetic radiation up to 200 million times more intense than what his ancestors absorbed from the sun, stars, and other natural sources.
For those who believe in the dangers of the mobile phone, exposure to cell phone radiation may increase your risks for developing brain cancer over time, according to experts.
A recent study by Finnish scientists found a 40 per cent increase in the risks of brain tumour for those who use these phones for more than 10 years. The brain tumour was most likely to be located on the side of the head where the phone was held.
In addition, a Swedish study has found that brain cells could be destroyed by mobile phone radiation; they warn that the present generation of teenagers runs the risk of going senile before their middle age!
In India and the U.S., clinical trials have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones very frequently have reduced sperm counts.
Obviously there is also some media hype on some of these issues. However, there is no question about the ill effects of EMF and, especially, the radiation released by cell phones and their effects on the brain of children.
Some studies are, to some extent, underplaying its ill effects. At present, most scientists agree that children under the age of eight should not be permitted to use mobile phones - a warning sidestepped by most lawmakers.
Cell phone use has been linked to anxiety. Experts say phantom vibration is the false feeling of thinking that a phone or any other gadget for that matter is ringing, when it is not. Associated problems include 'ringxiety' (sense that phone is ringing) and 'fauxcellarm' (believing that an alarm is ringing).
"You may not even know that you are suffering from these ailments, but try to remember how many times you have checked if your phone is ringing," experts warn.
The lead researcher, Dr. Manny Philips, in the study by Canadian scientists, which was conducted in a sleep clinic, concludes that sleep deprivation is quite common among those whose lives revolve around their electronic devices - be it laptop, tablet, phone, gaming gadgets or even the TV.
They note that those who use these devices before going to bed are mainly at risk, since exposure of the body to bright artificial light of the screens lowers melatonin release (a sleep-promoting hormone).
Even worse, it promotes alertness in the body, which makes falling asleep difficult and can aggravate sleep disorders.
Hi-tech gadgets are created to reduce stress, but their use often results in the opposite. Shocking ring tones, high-decibel tunes on some mobile phones, car stereos and headsets can take a toll on our health.
In all things, let us remember that moderation is key.