At the turn of the century that new fangled gizmo, the X-ray machine, was installed in shoe shops so customers could see the bones of their toes wiggling in their new hush puppies. Forty years ago smoking was the healthy thing to do, promoted by movie stars like Ronald Reagan Nowadays we know better, of course...
After a brief spell as Father Christmas, MEL CROUCHER now returns in cape and tights as Captain Paranoia. The British Government, multinational electronics firms, the US Military — they’re all out to get you. Unless you want your eyes to be hardboiled by the time you’re 24, read the full exposé...
Nobody in their right minds would shove their head in a microwave oven and switch it on, would they? Nobody with any sense would keep a live x-ray machine as a household pet, would they? Nobody with any inside knowledge would stand for days on end in front of a radar dish until it fried their eyes out, or would they? As a matter of fact, they would. You would. You probably do, and I certainly do. My softening brain is no more than four feet from one such radiation source at this very moment. What I am talking about is my computer screen. What all these devices have in common is that they emit electromagnetic waves. These waves don’t rip great wads of electrons off molecules the way nuclear bombs do, rather they leave them in place but give them a tickle. This sort of wave is known as ‘non-ionising’ radiation. It is not only seeping out of your monitor, it crops up all over the place: around power cables, TV transmitters, even light bulbs, and it is very, very dangerous stuff indeed.
Unlike most wave forms, these non-ionising waves don’t occur in nature, and human beings have not had any time to develop any resistance to them. I am aware that some readers are going to accuse me of scare-mongering and sensationalism, so let me give you a few facts (and every one of them is well documented and proven).
In 1954 a radio technician named Sam Yannon was working for the New York Telephone Company, when he was given the job of running TV transmissions from the top of the Empire State Building. By 1965, doctors began to suspect that some sort of electrical waves were affecting his sight, his hearing and his mind. When he died in 1974, he weighed less than five stone, and his brain and body had fallen to bits. Legal history was made when his widow was awarded huge damages from the company, who were accused of killing him off with non-ionising radiation. Since then the American lawyers have gone to town, hitting back at the techno-killers left, right and centre, and more importantly, winning cases against computer companies, radar operators and TV stations. In one spectacular case a Texas court ordered a telephone company to fork out $25 million compensation for stringing up power cables over a school playground. A link with leukaemia was found!
Today in the USA, the Soviet Union and several enlightened European countries, the running of power cables near civilian buildings is illegal. They understand the risks and have banned this stupid practice. In Britain, the Government still denies that there is a problem, with the result that there are no laws prohibiting it. With the privatisation of electricity coming up this is even more a cause for concern.
In 1959, a boffin from Czechoslovakia named Karel Marha used non-ionising rays on rats. The rodents got confused, then they went crazy, and then proceeded to die of convulsions. In the same year, the Americans discovered that the Russians were bombarding their Embassy in Moscow with similar bonkers-beams, but didn’t tell their own staff for twenty years, apparently because they did not have a clue how to deal with the death rays. 50% of their Ambassadorial staff subsequently died of cancer, and 25% developed rare blood diseases. Now, those diplomats who are still alive are suing the socks off their own government.
The Americans learned a lesson or two from the Russians, though, and the next generation of anti-personnel weapons is already is use. Yes, folks, Ray Guns have finally crawled off the sci-fi pages and into the modern military arsenal. But they ain’t called lasers; in tribute to our sister magazine they’re known as ‘Zappers’.
Before these futuristic weapons could be used on the battlefield they had to be tested, of course, and where better than Greenham Common where a bunch of unarmed peace women were causing a bit of a ruckus. Since 1984 there have been 889 proven cases of the effects of Zapping on Greenham Women — all confirmed by doctors — including inability to move or think, sickness, irregular bleeding from the gums, nose and vagina (the latter in women aged over 60!), sunburn during the night and sensitivity to electrical objects like transistor radios and strip lights. When the Zapped women left the area around the missile base their symptoms disappeared, only to return when they were Zapped again. The code names for the weapons used are the Photic Drive, the Squawk Box and the Valkyrie.
This rather uncivilized scam was finally blown in December 1988, when the former Deputy Director of the US Defence Nuclear Agency, Dr Theodore Taylor, told a conference in London that the next generation of microwave weapons were already off the drawing boards. Taylor then proceeded to give details of what the doctors had already confirmed.
‘But what’s all this got to do with me playing computer games and using my word processor?’ I hear you mumble. Keep reading, gentle reader, keep reading. The latest fashionable disease is something the media have labelled ‘Yuppie Flu’ — you feel lousy, your resistance to all the usual bugs is lowered, and you don’t know what’s causing it. Chances are you work or play with a computer.
The Health Ministry denies that there is any link. But in 1981 the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health showed that certain groups of workers suffered what they called ‘technostress’. The groups included air-traffic controllers, TV producers, radar operators and (very surprisingly) video typists. It was only after the report was published that the researchers realised what the hell technostress really was. At first they’d thought it was caused by the pressure of work, but then someone came up with a very simple equation: the longer a worker sat in front of a computer monitor, the worse the symptoms got. The most technostressed groups of all were not air-traffic controllers, who work short shifts, but VDU operators sitting in front of their machines all day, every day: people like typists, travel agents and (god help me) journalists. We were all voluntarily Zapping ourselves!
Suddenly, other facts and figures began to fall into place, such as the fact that four out of seven pregnancies in a single Canadian office (the Toronto Star newsroom, 1979) resulted in deformed babies. All the women used VDUs. More scientific research has resulted in hard evidence, none more so than the shocking results of a survey of 1583 pregnant Californian women, undertaken by Kaiser Permanente last June. This proved that pregnant women who worked at computer terminals for more than twenty hours a week run an 80% greater risk of miscarriages and giving birth to deformed babies, as compared to women who do similar jobs without using computers.
I am sad to report that although the evidence is overwhelming, and despite the fact that over 17 countries have now passed laws controlling the use of computers in the workplace, here in Britain we are taking no urgent action whatsoever. This is a national scandal! Are the lives of British computer users less valuable than those in Sweden, Russia or Italy? I think not. The first proper British study is underway in Reading, where the spontaneous abortion rate of up to 400 women VDU operators is being studied, and the results will be out later this year. Big deal! There is no need to wait for this report, because the evidence is already here. It was published last October by the United Nations International Labour Organisation, and CRASH readers might like to know what the United Nations has recommended should be law in Britain.
The provisions are that:
I reckon the chances of any of these items becoming law in the offices, schools and factories of Britain in the foreseeable future are less than zero. In fact, just as recently as December 7 of last year the House of Lords rejected the European Commissions’s recommendation for VDU users, saying that they had no evidence that they are a health hazard. Such complacency is worrying to say the least.
But what you do in your own home, with regard to your own computer, is up to you. Make up your own minds, and maybe now you’ve read these facts you will change your computer habits. If you ignore them, the chances of you becoming a ‘Technostressed Zapped’ statistic are higher than mine, because I’ve just switched to a battery-powered LCD display machine for my work.