PREGNANT women who work at computer terminals are not more likely to suffer miscarriages or have babies with congenital deformities, according to the most authoritative study yet published on the health risks of visual display units (VDUs).
Scientists, led by Sir Richard Doll, who was the first to demonstrate the link between cigarettes and lung cancer, give VDUs a 'clean bill of health' and say there is no evidence that they emit harmful radiation which can cause spontaneous abortions, skin disorders or cataracts.
Their report, published today by the National Radiological Protection Board, analyses previous scientific studies on the health effects of VDUs. It concludes: '(There is) no good reason to suppose that low frequency electromagnetic fields encountered through the use of VDUs cause any harm to the foetus in utero. Skin diseases do not appear to be caused by electromagnetic fields from VDUs, although existing conditions may be aggravated. Work with VDUs does not appear to cause a predisposition to the formation of cataracts.'
Unusually, the report ends by saying that in the absence of stronger reasons for suggesting that using VDUs may be harmful to health, there does not appear to be urgent need for further research.
Fears over the risks to pregnant women from using VDUs go back at least to 1986 when the first scientific research was published indicating a link between using computers and miscarriages. Eight other studies since then have had varied conclusions.
The NRPB's committee of experts noted that spontaneous abortions are relatively common, with about 150 occurring in every 1,000 pregnancies, and as such it is likely that miscarriages are more likely to be noticed.
Health Effects Related to the Use of Visual Display Units, NRPB report Vol. 5 no. 2, HMSO pounds 10.00
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