Television Radiation – Is It Dangerous?

Television Radiation

We used to spend a lot of time as a culture in front of the television. It was our main source of information and entertainment for decades.

We now spend just as much time in front of laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets. However, most living rooms have a flat-screen television, and children actually spend the most time in front of these devices.

Considering those facts, many people express concern about radiation effects produced by these high-definition modern marvels. They are large and consume considerable amounts of electricity.

With all that current flowing through them, certainly, flat-screen televisions produce harmful radiation that should worry us. Yet, that is not the case.

Here we will discuss flat-screen televisions only. In the recent past, these devices were exotic and basically considered toys.

Any neighbor who had one was splurging on unnecessary electronics simply because they insisted on having a flat-screen and also had the money for one.

Now, you would be hard-pressed to find a tube television of any make and would require you to undertake a lengthy treasure hunt through mom-and-pop appliance repair shops to even locate one, let alone one that still works. All televisions sold now are flat-screen models.

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So, are there radiation risks from modern television?

Back in the day…

Television Radiation

What Are The Effects of Television Radiation in Old TV Sets?

Vintage TV sets like the boxy types did emit a lot of radiation including x-rays that could be damaging if exposed to these TV sets for prolonged periods of time. When the damaging effects of TV sets were finally identified, users were advised to sit further away from the TV to avoid direct exposure. While the wave intensity and risks vary for different types of old TV sets, most of them did produce harmful waves. 

Before we jump into answering that question in full, let us consider where the very idea of television radiation came from. Its origins are actually from the early age of television, but the issue of radiation from televisions was not recognized until the 1960s.

Starting in the 1940s, there were concerns about radiation leaks from black and white television tubes, however, at that time there were no regulatory restrictions on electronic devices apart from fire safety. The same follows for medications where there were no laws stating that medication had to do what was it was marketed to do or whether it would cause death if used.

Needless to say, it was an era of unrestricted production without any governmental oversight. In 1967, the US government began to perform routine testing of television devices and found that several large-screen models, primarily produced by General Electric, produced x-ray emissions beyond what would be considered acceptable.

X-ray sources are very technology-dependent and are produced any time accelerated electrons, driven through a high-voltage system, are emitted and strike an object like a phosphor screen while traveling in a vacuum. This is an effect known as Bremsstrahlung, which occurs when high-speed electromagnetic particles rapidly decelerate after striking another atom and release x-rays.

Although not at the emission levels of x-ray tubes for medical use, concerns were raised regarding long term exposure and lack of appropriate shielding. These sources of x-ray radiation were found mainly in color television sets due to the increased current required to operate the picture tubes.

When testing was extended to all models, the conclusion was that all television models of the era produced unacceptable levels of x-ray radiation. It is estimated that over 100,000 television sets on the market at that time were deemed unsafe for home use.

Shortly after this discovery in July 1967, a congressional inquiry committee submitted and had passed the Federal Radiation Regulation bill, which was later modified to become the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968.

Additional testing was conducted by the National Center for Radiological Health, as well as the Public Health Service, and further safety concerns were put forth which prompted the Surgeon General to issue a general statement of safe use.

That statement related to the use of a safe viewing distance (following the inverse square law of electromagnetic emissions) and is the origin of the idea that you do not sit directly in front of the television viewscreen while watching your shows. Basically, the negative effects of the X-ray radiation emitted could be mitigated by distance and the standard recommendation was a viewing distance of at least six feet.

Regulation of television safety was gradually migrated to oversight by the Food and Drug Administration. To this very day, all cathode ray tube (CRT) television set manufacturers, as well as manufacturers of any radiation-emitting product including microwave ovens and medical x-ray equipment, are required to submit annual product testing reports certifying that their devices meet federal safety guidelines.

Modern CRTs, due to improvements in materials and design, emit very little x-ray emissions which is why the older CRT computer monitors were safe enough for users to stick their faces up close to the screen while working long hours at the keyboard.

Do Flat-Screen Televisions Emit Radiation?

Flat-screen television sets do not produce nearly as many radio waves as old TV sets and these TV sets do not produce any x-ray emissions at all. Modern flatscreen TV sets, as with all modern devices, do however emit a bit of EMF emissions but not enough to have any harmful impact. 

The level of EMF emissions is higher in smart TV sets that use wireless connectivity from Bluetooth or Wi-Fi routers because these electromagnetic devices produce an electromagnetic field. 

What About Flat-Screen Televisions?

Television Radiation

Harmful EMF emissions are mainly a matter of the technology used to produce the images and the amount of current required to power the devices. Modern flat-screen televisions and computer monitors, compared with CRT tube technology, are horses of an entirely different color.

Flat-screen displays based on plasma, light-emitting diode, or liquid crystal technologies are not capable of producing x-ray emissions. As such, they are not considered radiation-emitting devices and are not subject to FDA regulation for X-ray emissions.

What Types of Radiation Do Flat-screen Televisions Emit?

The short answer to this question is that flat-screen displays do not produce appreciable amounts of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation. There is a caveat, however, in that many flat screens are Smart Televisions and can use wireless router technology to connect to commercial television signals or internet sources of data.

Televisions used in this modality produce the same amount of EMF radiation produced by home internet routers. If flat-screen televisions are connected to data sources strictly by wired connections, EMF emissions become a non-issue.

Despite being potential sources of EMF emissions, due to the size of modern flat-screen televisions, viewing distances of less than two feet are quite frankly uncomfortable for use. This is the main reason that flat-screen televisions are not considered substantial indoor EMF sources.

As stated above, electromagnetic radiation diminishes dramatically in its energy density over distance, so normal viewing distances for these devices render them harmless for routine use.

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Who Sets Radiation Safety Standards? 

In America it is the FDA (Food And Drug Administration) that is responsible for setting the standards and also responsible for carrying out a radiation control program for all electronic products sold in the USA. 

This program is known as the Electronic Product Radiation Control program and is part of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. 

It is the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health that enforces these standards in relation to the performance of electronic devices. They do this to ensure that the radiation emitted by them will not pose a hazard to our health. 

The FDA has set a limit with regards to the amount of x-ray emissions a TV is able to emit. At this time it is 0.5 milliroentgen per hour (mR/hr) and this standard was set on 25 December 1969. It is a standard still used today and was applicable to all TV’s that were produced after January 15th, 1970. 

How Manufacturers Make Sure TVs Meet Radiation Standards

All TV and computer monitor manufacturers must certify that the products they make are able to meet the performance standards described in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Par 1020.10. 

To meet these they need to submit a written radiation safety report to the FDA. In this report it should outline how they make sure each of their TVs once they come off the assembly line comply with FDA radiation limits. 

Not only do these reports provide details of the manufacturers quality control and testing programs, but also details relating to the TVs radiation safety design. 

Furthermore in order to ensure that manufacturers continue to keep to these standards they are required to maintain records of all the data produced from the tests they carry out. Then once a year they need to provide the FDA with a report that includes a summary of all their test data with it. 

Should the FDA wish to, they can ask for radiation safety data at any time including any information relating to x-ray leakage from a selection of TVs. This way they will be able to determine if the manufacturer is still in compliance with the standards that the FDA has set. 

Any TVs imported into the USA and which do not meet these standards will not be allowed in and may be destroyed if the importer fails to export them within 90 days of them being brought into the country. 

However, it is possible for an importer to petition the FDA to gain permission to import such appliances as long as they are able to show that any violations to the standards set have been corrected. 

It is worth noting that flat screen TVs that use LCD (liquid crystal displays) or plasma displays aren’t actually subject to the above FDA standards. This is because these types of TVs do not have the capabilities to limit x-radiation, so are not deemed to pose a health hazard to the public. 

How to Shield Yourself When Using a TV Set for Streaming?

television radiation

Your TV set in itself usually doesn’t emit harmful EMF radiation. However, when this TV set is connected to the internet via a wireless connection, it can start to produce damaging EMF levels. 

There are quite a few things you can do if you want to block out or reduce the EMF levels your smart TV set produces. Here are some of the best methods.

Use a Wired Connection

When your TV set is connected through a wired connection then there should be no risk of radiation exposure. The easiest way to eliminate potential threats is by using a LAN cable for streaming instead of the Wi-Fi connection or by perhaps using a satellite TV broadcasting service.

Use an EMF-blocking Blanket

If you can’t manage a wired connection then you can also consider snuggling with an anti-EMF protection blanket when watching TV. These blankets are composed of special materials that block out EMF waves to protect your body from exposure.

Cover the Router

It can also be a very good idea to invest in anti-EMF fabric and use it as a cover over your Wi-Fi router. This blanket will restrict some of the EMF emissions from your wireless device. You can also line the back of your TV set in this EMF-proof fabric

Final Thoughts

Television radiation is a huge risk in older TV sets but if you have a modern flatscreen TV set and use a wired connection on the TV then you should be pretty safe while enjoying your favorite TV shows. 

Those that use smart TV sets and connect to the internet via a Wi-Fi router or Bluetooth, should be more cautious. These connection devices do emit EMF radiation that can be harmful to human health.

If you want to learn how to protect yourself from these EMF emissions then you should have a look at some of the other guides we have on EMF Risks. With our guides, you can block out those damaging radio waves and have a safer home entertainment experience.  

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