What You Need to Know About Televisions and Radiation

Many people in their childhood would have been advised by their parents to not sit too close to the TV. (Image:  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
Many people in their childhood would have been advised by their parents to not sit too close to the TV. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Many people in their childhood would have been advised by their parents to not sit too close to the TV. While one reason for this was to protect eyes from constantly being exposed to intense light, another major reason was to keep away from harmful radiation emitted by the televisions.

CRT TVs

When black and white televisions were popular back in the 1940s, radiation leaking from the TV set was a hot topic among scientists. However, the issue only really became serious after color TVs were introduced. In the late 1960s, color TV models were discovered to emit X-radiation well above the accepted levels. This caused a panic among the public, partly because the memory of a nuclear war and radiation risk is still fresh in their minds.

In 1968, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Center for Radiological Health (NCRH) issued a statement advising people to not sit very close to the TV and to maintain at least a six-foot distance. The advisory warned against prolonged exposure from the rear, side, or underneath the TV set. It is this statement that eventually became a mantra for parents all over the world.

In the late 1960s, color TV models were discovered as emitting X-radiation well above the accepted levels. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

In the late 1960s, color TV models were discovered to emit X-radiation well above the accepted levels. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

In 1969, the executive director of the National Council on Radiation Protection, W. Roger Ney opined that the radiation coming from the TVs was so little to have any effect on people. And though a few panic-stricken congressmen from New York wanted to make TV manufacturers visit every single home with TV sets to install radiation devices, the proposal was never carried out.

Eventually, the fear about radiation exposure from TVs quieted down. The FDA also came up with new policies to regulate radiation-emitting electronics. Today, radiation from CRT TVs is a not a much talked about topic since the market has moved on to LED and LCD flat panel displays.

Flat panel and smart TVs

LED/LCD TVs do emit radiation. However, the amount of radiation is far lower than CRT models that it is really not much of a concern. One thing to understand is that CRT TVs used to emit X-ray radiation. However, none of the modern LED, LCD, or Plasma TVs emit any X-ray radiation. Instead, what they emit is EMF radiation.

LED/LCD TVs do emit radiation. However, the amount of radiation is far lower than CRT models that it is really not much of a concern. (Image: Sharp)

LED/LCD TVs do emit radiation. However, the amount of radiation is far lower than CRT models so that it is really not much of a concern. (Image: Sharp)

According to estimates, an average modern TV produces about 25 to 500 milliGauss (mG) of EMF radiation from a distance of an inch. This reduces to 4 to 20 mG at a distance of 1 foot, and 0.1 to 1.5 mG when the distance is 3 feet. So, as long as you watch your TV from a distance of 3 feet or more, there frankly is not any radiation risk.

As far as Plasma TVs are concerned, you may have to sit farther away since they tend to come in pretty large formats. Sitting close to a plasma TV can expose a person to a larger amount of EMF radiation. In addition, plasma TVs are also known to emit some UV radiation.

Today, smart TVs that enable you to connect to the Internet are very popular. While such Smart TVs use LED, LCD, or Plasma panels, they pose an additional radiation risk. This is because most people tend to use their WiFi connection with their smart TVs, which will expose them to radio frequency EMF radiation. Using Ethernet to connect to the Internet will minimize the risk to a good extent.

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