Is it dangerous to sit too close to the TV?

12 October 2009
Presented by Diana O'Carroll


We find out why we were told as kids not to sit too close to the television. Is there any scientific basis to the warning? Plus, we ask how it is that spiders manage to build such intricate and regular webs without geometry equipment.

In this episode

1950's television

00:00 - Why should we sit far from the TV?

When I was younger I was told not to sit too close to the TV. Is it an urban myth that it's dangerous to sit too close? Or does the TV emit radiation? Does this still apply to modern televisions?

Why should we sit far from the TV?

We put this question to Andy Karam, adjunct professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology...

Andy - Televisions really do give off radiation. But, having said that, it's only a little bit of radiation and it's not that dangerous.

What happens is that anything with a cathode ray tube, a tube where you shoot high-energy electrons at some sort of screen, when those electrons hit the screen, they give off very low energy x-ray radiation. This is the same way that x-rays are produced in regular x-ray tubes. So, if you're sitting close to a cathode ray tube, whether a computer monitor, a television screen, a radar set or anything else with that type of technology, you're going to be getting low doses of x-ray radiation.

Now, having said that, I've got to emphasise, they're low doses of radiation. It's not enough to be dangerous and, in fact, if you watch your television for several hours a day all year, you're getting less radiation than you would from a single medical x-ray and less radiation than you get from the radioactivity that's just naturally within your body. So it's something that we can measure, but it's not something that's harmful.

LCD and plasma screens don't give off any radiation at all. They don't use high-energy electrons. It's a different type of technology. I could not say that they're safer because I don't consider the radiation from cathode ray tubes to be a risk, but I can say that they give off less radiation.

As far as sitting too close to the television goes, the further back you are, the lower the radiation dose will be. But having said that, I don't consider the radiation dose even at a distance of just one metre to be dangerous.


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