Experts have been weighing the possibility for some 15 years now, but there's still no consensus that electromagnetic emissions generated by a computer's video display terminal (VDT) are hazardous to human health. Not only are scientists at odds, so are bureaucrats: the government of Sweden has endorsed radiation standards that monitors ought to meet, but no federal agency in the United States has promulgated even a soupçon of a suggestion.
A commercially silver lining in this cloud of discord is that anxiety fosters industry. Described below are some products that have come to market in response to VDT-emissions fears:
The Professional Very Low Frequency Gauss Meter and The Professional Extremely Low Frequency Gauss Meter. Hand-held devices that, in tandem, measure the strength of VLF and equally insidious ELF radiation, and hence establish a relatively prudent distance from the source of those fields. Safe Computing, $145 each; (800) 222-3003.
PageView 15-inch monitor. Ultralow-emission monochrome VDT said to conform, via a special shield, to Sweden's most recent recommendations. Sigma Designs, $1,299; (415) 770-0100.
Eyesaver products. A line of nylon, glass, and stainless-steel sheaths that, when fitted over a monitor's screen and/or housing, decrease electromagnetic-field strength. Soft/View Computer Products, $69 for the Eyesaver Plus; (212) 529-2074.
The 8515 monitor. First IBM VDT to comply with Swedish standards. In 1989 IBM announced that all its VDTs would meet those standards by January 1992. IBM, $950; (800) IBM-9292.
The Safe Monitor. A 10-inch liquid-crystal-display (LCD) monitor that uses patented circuitry and exotic metals; Safe Computing claims it is the only monitor in the world that generates no radiation whatsoever. Safe Computing; black-and-white monitor costs $795 to $1,795; color, $2,400.
Currents of Death, by Paul Brodeur. The seminal opus on the subject, describing the health menace of computer terminals, among too many other man-made perils to contemplate. Simon & Schuster, $11.95; (800) 223-2348.
Radiation-free alarm clock. A battery-operated timepiece that illuminates the irony that the average plug-in LCD alarm clock emits more radiation than the average VDT -- inches from the unwary sleeper's head, at that. About $30.
-- Robert A. Mamis* * *