Reprinted from The Peninsula Times Tribune
REDWOOD CITY- A case of the blahs at work may really be a case of the “VODS.”
Workplaces where video display terminals are used are subject to contamination with discomforting positive ions, according to a consultant to the Food and Drug Administration.
VODS stands for Video Operator Distress Syndrome, and the troublesome malady is not uncommon among the millions of workers who use computer video display terminals.
Charles Wallach, consultant to the Food and Drug Administration on the effects of working with electronic video equipment, told reporters in the San Mateo County Hall of Justice and Records pressroom how to beat a case of the VODS.
Wallach, 64, works in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant to many government agencies and industries to create a more healthy indoor working environment.
The cause of the VODS, Wallach said, is a high electrostatic charge generated on the face of a video screen’s cathode ray tube. Government standards protect the intrinsic safety of cathode ray tubes. Wallach said, but the VODS nevertheless still can do bodily harm.
“This charge, which may quickly reach many thousands of volts when the tube is energized, is not in itself a hazard. The tube merely creates the hazard within the foot or so of air space between itself and the operator’s face,” Wallach said.
Those who work too close to the face of a cathode ray tube or who work before a terminal for too long a time typically experience increased fatigue levels, eye strain, blurred vision, skin rash, headaches, back pains, irritability, anxiety, depression, an d general apathy.
While the cause of these symptoms may also be a depleted bank account, domestic troubles or a tyrannical boss, they can be caused by the computer terminal, Wallach said.
The culprits that cause the VODS are positive ions or charged molecules of air, created at the face of the video display terminal.
What are needed in the workplace, Wallace explained, are negative ions. In contrast to positive ions, negatively charged molecules of air, or negative ions, promote a sense of well-being for people.
“Every place people like to be is rich in negative ions,” Wallach said.
Video display terminal operators need their negative ions.
“In weighing the evidence, I am convinced that the aero-electrostatic qualities of an indoor environment are the most significant single factor in the control of unavoidable indoor air pollution,” Wallach said.
Most commonly, offices need to install equipment to generate negative ions in the air above the video terminal operators. The devices typically look like small bristle brushes used to clean glasses or test tubes. They are suspended from the ceiling at t he end of long rods.
At the northern Santa Clara County Communications center in Palo Alto City Hall, negative ion generators were installed on the ceiling over the dispatchers about a year and a half ago.
Cliff Almeida, operations manager at the communications center, said Monday that the ionizers have definitely filtered out pipe and cigarette smoke.
But he declined to speculate whether the ionizers created a better working environment with less stress.