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  1. Resources for You (Radiation-Emitting Products)

Television Radiation

Putting Television Radiation in Perspective

Man cannot escape exposure to some radiation. We are surrounded by natural radioactivity in the earth and by cosmic rays from outer space. This is called background radiation and cannot be controlled. We are also exposed to manmade radiation, which can and must be controlled.

Much of the manmade radiation people are exposed to comes from electronic products. These include diagnostic x-ray machines, television sets, microwave ovens, radar devices, and lasers. In some cases, as with diagnostic x-rays, radiation emitted from these devices is intentional and serves a useful purpose. In others, as with TV sets, radiation emitted is not intentional and is not essential to the use of the product.

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Do TV Sets Give Off X-Rays?

X-rays may be produced when electrons, accelerated by high voltage, strike an obstacle while traveling in a vacuum, as in a TV containing a cathode ray tube (CRT). Since many of the components in television sets operate at thousands of volts, there is the potential for x-ray generation. These components may produce x-rays capable of escaping from the television receiver or CRT. This unintentional emission of x-radiation can pose a potential hazard and must be controlled.

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Is the TV Radiation a Hazard?

Scientists have not identified specific health effects resulting from exposure to extremely low doses of low-level radiation over prolonged periods of time. However, the current assumption is that there is no threshold of exposure below which x-radiation may not adversely effect human health. It is advisable, therefore, that x-radiation from TV sets, as well as other commonly used electronic products, be kept as low as reasonably achievable. It was for this purpose that Congress enacted the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968 (currently called Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act – Subchapter C – Electronic Product Radiation Control).

It should be emphasized that most TV sets have not been found to give off any measurable level of radiation, and there is no evidence that radiation from TV sets has resulted in human injury.

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Setting a Radiation Safety Standard

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the responsibility for carrying out an electronic product radiation control program mandated by the Electronic Product Radiation Control provisions of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. Through it's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA sets and enforces standards of performance for electronic products to assure that radiation emissions do not pose a hazard to public health.

A Federal standard limiting x-ray emissions from TV receivers to 0.5 milliroentgen per hour (mR/hr) was issued on December 25, 1969. The standard is applicable to all TV sets manufactured after January 15, 1970. The overall effect of the standard is to require that TV receivers must not emit x-radiation above the 0.5 mR/hr level when tested under adverse operating conditions. Test conditions do not represent normal use and ensure that when used under normal conditions, TV sets do not pose a radiation hazard.

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Assuring That TV Sets Meet the Radiation Standard

Manufacturers of television receivers and computer monitors contain CRTs must certify that their products meets performance standard under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1020.10. All TV manufacturers must submit written radiation safety reports to FDA outlining how they assure that each set coming off the assembly line complies with the Federal x-ray radiation limit. These reports contain a description of the manufacturer’s quality control and testing program and the television radiation safety design. Manufacturers also must maintain records of test data and prepare an annual report to FDA summarizing these records. The FDA has the authority to ask for radiation safety data including results of x-ray leakage from selected sets to determine compliance with the standard.

Television receivers imported into the United States, which do not meet the standard are not allowed into the country and are destroyed if not exported in 90 days. Importers, however, may petition FDA for permission to correct the violations.

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How Safe Are TV Sets Today?

X-radiation emissions from properly operated TV sets and computer monitors containing CRTs are well controlled and do not present a public health hazard. The FDA standard, and today’s technology, such as electronic hold-down safety circuits and regulated power supplies, have effectively eliminated the risk of x-radiation from these products. FDA has not found TVs that violate the standard under normal (home) use conditions.

It is important to note also that flat panel TVs incorporating Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) or Plasma displays are not capable of emitting x-radiation. As such these products and are not subject to the FDA standard and do not pose a public health hazard.

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