Scare stories last week that computers are bad for your health may have set your support desk ringing and had users clamouring for new equipment from the IT department. This is the kind of hassle your average corporate IT person can well do without. Uninformed users going off half-cocked after some lurid tabloid revelation about PCs are not likely to get a sympathetic response from IT workers struggling to complete Y2K compliance and Windows 2000 preparation, cover for colleagues on holiday and still find time to configure the new router that's been sitting in the cupboard for six months.
We've seen it happen with viruses, hacking and the Y2K issue - now it's the turn of monitor emissions. Real IT problems are taken up by sections of the media, distorted beyond all recognition and thrown back at users who believe the hype and panic - and throw it in turn at their IT helpdesks.
So let's put a bit of perspective into this. The research in question examined 100 people over two months. It concluded that computer monitors are responsible for up to a third of the symptoms of sick building syndrome.
This is not a very wide-ranging study on which to base such sweeping conclusions. The symptoms reported included runny noses, itchy eyes, tiredness and backache - all symptoms that could be triggered by a huge number of other factors, from hay fever to hangovers. On the information released last week by those carrying out the tests, it was impossible to determine to what extent these possible other causes were taken into account.
In addition, the experiment was testing a device containing crystals that, it is claimed, counter harmful radiation by vibrating at the same frequency as the human body. Indeed.
Research does need to be done into the possible harmful effects, short and long term, of using computer equipment. Just as strict regulations are enforced to help prevent machinery causing accidents in industrial sites, equally stringent legislation is needed to safeguard users against technology. But this research needs to be properly undertaken and credible, following a wide sample of workers over a long time. Small samples and the use of vibrating crystals are not the way to inspire confidence in your scientific methodology, and are unlikely to form the basis of safety legislation.
If users at your company are taking sick days at this time of year, you might like to quietly suggest that they're less likely to be suffering the effects of monitor radiation than hoping to stay in the garden and catch a bit of solar radiation. And if they're looking for health advice, tell them to wear sunscreen.
Australian government to require technology and communications companies to provide access to messages
New bill avoids demanding 'backdoors' in encryption, but includes measures to compel companies to provide access to encrypted communications
Indonesian overclocker Ivan Cupa (with the aid of a lot of liquid nitrogen) achieves record overclock on AMD's latest Threadripper
Ssupermassive black hole is so big it corresponds to four per cent of the galaxy's total mass
Imminent attack will target a single bank with cloned cards used to fraudulently withdraw millions over one weekend