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ISO International Workshop on Image Safety to Evaluate Screen Image Hazards

New York, Aug 24, 2004

In 1997, hundreds of Japanese children were hospitalized after viewing a popular cartoon show whose flashing lights and images triggered seizures and vomiting. Similar incidents over the years have made the puzzling danger of “photosensitive epilepsy” a strong concern of parents and scientists alike. The international standards community is taking a closer look at “image safety” with a workshop that aims to establish agreement on methods for evaluating the biological safety of screen images with particular reference to the hazards of photosensitive epilepsy, motion sickness and visual fatigue.

Image safety encompasses visual screen images presented on TVs, videos, three-dimensional (3D) displays, Internet and any other electric displays with an aim to reduce the risk to the viewer. Visual effects with rapidly flashing lights can trigger a number of physiological responses. For example, photosensitive epilepsy is characterized by seizures that are provoked by flickering light encountered in everyday life. Both natural and artificial light sources may precipitate seizures, but television appears to be the most common factor. Due to the frequent and prolonged television viewing and video game playing habits of youth around the world, children are at particular risk, although photosensitive epilepsy can afflict adults of all ages as well.

At its meeting in Stockholm in June 2004, the Technical Management Board of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accepted a proposal from the Japanese Industrial Standard Committee (JISC) and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology to hold an international workshop for the purpose of developing an International Workshop Agreement (IWA) on image safety. An IWA is a document arrived at by a consensus of the workshop participants. The ISO International Workshop on Image Safety will be held December 7-9, 2004, in Tokyo, Japan. The goal of the workshop is to establish the IWA on the following issues:

  • how to evaluate biological safety of screen images in terms of hazards, such as photosensitive epilepsy, motion sickness and visual fatigue, and
  • what are the methods for protecting people from those hazards
  • .

The workshop is targeted toward consumers of visual images and the devices that generate them, as well as those that design, manufacture and distribute these technologies around the world.

Interested participants may register for the workshop directly with JISC; attendance is free. To participate, download and complete the registration form and return by October 31, 2004. For more information, visit

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