A Modest Proposal: New York Should Outlaw Bloomberg Terminals


Sitting in front of the monitors is simply too big a threat to public health to do nothing.

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Look at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, standing behind a podium, as he so often does in his job. It's in that upright posture that he's spoken about bans on smoking, trans-fats, and now large containers of sweetened liquid. Perhaps it is all an elaborate attempt to distract us from something even less healthy. For elsewhere in New York, countless workers toil at the machine that helped their namesake become a billionaire -- the Bloomberg terminal, ubiquitous in finance. And get this: almost all of them are sitting down.

Yes, they are seated.

And "over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up," The New York Times Magazine reported last April in a story titled, "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity."
Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher.
Even more shocking, folks at Bloomberg News are aware of the science behind sitting! The evidence is right here:

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Still, they sell these work stations to professionals in industries prone to working long hours without warning the workers. Even tobacco companies have the decency to include a warning about their product.

Huh. "No Labels." The conspiracy deepens.

When Bloomberg started his crusade against soda in New York, he first tried to target food-stamp users, arguing that the greater obesity rates of poor people made them a particularly at-risk population. Although Bloomberg terminals can be found outside of Manhattan, the island's denizens are clearly the most at-risk from the branded-workstation-where-people-tend-to-sit epidemic.

And as Bloomberg said this week, "New York City is not about wringing your hands; it's about doing something." What better solution than to ban the Bloomberg terminal until if and when all of them are retrofitted as stand-up desks with built-in treadmills that cannot be turned off? Obesity is a nationwide problem, after all. How can anyone in good conscience let people who want to voluntarily buy these work stations do so when it will ultimately kill some of them more quickly?

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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