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Five top emerging risks on students' radars

In an effort to nurture the next generation of insurance talent, the Verisk Emerging Issues team has been collaborating with students and faculty in risk management and insurance programs at several universities. As part of that initiative, students enrolled at Old Dominion University developed research papers for Verisk Emerging Issues that allow us to highlight the work of rising insurance industry talent.

Emerging Issues Weekly Digest

Students enrolled at Old Dominion University developed research papers for Verisk Emerging Issues that focused on five key emerging risks.

Here are five emerging risks that captured these students' attention.

1. The dark side of blue light

Many of us spend hours a day with our faces glued (willingly or not) to a screen. As a result, our eyes are awash in blue light. While blue light can be beneficial to human health, it has a dark side. For one, it can play havoc with our body's circadian rhythm, the "biological clock" which regulates our sleep cycles.1 Prolonged exposure to blue light, particularly before bed, essentially tricks the body into thinking it should be awake. The result is impaired sleep, which has been linked to several negative health outcomes, including depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.2

Blue light can also cause physiological damage through eye strain and age-related macular degeneration.3 To mitigate the dangers of excessive blue light exposure, ODU students noted that blue-light-blocking glasses have proven successful in research trials.4 A lower-cost tactic is to apply the "20-20-20 rule" by looking away from a screen to something else 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes (just not before you finish this article).5

2. Blockchain's voracious energy appetite

Blockchain networks and the cryptocurrencies that run on them consume immense amounts of energy. In fact, the blockchain network that hosts the cryptocurrency Bitcoin consumes more energy than entire countries,6 making this network a meaningful contributor of the greenhouse gases currently cooking the planet. ODU student researchers examined the scope of this energy consumption and highlighted some possible solutions to mitigate blockchain's ballooning carbon footprint.

3. Liability considerations for vaccine mandates

The "hot vax summer" we were promised never quite materialized, but the "mandatory vax autumn" is in full swing. With the federal government requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees, and many states doing the same, the issue of whether businesses can enforce a vaccination mandate on employees and customers has rocketed to the fore.7,8 Students analyzed the issue through the prism of the U.S. Civil Rights Act and explored the risks that digital "vaccine passports" could pose to individuals' personal health records and cybersecurity.

4. Pandemic payments and unemployment insurance fraud

The battle against COVID-19 is as much an economic struggle as it is an epidemiological one. The United States has spent trillions in relief for businesses, individuals, and state governments in an effort to stabilize the economy. While aid through programs like the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) rescued many from hardship, they've been a ripe target for fraudsters. ODU students examined the toll of unemployment insurance fraud—which surged an eye-popping 6,140 percent between March and December 2020—and how attempts to meet the needs of an evolving labor force of freelance employees may have contributed to a surge of fraud.9

5. 5G and the environment

By 2023, nearly 30 percent of North America may be covered by 5G wireless technology.10 The health and environmental consequences of the 5G buildout aren't fully clear, but what we do know presents something of a mixed bag.

ODU's student researchers noted how the electromagnetic radiation emitted by 5G towers may disorient and harm animals that rely on magnetic fields, such as birds, bats, and insects.11 Injury to these animals can cascade into the human population. To take one topical example, fewer bees mean fewer agricultural pollinators. Animals under duress can also be a vector for introducing new diseases into the human population.12

On the plus side, 5G appears to consume less energy than the 4G infrastructure it's poised to replace.13 What's more, because 5G offers improved performance over 4G, Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can regulate energy consumption and improve efficiency may proliferate, further driving down greenhouse gas emissions.

To learn more about potential emerging risks facing insurers, sign up for the Verisk Emerging Issues Weekly Digest.

The Verisk Emerging Issues team would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following student researchers:

Katlyn Nixon, Willie Johnson, Holly Roberts, Justin Foxwell, Bianca Neal, Emoni Eden-Clemons, Megan Mccarthy, Makoso Alain Nzita, Ryan Riggs, Dimas Rodriguez, Kristina Thompson, Bashayr Alsahli, Carshena Drummer, Savannah Hutchins, Chris Mazes, Colin Meadors, Evan Scott, Dereck Squire, Brandon Flores, Edwin Lin, Dom Carter, Robert Cohen Jacob Noble, Angela Blanch, Amari Simkins, Michael Griffin, Laura Richards, Nilaja Brown, and Melissa Orozco.

Learn more about the Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program at Old Dominion University or contact Dr. Michael McShane at for more information.

Andrew Blancher, CPCU

Andrew Blancher, CPCU, is director of commercial automobile product development and Emerging Issues at Verisk. You can contact him at

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  1. "Is blue light from your cell phone, TV bad for your health?" University of California Davis, May 29, 2019, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  2. "The health hazards of insufficient sleep ," Harvard Medical School, July 14, 2017, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Christopher M. Barnes, "Will Blue Light Glasses Improve Your Sleep?" Harvard Business Review, October 14, 2020, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  5. "Is blue light from your cell phone, TV bad for your health?"
  6. Christina Criddle, "Bitcoin consumes 'more electricity than Argentina'" BBC, February 10, 2021, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  7. Aron Beezely, et. al., The National Law Review, August 17, 2021, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  8. Adriana Belmonte, "Vaccine mandates: Employees paying to be unvaccinated is 'very much like smoking surcharges,' expert explains," Yahoo Finance, September 4, 2021, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  9. "Being unemployed is not a prerequisite to unemployment fraud!" Norton, < > accessed on October 4, 2021.
  10. Tim Fisher, "5G Availability Around the World," Lifewire, October 1, 2021, <,the%20entire%20country%20by%202025 >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  11. S. Cucurachi, et. al., "A review of the ecological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields," Environmental International, January 2013, < > accessed on October 4, 2021.
  12. Lynn Martin, et. al., "Stress and Animal Health: Physiological Mechanisms and Ecological Consequences," Nature, 2011, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.
  13. Renee Cho, "The Coming 5G Revolution: How Will it Affect the Environment?" State of the Planet, August 13, 2020, < >, accessed on October 4, 2021.

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