Picture of Martyn Overy
Mobile Phones: Are they safe?
by Martyn Overy - Saturday, 5 July 2003, 11:36 AM
There is evidence that mobile phones can be incredibly useful. This is the case for emergencies, when users require assistance of medical treatment or other public services, or when they have to contact relatives to relay good/bad news.

However, regular travellers on public transport in the UK would be forgiven in thinking that all mobile users all have incredibly loud voices, and that the users of mobile phones are determined that all the other passengers need to know that I am on the train or I will be home soon . This apparent disregard for other members of the public seems so real when the phone users become so involved in their own world, that they totally ignore or disregard the need for common courtesy. If this is not bad enough, it gets even worse when health and safety issues are quite apparent to any observer. In such situations the users not only represent health and safety hazards to themselves but also to other members of the public.

A number of health and safety issues can be identified:

1. The increase in muggings/attacks for the users of mobile phones.

Using that expensive mobile in public often invites other people to acquire your mobile, for profit or gain. OK, so you are the loser, financially. However, if you attempt to resist you could also be the subject of next days news.and serious injury. Your life and health is much more important than a mobile, irrespective of the cost of the device.

2. The possible dangers of users from long, sustained exposure to microwave radiation.

OKlets just say that the jury is out on this one. We all know that microwaves have a heating effect, from our microwave cookers at home or work places. Most food placed in a microwave should have some degree of water content. The microwaves in a cooker have a wavelength which gives rise to resonance in water molecules. They absorb the radiation, start vibrating like crazy, and this internal friction is the source of heat. The heat is then transmitted, by conduction, to the rest of the food. However, the intensity of the microwave radiation used for mobile phones is much less than in cookers, thank goodness. We are not out of the woods yet, since the proximity of the phone to the head appears to be a factor, as is the duration of the use of the phone. As with any low level radiation it is the product of power and time which is crucial in determination of damage to the body. Since no long term studies have taken place with these relatively new low-level energy devices, the cumulative effect of power and time has yet to be established.

3. The use of mobile phones when driving road vehicles.

How anyone can claim to have the same degree of concentration while conducting a conversation, with part of their brain activity on a different focus than the road, is one big mystery to many people, including other drivers and road users. While it can be argued that other factors can lead to distractioin from driving, the use of mobile phones appears to compound and add to these other forms of distraction. Drivers are often seen speeding past our school, with one hand on the wheel, and the other hand on the driving wheel. It has been suggested that we could conduct a survey, in which drivers are photographed, as they go past the school. However, we appear to be more sensible that those drivers, realising that the very act of taking a photograph could, in itself , be a hazardous activity, and be an additional distraction for drivers! At least in the USA they appear to take the lives of children more seriously, and show this by by placing 5 mph speed limits outside of schools in session.

Other issues can be identified. For example, the affect on the health of other members of public by noise and the invasion of their need for privacy. This will be discussed in the next installment of this worldwide problem.

Further reading/research:

More Dangers From Cell Phones

Schools alerted to mobile phone dangers

Danger of hands free mobile kits

Mobile Phones - The Risks

THINK! mobile phones

Cellular Phone RF Radiation Dangers?

How safe are mobile phones?

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