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Is Your Mobile Phone a Physical Danger?

The Big Picture

If cell phones played a limited role in society there would be no debating their safety. Wireless communication is packaged into hip, little slide and flip phones that defy location. Talk when and where you want, take business on the road and enjoy a growing range of extra features that deliver music, video, messaging and Internet capabilities.

Extraordinarily intuitive and convenient, though they are, cell phones are powerful telecommunications devices. Controversial safety debates rage:

Drivers Beware

Drivers that talk on cell phones while they drive may be at risk for accidents. A handful of states have made hand-held cell phone use illegal while operating a motor vehicle. Plug into a headset or hands-free device and then you’re safe, or so seems the message. But a growing stable of studies suggests that drivers engaged in complex conversations, hands-free or otherwise, are a leading roadway danger.

This argument implies that the safest legislation totally bans use of cell phones in cars. This platform faces steep opposition from telecommunications lobbyists and auto manufacturers. If everyone on the road right now were unable to dial into his or her cell phones, life would be vastly different. Business transactions would slow and wireless providers would lose millions of dollars. But maybe, just maybe, auto accidents would drop drastically.

Responsibility for driver cell phone safety is the part of so many distinct factions. Consumer safety advocates oppose telecommunications lobbyists, and state lawmakers seem to avoid the larger issue of driver distractions. But without all participants it’s likely that the cell phone safety debate would lose the thrust required to effect real change. And there will be change.

How Do You Feel?

Health dangers quickly catch media attention. Cell phones have been charged with causing brain tumors, sleep disorders, migraines, and lowering sperm count. But how much of this brouhaha is urban legend and how much is based on authentic research?

Wireless devices run on radio waves. Antennas emit varying levels of radio frequencies (RFs) that at some point are absorbed into the human body. The measurement of absorption, the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), is an indicator of this absorption. What’s the SAR of a cell phone? The FCC requires that all models of cell phones sold in the U.S. fall below 1.6 watts per kilogram. If you’re confused by the complex science, you’re not alone.

Hundreds of clinical studies have attempted to troll the netherworld of cell phone emissions. To echo the FDA: so far no conclusive evidence exists that proves a health risk from cell phone RFs. BUT studies still need to be done. Scientists have argued that research suffers when forced into short-term constraints. Consumers demand quick and speedy results, a demand that short-circuits authentic scientific study.

Knowing how and where to get the information you need to remain an informed consumer means half the battle is won. Cellphones play a major role in everyday life. Health and safety, on and off the road, is already a major concern. Get on board.


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