As featured on TM Forum's the Insider blog.
It seems a long time since we heard anything about the health risks associated with using mobile phones. These days it's more about the use of smartphones for e-health applications and helping people using the technology rather than dwelling on how the technology could kill you, a favorite pastime of the anti-technologists of the '90s.
It was, therefore, rather surprising to receive a newsletter with no less than twelve articles devoted to the perceived and proven risks of using mobile phones. Called the EME Update, and produced by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, the publication is incredibly informative - especially if you are paranoid about being brain-zapped or transported to another universe by all those electromagnetic waves frying your brain.
The lead article titled “Cancer Council Quells Dr Teo’s Mobile Phone Brain Cancer Panic” and opens with, “Australians should not unnecessarily panic about mobile phones causing brain cancer….mobile phones have been widely used in Australia for nearly twenty years now. Contrary to concerns about mobile phones, we have seen absolutely no associated increase in brain cancer cases in Australia or overseas.”
Now, before this prompts a wave of jokes about Australian brains from English readers, I should add that Dr Teo, an eminent Australian brain surgeon, raised the concerns when he was quoted saying, “I see ten to twenty new patients each week and at least one third of those patients’ tumors are in the area of the brain around the ear. As a neurosurgeon I cannot ignore this fact and while I may personally believe there is a link between brain tumors and EMR exposure, I need evidence to support it.”
His wish comes true in the next article that reports the Australian government providing A$2.5 million (€2 million) funding for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research. This comes despite the point raised in the next article that attendees at an Electromagnetic Fields Conference in Brisbane were told that International safety guidelines have remained unchanged for fifteen years even after millions of dollars has been spent by governments and health authorities on thousands of studies into the effects of electromagnetic frequencies on health, and current safety standards will remain in place with little change.
You will be pleased to know that scientists have also found no link between sleep quality and exposure to mobile and cordless phones or exposures from nearby mobile phone masts after studying a group of residents in Basel in northwest Switzerland for twelve months, and that devices designed to ‘shield’ mobile phone users are unnecessary and their effectiveness in reducing exposure in everyday use is unproven.
Despite all the concerns about phone radiation, the biggest threat to health comes from the other dangers mobile phone users expose themselves to. Using a mobile phone while driving, although banned in many countries, is certainly a major cause of motor accidents. Plans to ban the use of ‘hands free’ devices and the use of mobile devices in a motor vehicle for any purpose apart from navigation have been mooted in some states, but another article claims this would cause even more accidents as drivers try to conceal the use of their phones while driving.
I’m not sure where that leaves motorcycle riders in Thailand that manage to negotiate traffic one-handed whilst sending an SMS with the other!
Not surprisingly, the biggest threat to the lives of mobile phone users is walking. It seems that in Australia at least, the rise in the number of pedestrians being killed on roads in 2012 has prompted warnings from police and safety experts for pedestrians to pay attention to their surroundings when using mobile phones and wearing headphones.
With the massive take up of smartphones, talking is not the problem. It’s the constant attention being paid to all those pesky apps and games running on them. Seems that people would rather take the risk of being run over by a car or falling down a ditch than give up one precious second attending to Facebook, reading their stars or playing a virtual death-defying game. Forget those other modern day maladies like ‘repetitive strain injury’ (RSI), we now have RSD - ‘risky smartphone distraction!’