Mon, 20 Nov 2000

Cell phones can be a safety hazard

JAKARTA (JP): Two men became involved in a quarrel when one of them told the other to turn off his cell phone while watching a movie at the cinema. It was obvious that they fought to control their emotions to avoid a physical fight.

This is one example of how cell phone usage can indirectly affect a person's safety.

But it is more about the real biological impact rather than etiquette which is largely ignored by most cell phone users in using this communications device.

One of the important things is, do not use cell phones while driving as it may slow down a your response time or make you miss seeing a hazard. Reaching for the handset to make or receive a call, or dialing a number takes a driver's eyes off the road.

In some countries it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving, although some jurisdictions permit drivers to use a hands-free cell phone.

For your own safety and security, don't answer a call on your cell phone while operating a moving vehicle. Instead use voice mail so you can find out who called. Or let a passenger make or answer calls.

Now about the actual biological impacts of cell phones. Some people complain that they get a migraine or a headache after using a cell phone.

Many experts and researchers have tried to explore the biological effects of radiation from cell phones. Many journals have also discussed this. But this issue remains a controversy.

One survey revealed that some studies showed evidence of gene damage in blood cells exposed to cell phone radiation. Others indicated heightened tumor rates in cell phone users.

But cell phone producers, who have also conducted research, claim there is no real evidence of any impacts from cell phone usage. They also point out that there is no proof that cell phones cause cancer or other diseases, and there is no evidence of biological effects from cell phone radiation. In short, they claim cell phones do not cause medical problems.

However, some nations have recommended children not be exposed to cell phones. Other countries have slashed allowed radiation emissions from cellular radio base stations.

What does this means? There isn't enough information yet to judge.

However, there is most likely good reason to be concerned. The proliferation of cell phone use means that many people routinely place radio frequency transmitters against the head.

Cell phones work at several frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum. Cell phones usually operate in the frequency range of 850 Mhz-900 MHz, and the newer personal near 1800 Mhz-1900 MHz.

The handsets operate at low power levels, but the antenna, which radiates about 125 mW, is placed very close to the head, which can increase exposure levels. That's why some manufacturers have tried to design handsets to reduce exposure.

Cell phones are a technological innovation that most people in big cities find useful in their day-to-day lives. Hopefully, manufacturers can prove that their products are safe or provide labels disclosing how much radiation cell phones emit.

Meanwhile, users with health concerns may try simple remedies, such as installing an external earpiece to distance the cell phone from the head, reduce phone use, or avoid using the phones in areas where the signal is poor as a weak signal from the base station causes modern handsets to increase their power emission. (icn)