Sun, 06 Feb 2000

Cellular phones and your health, safety

JAKARTA (JP): Once I received a very interesting e-mail about cellular phones on my account. Curiosity lead me to read it because the subject was about the careless cellular phone usage.

The e-mail informed me that a young girl died in the intensive care unit of a hospital because a malfunction was caused in one of the life support machines she was hooked up to. The malfunction was presumably caused by someone using their cellular phone outside the intensive care unit.

Gas stations

Another e-mail that was forwarded to me was about one man being engulfed in flames when using his cellular phone while filling up his tank at a gas station.

I have no idea whether these e-mails were based on fact, but I am sure everyone is as interested as I am to know whether a cellular phone can cause death.

Some time ago, a man was murdered by a long haul missile after his whereabouts was traced and targeted through his cellular phone. This was made possible because cellular phones emit signals that can be detected.

Careless cellular phone usage while driving a car can absolutely put someone at peril.


It is advisable that electronic appliances, especially those operated by battery, are never used near fire. It is also best to refrain from using a cellular phone in or near a gas station.

Meanwhile, the GSM Association mentions that at short range, the radio signal from a cellular phone may cause interference in electronic medical equipment.

The risk substantially decreases at distances greater than two meters. While visiting someone in the hospital, if you must make a call it is possible to do so with a mobile phone in a designated area of the hospital. However, you should take note of any warning signs and the instructions of hospital staff and heed them.

If you have electrical medical equipment in use in your home you should seek the advice of your doctor or equipment supplier about the use of mobile phones.


The GSM Association says that brands and models of cardiac pacemakers exhibit a wide range of immunity levels to GSM and other types of radio signals.

Therefore, people who wear cardiac pacemakers and who want to use a GSM phone should seek the advice of their cardiologist.

If, as a pacemaker user, you are still concerned about interaction with cellular phones, it has been suggested by national health authorities that you: maintain a 15 centimeter (6 inch) distance between the cellular phone and your pacemaker; do not hold your phone to your chest, e.g., don't carry the phone in a breast pocket; refer to your pacemaker product literature for information on your particular device; and refer to your phone product literature for the technical parameters of your phone.


The association also explains that there is no convincing scientific evidence that the use of cellular phones can cause brain tumors or other cancers in humans.

It is the consensus of the worldwide scientific community that the low powered radio signals produced by a cellular phone do not have sufficient intrinsic energy to affect genetic material.

Independent scientific institutions around the world review all relevant research as it is published. The consensus of these expert groups is that there is no demonstrable evidence of risk to human health from cellular phone use. The association however, continues to support international quality research into this question.

Sophisticated and sensitive research methods using well-tried models for assessing health risks from other agents have been applied to investigate the safety of cellular phones.

Many research institutions and the safety standards and guidelines according to which such research is conducted, are controlled by government and independent bodies around the world.

Research results are continually reviewed at an international level by organizations such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).


I sometimes travel by plane and have noticed that several passengers, especially on domestic airlines, still use cellular phones while seated, though it is widely known that using such devises is not allowed.

Perhaps some people do not understand that there is still some aircraft avionics that are sensitive to radio frequency interference from cellular phones and other electrical devices such as CD players.

Also, when airborne, the radio signals from mobile phones can travel for hundreds of kilometers and this could interfere with the operation of ground-based phones.

It is therefore highly recommended that people heed an airline's instructions to switch off cellular phones. (I. Christianto)