Are Mobile Phones Essential or Dangerous?

This is the question the country is asking. Mobile phones are considered by many as an essential part of modern day life, from the businessperson who uses the mobile phone as a vital link with the office, to the teenager who has the phone for recreational use. By using mobile phones are we damaging our long-term health just to stay in contact or worse simply just for a good image?

Mobile or cellular phones have changed dramatically over the past two or three years. The new generation of WAP phones now allow the user to connect to the Internet, send e-mail and even listen to the radio. The e-mail feature, a tremendous advancement in technology, allows businesspeople to contact their office at anytime day or night. Not only can e-mail be used throughout Britain but also messages can be sent globally. Sending e-mail is not nearly as expensive as the conventional methods of contact, therefore has the potential to reduce costs considerably for the company. The e-mail can be sent anytime, not just within office hours, and time differences between countries are no longer a consideration.

Many mobile phone users claim one of the main advantages of ownership is the ability to contact friends or family in the event of an emergency. Most women who travel alone feel more secure knowing that in an emergency or breakdown they can summon help without leaving the safety of their car therefore, the mobile reduces the chances of being run over or worse raped. By having your mobile phones with you could it be a silent killer?

The reduction in costs associated with owning and using a mobile phone, largely due to the introduction of the new pay and go tariff, means that many more people are now able to afford a mobile phone. The main disadvantage of this is that the networks can become overloaded and make it extremely difficult to connect to the network. The consequences of this could be disastrous, mobile phone owners are lead to believe that they can contact help in the event of an emergency when, in effect the crowed network may make this impossible.

Many parents are increasingly buying mobile phones to stay in contact with their children. In doing so are they endangering their own health and more importantly the health of their children? Many studies have been commissioned to assess the health risks associated with ownership and use of a mobile phone. Mobile phone emits a type of electromagnetic radiation called radio-frequency radiation (RFR). The possible health risks of RFR can be characterised in two ways: thermal and non-thermal. Thermal effects occur when enough RFR, at certain frequencies, is absorbed to be converted to heat, increasing tissue temperature. However non-thermal effects and their health risks are something of an unknown quantity. Though disputed, it's suggested they can occur at lower levels of exposure and involve changes to body cells, possibly leading to anything from memory loss and headaches to tumours and even Alzheimer's. So far reports and investigations have been inconclusive. The long awaited study by Sir William Stewart into mobile phone safety concluded,

" The balance of evidence does not suggest mobile phones technologies put the health of the general population at risk."

He did however recommend children should only use mobile phones for essential calls. In September 1999 an all-party of MP's agreed there was no firm evidence that mobile phones pose a threat to health. So it has been left to parents to decide whether or not the advantages of being able to "stay in touch" with their children out-ways any potential health risks.
Many scientists consider the mobile phone transmitters to be the greatest danger to public health. The planning laws at present allows transmitters to be erected anywhere in the country as long as they are under the height of fifteen metres. Until the evidence is conclusive as to whether mobile phones and transmitters are endangering public's health the government should enforce more strictly the regulations, which control the location of mobile phone transmitters. One way in which this could be done is to ban or severely restrict the erecting of these transmitters in built up or residential areas. The public have a choice whether or not to subject themselves to the potential risks of using a mobile phone yet this freedom is taken away when a transmitting mast is erected outside a school or close to their own home. With the experts unsure at present whether transmitting masts pose a health risk, especially to children under the age of fifteen, the ease at which telephone companies can site and erect these masts is, at best, irresponsible. There are insistences of mobile phone transmitters being erected outside Primary schools. Transport and environment minister Sarah Boyack promised MSP's in August 2000 that a summit would be held with all mobile phone companies to discuss the positioning of the transmitters but, to date no such meeting has taken place. Ms Boyack then added, " If we introduced planning barriers which were too high this could work against the interests of the Scottish economy." Are the government endangering the health of the British public just to accommodate the extremely large and powerful multinational phone companies? According to George Carlo, the mobile phone industry has pulled the rug over findings that query the safety of the world's 2000 million handsets. What gives Dr. Carlos claims weight is that this research was commissioned and payed for by the industry. The research costs were fifteen million pounds.

Another danger associated with the use of mobile phones is that of drivers using them while on the move. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a new report on wireless technology in vehicles. "An Investigation of the Safety Implications of Wireless Communications in vehicles." The report was largely inconclusive and plays it safe on the issue of whether mobile phone use increases the incidence of highway accidents. Recently scientific evidence has suggested that the radiation from the handsets can cause a temporary memory loss, although there is only a one in five million chance of this occurring. With the risk being so slight many will choose to dismiss this but what if this memory loss causes a driver of a car or another vehicle to crash and injure a family member or friend?

Even if mobile phones are found to be dangerous will they stopped being used? For many years it has been widely acknowledged that smoking causes cancer, still many people continue to ignore Government health warnings and continue to smoke and many more people choose to start smoking each week. With the mobile phone becoming ever more affordable will the people who use it stop because it is found to shorten their life expectancy or will the same happen as happened with cigarette warnings? Many people defiantly will stop using their mobile phones. Others, particularly those who depend on their mobile phone to communicate with friends or businesspeople, will not stop? One of the ways that the Government have attempted to discourage people from smoking is to ban all cigarette advertising. This strategy could be applied to mobile phones in a way that prohibits mobile phone companies from targeting the younger generation. The Government could also insist that mobile phone manufacturers include health-warning leaflets with each phone sold.

Substantial research supports the conclusion that the radio signals emitted by mobile communication equipment present no health risk. Periodic review by numerous government agencies, international health organizations and scientific bodies support the observation that the radio signals from mobile phones and other portable communications devices pose no health risk. The scientific consensus drawn from the weight of evidence accumulated over many years is clear. There is no evidence that the radio signals generated by mobile phones, transmitting masts or other portable communications devices pose a health hazard. The above evidence in my opinion provides a sound basis for concluding that mobile phones are safe.


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