REBOL Technologies

Cell phones: Are they Dangerous?

Carl Sassenrath, CTO
REBOL Technologies
31-Mar-2008 22:35 GMT

Article #0357
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(Every so often I like to go off-topic. Here's one to think about...)

It's a game of roulette. Let me explain...

Rarely do I talk about my background in radio frequency (RF) technologies. You may know that I am an electrical engineer, and that RF hasn't just been an academic interest, it's been a passion my entire life. When I was younger, it was Ham Radio. These days, I run (for the community's benefit) a dozen or so television transmitters on a local mountaintop. And, there's been a lot in between.

Now, the thing is, these days I make it a point to never intentionally stand in front of a transmitting antenna. And, if you ask other RF experts, I'm sure they don't either. In fact, the FCC warns us too in the broadcast world, as does the Ham Radio license that gives hobbyists the privilege to use that type of gear.

So, what about cell phones? Are they dangerous?

Well, personally, I avoid holding them to my head. Instead, I like to use a headset. Sure, call me paranoid, but please don't call me stupid (well maybe in baseball and hockey, but not in the RF domain. I drink my morning coffee out of a mug that has a dBm RF power conversion chart on the side of it.)

RF radiation is like a game of roulette. You're playing the odds. The more hours you play, the higher the chances. Sure, most people won't have any problems. You can spin the revolver a great many times. But, with three billion people using cell phones day-in and day-out, even small percentages can add up. (Now, don't get too crazy about it or panic -- this kind of multiplication factor is relevant to many other domains as well... from drugs in your water, plastic in your food, to radioactivity in your basement.)

For cell phones the core issue is energy intensity over time. Certainly, a cell phone (~20 dBm) is no microwave oven (~60 dBm). But then, I don't cook my chicken nuggets for five hours either.

So, do I warn my kids about how they use their phones? You bet I do. (And, they will tell you.) Call me paranoid. Twenty years ago I knew not one person with brain cancer. Five years ago my cousin's wife died of it... and it seems like each month, I hear another sad story about someone locally.

Yesterday, my son sent me this article that claims Mobile phones 'more dangerous than smoking':

Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible...

Is it true? I've not studied the report, but Dr. Vini Khurana obviously feels strongly about it. Of course, the cell phone industry believes differently.

So, for now, it looks like you will have to reach your own conclusions. That's what I've done.

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