Is a mobile phone essential to our life-style or is threatening our lives?

This is the burning question all over. Most people would not think twice about saying that a mobile phone is an inte­gral part of our modem day life- There are many others who cannot imagine their life without the gizmo. Be it a teenager for whom the only use of the mobile phone is recreation which he can jolly well get from umpteen number of device or be it a businessman for whom it is an absolute essential for his work, life without a mobile phone has become handicapped. By using mobile phones are we damaging our long-term health just to stay in contact or worse simply just for a good image? You be the judge?

The mobile phone is the most dynamic device in the market. It is changing faster than the computer. The new gen­eration of WAP phones now allow the user to connect to the Internet, send e-mail, click photographs, listen to music and even record full length videos. The e-mail feature, a tremen­dous advancement in technology, allows businesspeople to contact their office at anytime day or night. This feature is also a cheap way of staying in touch not just locally or regionally but globally, it is a major connectivity tool for any working man. 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 pow­erful feature about e-mail is that it can be sent anytime, not just within office hours, and time differences between coun­tries are no longer a consideration.

For most mobile phone users the main utility of the mobile phone is ability to contact friends or family in the event of an emergency. Most parents provide phones to their children so that they can know where their children are whenever they need to and it totally reduces the worrying. 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. But could having your mobile phones with you be a silent killer?

With the increase in use of mobile phones and the intro­duction of new technology which is making not only the cost of the handset cheap but also the usage of the phone results in many more connections since more and more people are now able to afford it. However, this does have its disadvantage, the prime being 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. So there develops a false sense of security.

Parents are now increasingly buying mobile phones to stay in contact with their children. Are they, by doing this, endangering their own health and more importantly the health of their children? Are they not just providing them a sense of security but a device which is slowly harming their viscera? Many studies have been commissioned to assess the health risks associated with ownership and use of a mobile phone. The results are for all to see. Mobile phone emits a type of electromagnetic radiation called radio-frequency radiation (RFR). The possible health risks of RFR can be characterized 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, and that is where the problem lies. Since the effects have to quantified it could possibly become too late when we actually find out what consequences we have to face. 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 tumors 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.”

It was not however denied to students to use mobile phones in cases of essential calls. There was an all party com­mission to probe the matter and even they could not come up with firm evidence that mobile phones pose any threat to health. Therefore now the only judge to decide on the use of mobile phones is the user of the mobile phone or in some cases the parents of the user, but please to keep in mind that it is better to be safe than sorry.

Scientists have come to some agreement when they say that the mobile phone transmitter is a great 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 meters. Since it is still not agreed whole heartedly whether the mobile phones do cause damage to health, there is still a lingering doubt in the mind of the gen­eral public and even the scientists researching the case, so until the evidence is conclusive 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 problem that will be circumvented in such cases is that even some people who do not use the mobile phone are anyways exposed to the dangers of it due to the huge transmitters erected near their homes. 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. The health and environment minister once said, “If we introduced planning barriers which were too high this could work against the interests of the economy.” Are the governments endangering the health of the public just to accommodate the extremely large and powerful multina­tional phone companies? The mobile phone industry has pulled the rug over findings that query the safety of the world’s 2000 million handsets. What gives the above argument weight is that this research was commissioned and payed for by the industry. The research costs were fifteen million pounds.

The health is not the only side of the issue that we are dealing with, 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 has been hesitant to con­clude that the use mobile phones while driving has caused any increase in the incidence of mobile phones, probably be­cause the report wanted to play safe. 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?

For any reason if it is found that the mobile phones are dangerous in numerous ways will their use be stopped? One classic example which could provide the answer for the above question is the smoking of cigarettes. 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.

There is substantial research backing the claim 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.