Don’t put your phone on your tummy


I read a lot of scientific papers every week.  It seems that all over the world there are groups of scientists devoting their laboratory lives to study the effects of radiation from mobile phones.  One group even went so far as to suggest that pregnant women should not place their mobile phones on their abdomens as the radiation can get as far as the developing brain in the fetus as the skull is so much thinner than adults.

If that was not chilling enough, Australian scientists are investigating if children really are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation from mobile phones.

Apparently, a study of 110 adults at the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, partly funded by the Federal Government, confirmed mobile phones cause a change in brain function by altering brainwaves known as alpha waves.

The center, at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology, has been investigating the effect on 40 children aged 12 to 13, and 20 people aged 55 to 75 years.

“Although there’s a tiny effect on healthy young adults, there is a possibility that it could be much stronger in children or the elderly,” said Professor Rodney Croft.  However, there was no indication from the adult tests if the effect on health was positive or negative.

Mobile phones are hardly new technology, although the latest 3G variety seem to be able to do everything from cleaning the house, watering the garden and washing the dog, as well as making and receiving telephone calls.  There have been claims that using mobile phones produces brain cancer because people with brain cancer have used mobiles, and that is about as stupid as claiming that shoes are the greatest killer in the western society because 99 percent of people who died last year wore shoes.

Now one of the articles I read admitted that scientists worldwide agreed there is no evidence linking electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones to adverse health effects, but claims still persist that frequent use can cause headaches, nausea, problems with concentration, cancer and brain tumors.

The new Australian study comes as France’s health ministry warned parents to prevent children using mobiles when reception is poor or during high-speed travel.  Authorities in France advised limiting the use of mobiles overall.  This is almost as sensible as the (now rescinded) order in the UK that mobiles had to be turned off in hospitals because they interrupted cardiac pacemakers.  I am yet to see a pacemaker which comes with the warning “Do not use mobile phones with this device.  Communicate by semaphore flags only.”

However, there’s no smoke without fire, as it says in my local fire station and last year the National Research Council of US called for more studies into the possible health hazards of wireless devices and base stations on children, unborn babies and pregnant women.

Researchers fear children may be more vulnerable because the exposure dose received by a child’s brain is higher than an adult’s and their nervous system is still developing.

With one in two Thais aged six to 13 now having a mobile phone, children will also be exposed to radiation for longer than their parents.

A British study noted many cancers take 10 to 15 years to appear, and most testing had included few participants who had used mobile phones for longer than a decade.

Professor Croft admitted Australian studies using unborn or newborn mice had failed to find significant changes in growth rate, brain function and behavioral development.  However, I also believe we should keep mobile phones away from mice as they can play havoc gnawing on the cases.

The Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, Bruce Armstrong, said the French decision against excessive use by children was prudent.  “We don’t know that use of mobile phones causes harm to children but we don’t know with certainty that it is safe in all circumstances,” he said.

And that, gentle reader, is what it is all about.  We don’t know if anything is “safe” in all circumstances, but there is a burgeoning industry out there calling for funds to “prove” that shoes actually don’t kill people.  Give generously.