The recent widespread use and availability of mobile phones has lead some people to worry about the safety issues of these useful devices. There are a number of issues that relate to the safty of mobile phones. Firstly the devices are radio transmitters and although low power transmitters such as cordless phones, walkie talkies, radio control transmiters in toys, remote control garage doors, to name but a few, are accepted as harmless there are some additional problems associated with hand held mobile phones that make such a straight forward assumption harder. There is also the additional debate as to the rights of mobile phone companies to establish the transmitter / relay stations in public areas (such as near schools etc.).

A number of issues need to be examined:

* The problem of the safety of a transmitter antenna that is very close to the brain or other delicate / essential organ. In scientific terms, it is the problem that the power of any radiating energy source follows the inverse square law (very near to the source its actualy more complicated and of course does not go to infinity at 'zero' distance). This predicts that the field strength will increase rapidly when very near to the source - unfortunatly the head is near to the antenna (source) on a mobile phone - hence the possible safety / health problem.

* Are the screening devices that are avaliable on the market effective ? Do they really help reduce the power that is in the vacinity of the head or can diffraction, for example, occur around the screens ?

* Earphone / microphone extensions are avaliable that mean you dont have to have the antenna close to the head so greatly reducing the problem mentioned above. However some have seen these as being worse, as the earpiece wire can act as an antenna and so there is the possibility of transmitting the signal straight into the ear! Plastic tube devices have been made that direct the sound from an earpiece which is some way away from the head. Are there going to be social problems getting people using 'safe' solutions that might not look 'cool'. For example, people may not use the extensions because thay are going worry about looking like they are talking to themselves as they walk down the road ! judging by the street this does not seem to be a problem.

* The problem of long term use of apparently 'safe' levels of radio radiation.

* The relative safety comparisons between a digital and an analogue signal. Digital systems use a 'pulsed' (output On or Off) method of transmission as compared to an analogue system where the output is constantly changing. The (time) average emission may be higher on the digital system. However in practice it may be that digital systems work effectively on much lower powers levels which might actually be an advantage to the health issues. Is this true ?

Two very good articles are:
RADHAZ, Brian Collins, Electronics World, Oct 2004, P.30-36
Radiation Hazard, special issue Elector Magazine, June 2005

For some press articles and links of interest click below:

For information about a wave meter to pick up the mobile phone signal:
Wave meter


Dr Jonathan Hare, Room 3R253, Chichester Bldg. CPES, The University of Sussex
Brighton, East Sussex. BN1 9QJ. 01273 606755 x3171

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