Wednesday, 15 June 2011 11:35

Mobile phones: a direct line to the grim reaper?


With all the controversy having been rung up over the safety of our mobile phones, should you put your smartphone usage on divert, or is the controversy just a missed call in a telephone-shaped teacup?

Mobile phones can cause cancer, say some scientists and some studies, while others point out that all the hoopla is little more annoying than a Crazy Frog ringtone.

Of course, while there's also concern about Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, nothing stirs up the cellular emotions like a good story on mobile phone radiation scares, with some accusing brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo of being too ready to take up the smartphone-cancer-causing cause.

A detailed article on the 'for and against' of mobile radiation has appeared in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald, with reporter Asher Moses presenting all sides of the story, including some standard tips on reducing mobile phone exposure - whether you believe the risk is real, or not.

The article even looks at those supposedly radiation-reducing smartphone cases, such as one called the 'CellSafe' for the iPhone 4, with its creators naturally swearing that the devices work and are a worthwhile endeavour, while others say they're just gimmicks designed to separate fools from their money.

There's even conflicting evidence, with some pointing to glands in the brain that definitely can get affected, while others dismiss the evidence virtually out of hand.

It almost sounds like the debate over climate change, but without the vitriol spewed forth by those who blindly accept the views of climate changers and blindly accuse those who simply ask for more rigourous scientific debate as being deniers.

Ultimately, moderation in all things is the natural and obvious answer.

Why overexpose yourself to the chance of mobile phone radiation, when you can take some simple steps, whatever the risk?

The phone continues ringing on page two, please read on and answer it!

Using your phone's speakerphone option is a smart idea, as is using wired or wireless headsets.

If you're in the home or office and plan to make a long call, use your landline phone instead of your mobile.

Tips from the SMH article also include obvious things like switching your phone off when you're not using it, although this isn't something that everyone could easily do.

Sending SMS messages instead of making phone calls is another tip, although surely the world's text-addicted youth has no need for advice that this age group has long since learned how to follow.

Other tips I've seen around are to switch from the left and right ears of your head when talking on the phone, especially if you feel the phone heating up, although in these situations I usually want to get off the phone as quickly as possible, or either place it on speakerphone or use a hands-free solution.

If your phone really heats up fast - buy a new one, because your phone really shouldn't be getting that hot.

One tip no-one ever mentions is to try and develop your telepathic capabilities instead, although seeing as ESP is often lumped into the same loony bin as UFOs, this probably isn't a very practical tip.

You could always turn your iPod Touch into a Skype Phone with a portable 3G hotspot, but that too is a very fiddly solution, and nowhere near as elegant as simply having a smartphone.

That said, I've read of people doing this, so that one's not as crazy as it sounds.

Your mobile phone is probably not going to be your 'last call', with plenty of vested interests on both sides and sadly, no utterly definitive answers. 

In short, if you have a phone, whether you use it wisely, or whether you gaffa tape it to your brain and keep ringing it non-stop to see what happens is 100% your call.



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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