Radiation? Who cares?! - iMobile.com.au
22 May 2002
By Richard Browning & Kinny Cheng
Have you ever got off the phone after your third round of “freetime” and
felt that warm fuzzy feeling? No, not THAT warm and fuzzy feeling! The feeling
you get on the side of your face just after an extended phone call. Ever
wondered why your ear and surrounding flesh is warm and glowing a dull red?
Could it be the warmth of the phone rubbing off on your head or perhaps the
sheer grating quality of your girlfriend’s voice?
Or was it the side effect of holding something to your head for 20 minutes at
a time or perhaps something a little bit more sinister? Luckily for the common
man, there are some very interesting people out there who have researched this
very query for us.
The concerns of the general public for a long time have been in the field of
mobile phone radiation. People see a possible danger in holding an
electro-magnetic device very close to their brain and are therefore concerned -
worried and even stressed about the damage this may be doing to their health,
future well-being, life-span and the doctor’s bill. The main problem faced at
the moment, though, is a lack of conclusive evidence. Some research has been
done, but the results lack dramatic-enough results to stir a big reaction in the
Many people may actually be confused with what they are actually being
exposed to when a person is either using a mobile phone right next to their ear,
or just sitting right next to someone who is. Those same people may simply refer
to it as being “radiation”, which is probably correct if you know the
difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.
We all know that prolonged exposure to X-rays or gamma rays have been proven
to cause health problems, where these are classified as ionizing radiation.
Mobile phones and other similar communication devices (for example,
walkie-talkies) use radio frequency (RF) fields to establish links with other
devices - where these fields are classified as non-ionizing. In other words, the
difference with ionizing and non-ionizing fields is that the former can produce
ionization and radioactivity inside the human body, where the latter doesn’t.
Confusing these two together may lead someone thinking that they’re carrying
an always-on X-ray machine around in their pocket or purse!
The maximum amounts of non-ionizing radiation that mobile phone handsets
normally produce are around 0.2 to 0.6 watts, and are considered to be
low-powered RF transmitters. A walkie-talkie, for example, produces around 10
watts. Although far greater than a mobile phone, one must consider that a
walkie-talkie is not used next to the ear for a prolonged timeframe, while a
mobile phone is. Where the RF field strength decreases significantly when the
device is located further away, exposure to such non-ionizing radiation is also
dramatically reduced. Therefore, the use of devices such as handsfree headsets
and car kits are valid candidates in achieving a reduction in direct RF exposure
to the head.
But why do we still feel that warm fuzzy feeling at our ears after my “freetime”
sessions if we’re not exposed to cancer-causing radiation? One simple
explanation is because our body absorbs the RF energy that is produced by a
mobile phone, and becomes heated once absorbed. Where the RF fields initially
penetrate our body’s exposed tissue and works its way in, depth of penetration
depends on the frequency of the RF fields. In the case of mobile phones
frequencies, this can be up to a centimetre (no wonder we sometimes get those
headaches!) If you’re worried about getting a fever from using a mobile phone,
the fact is you won’t - simply because our body’s normal thermoregulatory
processes carries this heat away.
According to the World Health Organisation’s information on electromagnetic
fields relating to the use of mobile phones on public health, “all established
health effects of RF exposure are clearly related to heating; and while RF
energy can interact with body tissues at levels too low to cause any significant
heating, no study has shown adverse health effects at exposure levels below
international guideline limits.”
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