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Cover Story - Mobile Phone Safety Mobile Phone Safety

03 May 2004
Written by Peter Hammer

Media is filled with reports of different kinds of hazards allegedly associated with mobile phone use. The majority of the time media scares turn out to be unfounded, and for the concerned mobile user it can be hard to evaluate which safety issues are important. As a service to our readers, we have examined several safety aspects of mobile phone use, and evaluated the degree of risk in each case.

  1. Radiation

  2. Radiation is probably the prime health concern in the general population when it comes to mobile phones, and we have covered this issue in previous articles: Are Cell Phones Safe to Use? and Radiation? Who cares?!. Despite a multitude of studies, conclusive evidence to link mobile phone radiation with adverse health effects has failed to appear. The consensus view of health authorities around the world today is that the small amount of radiation emitted by mobiles probably is harmless. Although more research is definitely warranted, other risks in life are probably many times greater than this one.

  3. Driving and using the mobile

  4. Using the phone when driving has been feared to increase the risk of an accident, with some reports finding 4 to 9 times increased likelihood of a crash. Using a hands-free kit may help and is mandatory in Australia, but many experts believe that it is the distraction of carrying on a conversation that causes accidents. At the end of the day, there are many distractions in a car, and each carries a certain degree of risk. To minimize the risk of accidents, doing anything else than driving should be avoided.

  5. Mobile phones and petrol stations

  6. Warnings against mobile phone use at gas stations have circulated on the Internet since 1999, and occasionally been repeated in newspaper stories. Ringing mobiles could supposedly ignite gas fumes, leading to dangerous gas pump fires. However, considering that there is no documented case of this ever happening, there seems to be little cause for alarm. On the other hand, there have been hundreds of documented gas pump fires caused by static electricity. A common reason is motorists re-entering the vehicle while refuelling and unwittingly charging clothes against the car upholstery.

  7. Exploding mobile phone batteries

  8. There is a small risk that the battery in a mobile phone overheats and explodes. Although this is rare, the sheer numbers of mobile phones in circulation increases its likelihood. The response of the phone manufacturers is to blame after-market batteries, which according to them often are of poor quality and prone to short-circuit. It should be noted that explosions have occurred in phones with original batteries too. A good quality after-market battery need not pose a higher risk than an original.

To sum up our conclusions, using a mobile phone is a relatively safe activity. There are some simple steps to reduce the risks that do exist.
  • Donít talk for too long on the mobile phone
  • If you have to use the phone in the car, use a hands-free kit
  • Only use high quality components for your phone



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