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So Exactly How Safe Is Your Mobile Phone?
The Nation
Journalist: Kamol Sukin
June 17, 2002

Have you ever put your mobile phone next to a computer when its switched on? Have you seen what happens to the computer when a call comes in? And I mean the screen. You can see it dance along with the call signal. That was when I first realised how powerful mobile radio waves are.

Now wait a second, I thought, if it affects a computer that way what on earth does it do to me as I spend hours on the phone every day.

'Don't panic,' my friend said with that certain tone doctors like to use.

'Use the hands-free set. It is safer,' she said with an air of confidence.

I tried to follow her advice, honestly, but frankly I get embarrassed walking around giving the impression that I've totally lost the plot and am talking to myself.

But on a serious note, the question of health risks concerning mobile phones is a matter of heated global debate. Researches here and there come out with theories, both for and against.

And the maladies that could affect you if you listen to the detractors rank from serious headaches to brain cancer as the possible long-term impact of regular cell-phone use.

On the other side, the manufacturers argue that there is no scientific evidence to prove such claims. What scientists are in a consensus about is that 'it is possible' that your health could be compromised.

It is known that radio waves can heat up the skin and affect the cells of the nervous system.

So, the argument from both sides goes:

Are mobile phones dangerous?

Yes, mobile-phone users are at least 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer in areas of the brain adjacent to their phone ear.

No, researchers admit its unclear this increase is linked to using mobiles.

But there is one sure thing, more research is urgently required as the number of mobile-phone users grows worldwide.

In Thailand there were 4.5 million users last year, or seven out of every 100 people, and that figure is expected to double soon.

But lets go back to the hands-free set, the latest hot issue of debate.

My friends advice is not groundless. Reports have said that hands-free sets could reduce 95 per cent of the exposure compared to when the headset is pressed up to the ear. But don't rush to any conclusions yet.

A study by one consumer association takes a rather different view. It claims the earpiece cable of the hands-free kit acts as an aerial, directing more radio waves into the ear if the phone is in a certain position and the cable is a specific length.

As I said, the issue is complicated and conclusions are hard to come by.

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