Calling about cell phone safety |

Calling about cell phone safety

Dr. Drew Werner

You can’t live with them, you can’t live with out them. Demanding and always expecting a prompt answer. Interrupting always at the wrong time. On the other hand a blessing in disguise and sometimes lifesaving. You know what I’m talking about – your cell phone.Dear Doc: My son is always using his cell phone! I’m concerned about it. Are they really safe?- Worried about too much talkingDear Worried: This is a great question with an answer that may surprise you. First, some amazing facts. In 1994 there were 16 million cell phone users in America. By 2001 that number swelled to an amazing 110 million users. Some people predict that by 2005 there may be 1.2 billion cell phone users worldwide! The number of children using cell phones has more than doubled from 13 percent in 2001 to 26 percent in 2004.So, what are the risks? There are primarily three. The concern raised most frequently by consumer protection groups and others is that of brain cancer. In theory, the fear is present. In reality, there has been no significant evidence to support any elevated risks of brain cancer. Other risks may be present, however, and an understanding of how cell phones work can help us use them more safely. Cell phones are radio frequency devices. In order to transmit and receive those radio frequency waves, cell phones generate a certain amount of power. That power is completely channeled through the antennae. The concern is the placement of that antenna near our heads. Phones that position their antenna farther from our head may have safety benefits.In addition to how the antenna is positioned, a cell phone’s wattage may have a significant impact on safety. Newer digital phones generally operate at a lower wattage than older analog phones. These newer phones are also able to operate at the lowest power to receive the signal from the base station.The radiation produced by cell phones is NOT enough to cause cancerous changes in humans directly. However, the radio frequency energy passing through the antenna does have the ability to increase the cellular temperature of our brains. This slight increase in temperature may be more pronounced in children’s brains that absorb more energy due to their head shape and ear structure. While no studies have conclusively shown that this minute temperature increase is harmful, neither have they proven cell phones safe.To get an idea of safety, the government has come up with a measurement called SAR, or specific absorption rate. The SAR is a value that corresponds to the relative amount of RF energy absorbed in the head of a user of a cell phone. The maximum SAR allowed by the FCC is 1.6 watts/kg. The SAR for wireless phones can be found at More information can be found at other risks are posed with cell phones? One researcher put it simply. If you talk on the cell phone while driving, you may never live long enough to worry about your brain. There is no question that drivers who use cell phones have more accidents. While “hands free” use of cell phones during driving helps, the distraction still puts you at far greater risk than non-cell phone users.In children, other risks are present. Regular use, as well as the fast rise in cellular instant messaging, poses distractions and disruption from school, work and social interactions. Like most things, there is a good side. Millions of cell calls to 911 are made every year saving lives. Our children can be in touch when we need them to be, and help is only a phone call away. But as with most things in life, moderation is the key.Simple advice to help keep cell phones safe:– Purchase a cell phone with a low SAR rating.– When driving minimize cell phone use.– Always try to use a headset or hands free set in the car to keep the antenna away from your brain.For our children:– Restrict your child’s cell phone use to emergencies and limited caller lists.– Prohibit cell phone use in inappropriate situations such as school and work.Like any privilege, cell phones are a responsibility. Use them wisely. Have a great week and I hope to see you at the rodeo. It is an experience not to be missed. Good luck to all our young people who have worked hard all year on their 4-H projects. I hope you can come out and support them in their displays as well as at the Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday, Aug. 7, at 4 p.m. at the fairgrounds. The auction is a wonderful time and a great opportunity to bid on the best livestock you’ll ever see (and eat).Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.

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