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Mobiles give you brain cancer?

Take a message, I'm on the other line

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The obvious first step is to use hands-free speakers wherever possible. Parked on the table in front of you, the radio intensity of your pocket mobile is a tiny fraction of the power that reaches the side of your head if you hold it to your ear (work it out: for every two centimetres you move it away, using the inverse square law).

The next obvious step is to get earphones which aren't broadcasting in the same band. Some headsets are used as antennae by the phone, and if you plug them into your ears, you may be getting as much power as the phone itself puts out (unlikely, if you reckon that these antennae are far more efficient and allow the phone to broadcast at a much lower level). Ordinary stereo headsets, however, are more common these days and are less likely to be problematic.

You might want to re-design your Bluetooth headset. I've always felt that the standard design is silly. I'd rather have the Bluetooth in a "pod" clipped to my pocket, and a standard stereo heatset (wires!) coming up to my ears, so that if I bump my head, my expensive hands-free device doesn't fall into the gutter and down a drain.

Finally, you could consider using the phone as a text device, rather than voice. Send SMS texts, emails, and sound clip MMS messages, rather than spend long periods on the phone.

But the more sensible approach would be to ask for more data.

Ten years ago, phones were vastly more powerful than they are today. Typical power output was around six watts to seven watts. Typical power output of today's thin slivers of technology is a thousandth of that. The batteries simply don't have enough energy stored in them to broadcast at that power for more than a few minutes.

Even if you don't find that convincing, you might recognise that mobile phones may be (relatively) new to mankind, but wireless isn't. TV transmitters are long-established and powerful. How powerful? Try this quote (forgive me) from Wikipedia:

"Modern transmitters can be incredibly efficient, with efficiencies exceeding 98 per cent. However, a broadcast transmitter with a megawatt power stage transferring 98 per cent of that into the antenna can also be viewed as a 20 kilowatt electric heater."

Anybody living within a mile or so of one of the major TV towers should, if this theory of radiation-induced cancers is true, be riddled with tumours. So far, studies seem to have failed to have turned up such clusters. And studies of communications workers installing and testing microwave transmitters have also failed to spot any significant risk. Those systems go back a lot further than the first mobile phones.

There's one final area worth focusing on: The effects of wireless transmissions on naked flesh vary according to spectrum. The 2.4 GHz band, for example, is excellent at heating water (which is why microwave ovens use that, and also why Wi-Fi and Bluetooth stop working well in a room full of people), but move a little way up or down the spectrum, and the effects on water become trivial.

So, after collecting more evidence, if we do find that there are some spectra which are safe for human tissue, we can see if an international treaty can be drawn up to use those for personal communications systems.

The one thing that isn't going to happen is that the world will throw away its phones.

People do accuse the mobile operators of being in cahoots with the phone makers to hide "the truth" about wireless. If they are, they're wasting their energy, because as we know humans will carry on doing things that harm them.

We've known "the truth" about alcohol, motoring, tobacco, and saturated fats for ages, but McDonald's still has to provide huge car parks, and pubs and cigarette machines continue to flourish. ®

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