A dangerous way to stay in touch

news: A dangerous way to stay in touch

Dear Reader,

IT COULD soon be written on the new mobile phone, that you are going to buy your wife or child on their next birthday, that it could seriously damage your health.

I was surprised to read that 8.5 million people (out of 11 million) in Portugal use mobile phones. I was shocked to learn that one million children, under the age of 10, have a mobile phone in the UK. And this is not without the parents’ knowledge that these wonderful, little, radiating machines could possibly harm the health of their children, particularly the younger ones.

Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency, has called on parents to stop children under eight using mobile phones. Parents are obviously aware that the use of mobiles is associated with electromagnetic radiation as there are several campaigns being run against the building of mobile phone masts close to nurseries, schools or hospitals.

There is a real concern about the danger of these phone masts, but there is no doubt that using a mobile next to your ear gives your body an up to 1,000 times higher radiation than the radiation from a mast.

The majority of mobile phones presently ignore health warnings because of the device’s obvious, unbeatable beauties. In my case, I do not understand how doctors in the olden days could do on call work without one!

Mobiles make people more independent, give a sense of safety and clearly help to stay in touch. Clever advertising attributes many other positive feelings to mobiles like youth, popularity, sex, love and modernity.

I would ask you to consider the following if your child uses a mobile phone.

There is evidence that the radiation from mobiles (which is similar to that of microwaves but with much lower energy) could cause acoustic neuromas.

Acoustic neuromas are relatively rare tumors of the 8th brain nerve. They are potentially lethal. The nerves and other tissues of children are more susceptible to damage through radiation because they are in the process of growing.

Other side effects of mobile communication are much vaguer. They include headaches (I certainly get one if my phone rings too often), nausea, difficulty concentrating and skin changes near to the ear.

These findings are still only suspicions, but we will know in maybe 10 years how dangerous radiation from mobile phones is. There is a real possibility that it could be harmful. Studies in that direction are difficult to carry out and expensive. And mobile phone companies are definitely not going to fund them!

Advertising and peer pressure are so powerful at the moment that it is very difficult for your child not to want a mobile phone. You, as a parent, have an obligation to help your child make the right decision. You are more able to see through all the hype.

The average age for getting the first cellular phone in the UK is eight. Even in the States, children are older, the average age being 12 years. Why should an eight-year-old have a cellular phone? Most parents would say for safety reasons. Most children would say to play games. I would argue with you that a mobile has a real safety advantage for your child – probably the opposite. Your child becomes a target for criminals, who may steal the expensive new tool. Children are usually distracted when they are on the phone. I think that, when it comes to safety, it is better to instruct your child in emergency procedures.

Being a sceptic, I would also claim that 90 per cent of the information shared via mobile phones can wait or is not even worth communicating.

When it comes to adults, mobile phones are also particularly dangerous. You may have heard that the new Road Code in Portugal includes high penalties for the use of mobile phones while driving. That is easily justified when you consider research into the cause of road accidents, which reveals that mobile phones often play a part.

Here are some tips on the safer use of cellular phones:

1. Invest in a hands-free kit. It is

obligatory for phone use in the car.

2. Hands-free kits, if they are free of certain metals like iron, limit

radiation to your body. Ask your dealer about the safest models.

3. Buy the phone with the lowest

radiation values. In Portugal

measured in “SAR”.

Good advice is available from Which magazine or for more infor mation on the subject, try Google.

4. Do not carry the phone close to your body – the further the better.

5. Do not charge the phone next to your bed at night.

6. Switch off the phone at the petrol station

7. Educate your child on mobile phones and limit their use to

emergency situations.

8. Sending SMS is much healthier

for the wallet as well.

Be romantic

And finally, dear Reader, I would like to encourage you to be romantic and old-fashioned. What could be a better time than spring for writing a letter? No email, no SMS. A letter, maybe even a love letter, with real words – not symbols expressing feelings.

Dr. THOMAS KAISER MD, DRCOG, General Practitioner

I wish you all a wonderful spring.

Your Dr. Thomas Kaiser

Family Medical Centre, Quinta do Lago, Almancil Email: [email protected],pt