Making waves, staying safe

Making waves, staying safe

In this era of mobile phone communication, the debate on the dangers of mobile devices has been going on for a long time. People never cease to have different opinions when it comes to discussing this issue.

For example, people living close to a cell site -- a cellular telephone site where antenna and communication equipment is placed -- are usually worried that it is harmful to their health.

But some groups of people argue that using high-powered smartphones or mobile devices can be more detrimental to health than merely staying close to cell sites. According to Jesada Sivaraks, secretary to the vice-chairman of the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the more powerful the device is, the more radio signal is emitted. Moreover, in areas where your phone shows less signal, the device works harder to get the radio signal from the antenna.

When we use mobile phones for a long time, the device generates heat which causes health risks to users such as, in my case, headaches. And there are a lot of power-consuming smartphone applications these days, which means the risks are getting higher.

I am one who finds the heat generated by a smartphone intolerable. So I opt for a headset just to avoid staying close to the device. Some of my friends, however, suggest that using a headset poses greater risks as the mobile signal is sent directly to the ear.

Despite the opinion of Jesada, staying close to base stations always makes me feel uncomfortable. When I visit my aunt in Chachoengsao, where high electrical pylons are located in front of her house, I usually feel bad even though Jesada explained that a mobile base station only releases around 20W of power, much lower than some home appliances, such as microwaves.

Smartphones today are more than just devices to make phone calls. They can function like a computer, and users can send and receive emails, chat, get access to social network sites, do online shopping and so forth. We don't rely on personal computers or notebooks, but we spend much more time on smartphones.

Despite the fact that there is no medical study to categorically argue that radio frequencies cause a health hazard, there are studies that indicate that it can lead to certain biological effects. Regardless, we must admit that we are undeniably exposed to risks.

Independent scholar Dr Sumeth Vongpanitlerd last year studied the health impact caused by electromagnetic waves. He confirmed that there certainly are health effects from electromagnetic waves sent from base stations. People living near them were found to develop symptoms like fatigue, headaches, amnesia and lack of concentration. It is possible electronic waves are carcinogenic to humans. Those who live 350-400m away from such pylons face triple the risk.

But some scientists still argue against such studies. Some say only electromagnetic waves at 0Hz-300GHz can affect humans. Some do not accept that electromagnetic waves cause biological effects at all.

Regardless of all the differing opinion, the question is how can we be convinced that the use of mobile phones does not impact on our health, especially in the long run?

In a world where the advent of new communication technology never ceases to surprise us, consumers will never stop believing that technology is helpful. In turn they will never stop using it.

What consumers can do is to use technology in moderation. Of course, smartphones are only useful if used when appropriate and necessary.


Sasiwimon Boonruang is a feature writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Sasiwimon Boonruang

Writer for the Life section

Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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