The phone radiation and safety debate is still going on. Seriously?

elf and safety
Image credit: antoniodiaz /

It seems bizarre but a debate that we thought had fizzled out over 25 years ago just sputtered back to life. The waste of money alone is eye watering. It is about the health and safety of mobile phones, particularly among adolescents.

The debate 25 years ago was actually the only one that was needed.

There was a conference. One of the speakers was a consultant anaesthetist (who looked like the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark – you know, the one with the black hat and spooky coat hanger). “When a patient is terminally ill and in enormous pain,” he said, “we drill a small hole at the base of their spine. Then we insert a really quite small radio transmitter, turn it on and the patient will never feel anything, ever, again. I put it to you, that every time we use a mobile phone, we place a slightly larger radio transmitter next to our brains. And turn it on.”

It was – and still is – the only conference where there has been a full minute’s complete silence after a talk and the first time that a speaker has scored ‘A’ for both presentation and content from every single delegate at the conference.

It was in the far off days of analog mobile phones – digital in the form of God Send Mobiles (GSM) was still a year away (and few thought it would be necessary) – and within a month the mobile coverage around London became really bad. It turned out that the (then) two major mobile networks in the UK, BT Cellnet and Vodafone, had turned down the power of their transmitters. Dramatically.

The word on the street was that they were frying the brains of Londoners.

Some would say that is a good thing. We could not possibly comment.

That presentation started the debate about the safety of mobile phones, then mobile devices. The evidence was – at every stage – inconclusive. What was conclusive was that the issue had been thrust right into the heart of mobile operators, and since then they have all been very aware of the problem.

We honestly thought the debate had gone away.

But, no – it is back. A Swiss study from 2015 showed that “the cumulative exposure to HF-EMF of the adolescent’s brain over one year may have a negative impact on the development of their figurative memory performance”.

“… May have …”.

The safety study got the results by assuming that young people clamp their mobile devices against the side of their heads for long periods of time.

Honestly? When did you last see a young person with his or her phone clamped against the side of his or her head for long periods of time? They have headphones and chat and watch videos and Snapchat each other. They don’t talk, or do anything else with their phones that requires any form of head-clamping.

And even if they did clamp their devices to the side of their heads and you asked them to stop clamping said mobile device to their heads because it ‘may’ impair their figurative judgement, you can imagine the response.

It seems that, instead of this ludicrous research and debate simply going away and returning millions of taxpayers’ money to the Treasuries, it is still rumbling on. Millions on something that cannot be proved.

And even it could be, then the reaction would be what?


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