Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 22/03/2002More mobile phone madness, this time in the Evil Wireless Waves Are Cooking Our Kids And Running Our Baths department. According to the This Is Local London website, residents in Sutton are being threatened by Orange's plans to put a 3G service mast up on a nearby water tower.

Friday 22/03/2002

More mobile phone madness, this time in the Evil Wireless Waves Are Cooking Our Kids And Running Our Baths department. According to the This Is Local London website, residents in Sutton are being threatened by Orange's plans to put a 3G service mast up on a nearby water tower. Even to read this stuff is to be thrust into a parallel world where the very fabric of space and time are subtly different. You thought that 3G just used radio like every other service? You thought that 3G phones were there for streaming video, online services and fast Net access? Read on...

"Lesley Williams, a mother-of-two from Chalgrove Road, said: 'The overriding concern is that we are moving into another phase of phone technology and there are no test cases. With a young family, the unknown health implications are of paramount importance.'"

To which the journalist appends:

"So-called third generation masts are designed to allow phones to handle different data such as faxing from a phone, running a bath and securing a home."

At least they'll be clean when they check into the hospital.

It's hard to know where to start here. You can't blame a parent for being worried about how innovation will affect their family, but when was the last time that a new kind of plastic used in food packaging got this sort of pre-launch scare publicity? How many people even give a second's thought to the health issues in, say, water treatment?

Humans are remarkably bad at assessing risk. They breathe diesel fumes, eat chocolate bars and don't exercise apart from popping down to the newsagents to do the lottery. Yet tell them that nobody's been able to prove that radio waves will never hurt them -- an impossible demand -- and they start ranting on as if aliens had landed and were preparing to suck out Junior's brains through a dirty straw.

If I were a bad man, I'd draw up a map of the radio spectrum that shows exactly how many different sorts of wireless goes cascading through our bodies 24 hours a day. From the GPS satellites gently bathing us in microwave radiation to the giant long-wave transmitters that fill the known universe with high-power Archers, the place is crawling with hertz. Then I'd start up a brash campaign demanding that each and every one of them were given a clean bill of health, and I'd be on the chat show circuit for life.

As it is, one can only wearily reiterate that no, nobody knows for sure but it looks awfully like mobile phones of whatever colour type carry a risk roughly the same as pillows.

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