TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Do Allow Under-9s to Use a Mobile

Re: Do Allow Under-9s to Use a Mobile

John Smith (
Wed, 02 Feb 2005 05:02:26 GMT wrote:

> OK, enough already! I'm not stupid enough to think that cell phones
> are radioactive. And I know that RF is not the same as particle
> radiation.

Not all radioactivity is particle radiation. Gamma rays, for example
are electromagnetic, just like RF, but incredibly more powerful.

Conversely, not all particle radiation is always dangerous. Alpha
particles can be effectively shielded by an average sheet of paper.

Not only do experts think they know these things, but they're right.

> Linc seemed to be implying that the only possible damage to cells
> had to be from the heat induced by the radiation.

The effects of radiation, if we limit ourselves to electromagnetic,
are dependent on the energy in a photon of that energy. Microwaves
produce heat, x-rays produce ionization. Microwaves will not ionize
your cellular material, and x-rays will not heat you up.

> I was simply pointing out that there are other ways to damage
> cellular structure that don't involve heat, with the point being
> that while yes, it is probably virtually impossible for the
> electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone to induce enough
> temperature change to have any possible effect, there may be other
> mechanisms that haven't been discovered yet.

Actually, a number of other mechanisms have been discovered, but
microwave (cell phone) radiation can't accomplish them, because its
photons are not energetic enough. Even if you turn up the intensity
of the radiation a thousandfold, all you accomplish is having a
thousand times as many photons failing to do anything unusual as were
failing before. You can break a window by throwing a golf ball. You
can't break a window by throwing a ping-pong ball--even if you throw
it a thousand times.

While we can't say for sure that other mechanisms may not occur, we
can very reliably set an upper limit on how harmful any as-yet-
undiscovered properties of microwaves can be, simply because enough
people have been exposed to enough microwaves over enough years (cell
phones are not a unique source) that any effect above a certain level
would have been evident. That upper limit is somewhere between zero
and incomprehensibly small.

Gamma radiation, from radioactive decay, although not particle
radiation, is still extremely dangerous. It is thousands of times
more energetic, and therefore more dangerous than x-rays, which are
pretty dangerous in their own right. Ultraviolet light, which we know
can cause cancer, is a thousand times less energetic still.

But once we get down to visible light the "radiation" is essentially
harmless, as is infrared light. Microwave photons are between a
hundred and a hundred thousand time LESS energetic than infrared. So,
if you are concerned that it is possible for cell phones to cause
untoward effects, you should be wrapping all the TV remotes in tinfoil
so they can't spew out those dangerous infrared photons. The very
possession of light bulbs, which spew out potentially deadly infrared
and visible light by the tens of watts, should be banned outright.

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