Bring Back That Ole Dog And Bone

Modern technology is being driven by Capitalism. Some may consider that a good thing. After all, it brings us new drugs to combat diseases, more fuel-efficient motor vehicles, better ways to communicate over long distances.

That’s why, three months ago, I purchased the latest cordless telephone system from Panasonic.

DECT 6.0 technology is supposed to be more efficient. It operates at frequencies less likely to clash with other applications, like wireless routers and microwave ovens. Unfortunately, unlike analogue cordless phones, the base station constantly emits pulses of microwave radiation at full power, whether the handset’s in use, or not.

It was round about then I started to develop background headaches. Nothing too drastic. Just a sense my head was full of wet cement. It came and went. Sometimes the ache covered my whole cranium. At other times it was specific to forehead, neck, or behind an eye.

I’ve never been susceptible to headaches, and given the time of year and a slight tendency towards nasal discharge, the whole issue was put down to seasonal allergies.

The new phones worked well, but there’d always been a slight voice delay – about a half second, or so – ever since the Adams’ household converted to a VoiP setup two years ago. One got used to it, though it was rather disappointing to find the new DECT 6.0 technology didn’t cure the problem. Still, the phone looked good, parked on its smart silver base station, on one corner of my desk in the den.

The headaches got worse over time. Not drastically so, but I started waking through the night with one, and it was still there in the morning and persisted all day. Eventually, my wife began muttering the ‘doctor’ word. It was then I began researching on the internet.

Now, let me say straight away, I’ve always considered people who complain of ill effects from power lines, TV’s, and almost all other electrical appliances on the planet, to be a bit nutty. Not mental, you understand, but certainly on a par with those who claim insemination by aliens.

Despite some degree of evidence suggesting phone radiation is possibly disruptive, if not downright dangerous, there’s an equal amount suggesting it isn’t. In fact, certain researchers have intimated it may actually be beneficial by preventing brain tumors. These studies are a little suspicious, however, given that they were funded by the phone companies.

There’s an interesting article on DECT 6.0 baby monitors by a UK group called Powerwatch, which seems to suggest that babies suffer sleep disruption and distress when this type of monitor is in the room:

Over the past five years we, with the help of parents, have measured a variety of baby monitors and the DECT pulsing ones seem to be far more disruptive of the infant’s sleep and state of contentment (causing restlessness, irritability and crying). Wired ones and the plug-in ones (that use the electricity wiring to communicate between units) do not seem to cause the same problems. The older type of analogue ones, that are still available from a number of brands, seem OK if kept at least one metre from the cot / bed. We have had various reports by parents that their babies did not sleep well and cried a lot when they used DECT monitors but were ok when no baby monitor was used. When they then tried a cheaper analogue monitor, the infant then slept as well as they did with no monitor.[1]

A paper published in the Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 2006, by Don Maisch, a Tasmanian consultant well known in this field, also suggests ill effects from such DECT 6.0 devices:

A major difference between the older cordless phone and the DECT cordless phones is that the DECT phone’s base station continuously emits pulsing microwave radiation at full power as long as the base station/charger is plugged into the 240 VAC wall socket. This means that the base station, usually placed on a bedside table, or on a work desk, is broadcasting a 2.4. or 5.8GHz transmission (in Australia) regardless of whether the handset is charging in the base station cradle or being used 300 meters away…..

…..Soon after DECT phones were first introduced in Europe, mainly for use in office buildings, concerns were raised over possible health effects. One of the largest white collar trade unions in Europe, the Swedish Union of Clerical and Technical Employees in Industry, issued advice to its members to take steps to minimize their exposure to DECT because the system always operated at maximum power and there was insufficient research on possible long-term health effects…..

……The German Federal Radiation Protection Agency (Bundesamt fur Strahlenschutz – BfS) has expressed concerns over DECT phone use. They stated in a January 2006 press release that a DECT cordless phone is often the strongest single source of microwave radiation in a private home. To prevent possible health risks the Agency recommended minimizing personal radiation exposure (if a DECT phone is used) by placing the base station in a place where you do not spend much time, for example a hall. For the workplace the Agency specifically advised to avoid placing DECT phones on work desks and called upon manufacturers to redesign the phones to include a feature of power output control, so that the power output during a call would be adapted to the distance of the handset from its base station. This would allow phone use only to the level of power necessary to keep the communication going and power would be down while on standby and connected to the base station/charger……

……of course the industry manufacturing DECT technology say that there is no conclusive evidence that DECT technology is harmful. This is true, especially considering that the technology is being developed and marketed well before any relevant research on possible long-term health effects……[2]

Last week, the local Social Security office was being fitted with the latest digital phone system. A friend of mine, who works there, got chatting with the guy in charge of the installation. He was quite adamant the latest scientific reports clearly prove the dangers of cell and cordless digital technology. he told my friend there were even instances of people who’d developed cancer in the thigh from regularly clipping a cellphone on their belt.

Of course, it’s all hearsay. The truth is that technology has advanced far quicker than the ability of researchers to test its long-term effects. This is true for most aspects – drugs, food, even – in some cases – entertainment.

Mark Sisson sums it up well in his interesting blog, “Mark’s Daily Apple”:

I’ll still recommend that people keep the cell phone usage to a minimum, but not to necessarily avoid brain cancer. Perhaps a better reason is that too often cell phones become prisons preventing us from truly engaging with the world. Time is ever moving, and technology is only going to progress – it may soon become a rare and precious moment that we’re able to dwell silently on our thoughts without wireless signal or electromagnetic field or peripheral cell phone chatter intruding.[3]

Still, we all need a phone these days, so last week I connected the VoiP network to our old household phone wiring, dragged the ancient analogue corded phones out of their dusty box in the attic, and set one in every room. They work a treat.

The DECT 6.0 cordless phones have gone. So has the half-a-second voice delay; I can now talk to my father in Britain as though he were standing in the room next to me.

And that’s not all that’s gone: believe it or not, so has my headache.

[1] Digital Cordless Baby Monitors

[2] “Medical warnings needed on DECT cordless phone use” Don Maisch, August 2nd 2006 (NOTE: the pdf version of Maisch’s article was down when this was published. An html version has been substituted.)

[3] “Cell Phone Health Hazard?” Mark’s Daily Apple.

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One Reply to “Bring Back That Ole Dog And Bone”

  1. That’s very interesting, RJA. I agree that these high-emitting units need to be time tested more efficiently.
    Some of my friends refuse to have anything to do with them.
    I use all of them with caution.

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