Early this month an international panel of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) said mobile phone use could be linked to glioma, a type of brain cancer. The announcement re-ignited a long brewing debate about the safety of the devices.
While the debate over the possible link between mobile phones and cancer rages, there’s no doubting the undisputed positive link between mobile phone use and business travel productivity. It’s hard to imagine what business travel was like before we all had mobile phones to keep us connected to the office, pick up our emails, get directions, or let our clients know when we are running late.
The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) put mobile phones in the “possibly carcinogenic” category, which already includes other business travel essentials such as coffee and dry cleaning. So despite the warnings and possible dangers, road warriors aren’t going to be tossing their phones out the window any time soon.
“Given that the evidence remains uncertain, it is up to each individual to determine what changes they wish to make, if any, after weighing the potential benefits and risks of using a cell phone,” said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. “If some feel the potential risk outweighs the benefit, they can take actions, including limiting cell phone use, or using a headset.”
In any case, now might be a good time to re-assess mobile phone habits. Some tips:
- Get an earpiece or headset and use it. Keeping your mobile phone away from your head and out of your hand reduces your exposure to radiation and/or car accidents. Most mobile phones come with a wired earpiece or headset; however, you might find these unwieldy or ugly, and rarely use them. If that’s the case, consider a wireless Bluetooth headset that you can pop in your ear when you are on the phone and not have to worry about the wire.
- Reduce your body’s radiation exposure by keeping your phone out of your pockets as much as possible. Keep it in your pack, purse or briefcase, or on the car seat next to you.
- Choose a safer phone. Radiation from mobile phones varies among devices. CNET.com recently ranked mobile phone radiation level by highest to lowest and by manufacturer.
- Consider hands-free devices. Most mobile phones come with speakerphones that make hands-free use relatively easy. However, since the sound quality of a speakerphone conversation is sorely lacking, keep calls short and infrequent – for your sake as well as for the person to whom you are talking.
- Use your phone less. This means making longer calls from your home or office phone. If you’ve not mastered texting, now’s the time to learn (ask your kids or the youngest person at your office for some advice).
What about you? Will your mobile calling habits change as a result of the recent WHO warning, or will you wait for more information? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel.