Rants, Raves, Reviews

Mobile Phones are Dangerous in Hospitals - Apparently

By Gary R, in , posted: 7-Sep-2007 16:32

Reuters released this piece today about a study conducted by the University of Amsterdam. Apparently the researchers detected 50 incidents of electromagnetic interference of which 75% were described as hazardous. You can read the actual report here which shows that the testing was only undertaken with GPRS and UMTS devices. The Reuters article also references a test by the Mayo Clinic undertaken last year which primarily used a CDMA and a GSM handset. The Mayo Clinic released their results this year

The Mayo Clinic has released several mobile phone studies over the years in 2001, 2004 and 2007. The latest Mayo result concludes:

This study determined that the cellular telephones tested, when used in a normal way, did not cause any interference with the various medical devices present in the patient care areas studied. For institutions that have restricted cellular telephone use, these data support revision or abolition of the existing policy. If no clinically important adverse effects occur as a result of using cellular telephones in the hospital, then it seems that the advantages that this technology brings to institution and patients would be well received. These advantages may be tempered by etiquette and lack of common courtesy by some individuals when using cellular telephones (cellular telephone users talking loudly and obnoxiously, bothering other patients and visitors).

Compare this to the Uni of Amsterdam who concludes that:

'the 2.5-generation mobile communication network GPRS is able to induce a higher rate of EMI incidents than is known for the first-generation network GSM at comparable distances'


'Conclusion Critical care equipment is vulnerable to EMI by new-generation wireless telecommunication technologies with median distances of about 3 cm. The policy to keep mobile phones ‘1 meter’ from the critical care bedside in combination with easily accessed areas of unrestricted use still seems warranted.'

So, we have two studies with results that are poles apart. Reuters and the other media outlets focused on 'Mobile phones being bad' when actually the study concluded that one particular type of GPRS configuration was really bad when it was powered at a full 2W. UMTS was not so bad as the maximum power is only 0.2W.

Personally I prefer to believe the Mayo Clinic. Over the years they have tested all mobile technologies including AMPS, TDMA, iDEN, GSM and CDMA where as the Uni of Amsterdam came to their conclusions based on testing GPRS and UMTS only.

So, mobile phones are not bad for sensitive hospital equipment. A GPRS device operating on multiple slots at a full 2W power output is bad for hospital equipment. The Mayo result concludes there is no problem if a mobile phone is operated in a 'normal way'. The university of Amsterdam test was definitely not normal.

I hate to say it but seriously that is so obvious and I bet the GPRS device used in the Amsterdam test got very, very hot.

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Comment by timestyles, on 7-Sep-2007 21:12

This is why I think that cellular companies should install small cell sites inside hospitals. A cellphone transmitting to a base station 1km away will produce a signal 10,000 times stronger than a base station 10m away. This is from CDMA, I'm not sure about other cellphone technologies.

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