Wireless/Mobile Devices & Health Issues: Resolutions for 2006

by Todd Ogasawara

I spent the last week with a nasty cold that kept me at home.
While lying and sitting feeling annoyed at not being able to get anything done, I started thinking about health issues related to those wireless mobile devices I love and use so much.

Wireless mobile devices are everywhere in the hands of everyone from young children (e.g., Nintendo DS) to senior citizens (notice all those white earbuds in the ears of Baby Boomers and older generations?). Unfortunately, all this mobile technology seems to come at the price of health in varying degrees: Loss of hearing, thumb/hand problems, car accidents, and more. Read on for the list of mobile/wireless device health issues I've noticed recently and let's see if we can avoid them ourselves in 2006.

  • Don't swallow your phone!
    The BBC News reported
    US woman swallows phone in spat
    A woman's row with her boyfriend about a mobile phone suddenly went quiet - when she swallowed the handset whole.
    Let's not swallow our phones (or PDAs or MP3 players or gaming devices for that matter

  • Can you hear me now? If not, turn down your MP3 player volume!
    The Associated Press tells us
    'Ear bud' headphones can cause hearing loss, experts warn.
    It goes on to say that:
    A study done by Australian researchers last summer found that about a quarter of iPod users between 18 and 54 years of age listened at volumes sufficient to cause hearing damage.
    Hearing advocates are pressing for people to turn down the volume. The rule of thumb suggested by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital is to hold the volume of a music player no higher than 60 percent of the maximum, and use it for only about an hour a day.

  • Got Blackberry Thumb or Nintendoitis? Save your thumbs and wrists!
    Couple of interesting articles from ABC News
    (Spa Offers Relief for 'BlackBerry Thumb')
    and the Times-Standard Online
    ('Tis the season ... for an RSI?)
    reminding us that the good ol' Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) can strike us far away from our QWERTY keyboards thanks to our mobile toys.
    Both articles offer suggestions for prevention and relief.

  • Addicted to your Blackberry (Crackberry)? Uh, hello? Hello!?
    There's an interesting blog entry from Information Week's Mary Hayes titled
    Bracing For A Nation Of CrackBerry Addicts.
    In it she says:
    But let's not forget the personal drains, the ones that hinder our ability to be valuable and happy employees, managers, spouses, partners, parents. So-called CrackBerry addicts think they need to have the devices on at 10 p.m. every night, but do their managers and colleagues expect that type of 24-hour availability? Highly unlikely, unless you really are on call. Remember one of the signs of addiction: blaming someone else (like your boss's imagined demands) for your problems.
    I think she doesn't go far enough.
    It is not just adult workers responding to bosses, co-workers, and customers.
    It is also kids and anyone else that is always connected?
    How many people have you seen answer a phone call in the middle of business meeting or even when giving a presentation?

  • If you text (or talk), don't drive!
    I blogged about a car accident near where I live caused by a guy texting to his wife while driving earlier this year.
    Please practice safe text(-messaging).
    And, of course, we've all read about (or seen or been one ourselves) distracted drivers talking on a cell phone while driving.

  • Tuning out Reality: The Matrix is here. Look up from that screen once in a while!
    Take a look at people as you wander around.
    Notice how many have headphones on, reading a PDA or phone screen while walking, or are playing a game on a phone or portable game console while walking or even talking to nearby friends?
    We are tuning out the world immediately around us more and more.
    Immersive games, like the various multiplayer universes, and portable micro-universe simulation games, like Nintendogs and Animal Crossing Wild World (for the Nintendo DS), are amazing in their ability to suck us into a virtual reality with its own economies and personal interactions (I noticed this when I lifted my head for a moment while playing Lumines on my Sony PSP :-).
    While I make light of this, it is no laughing matter.
    Check out this article from the Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition):
    Why Do Computer Games Claim Lives?.

Well, I'm feeling better now just in time to greet 2006.
And, I think we all have some 2006 resolutions to make.
So, let's add a couple of wireless/mobile device health resolutions to that list.
Live long and prosper.

Other wireless mobile device health issues? Let us know here.


2006-04-02 08:36:10
A query from one of our users, maybe you can help.


I use this defibrillator against the risk of heart arythmia. Strong radio and magnetic transmissions disturb the threshold settings for the defibrillator to be triggered.

Users, of which there are quite a few in Bristol now, cannot go through airport security devices, stand in front of shop door security devices, or by powerful loud speakers.

These are a few examples of the areas one has to be careful about.

Against that background, what is the risk to users in a "hotzone", walking and travelling on a car or bus.

If there is a technical spec, if necessary, I could ask the manufactuer of the defibrillator.


Colin James