Indirect Effects

The possibility that medical devices could interfere or be adversely affected by RF emitted by the antennas of base stations and portable wireless devices in their proximity has prompted, in the 1990s, many engineering and clinical tests around the world. This might be one of the few documented, albeit indirect detrimental effects of low level RF fields on the health of exposed people. This is especially the case for patients using implanted cardiac pacemakers or defibrillators, or hooked up to life support devices, such as mechanical ventilators, which are vital for their continued survival.

Our review of this subject concluded that wireless communication technologies with enough output power and very close proximity to medical devices of several kinds, including implanted devices, have the possibility of causing electromagnetic interference with potential hazardous effects on the well being and critical life support of patients. However, the low power technologies and frequency spectrum used by present-day digital communications devices and the electronic filters installed on modern medical devices have greatly reduced the chance of occurrence of such hazards, when they are used normally. Thus, scientifically and technically there is presently no need to restrict the use of medium risk mobile phones and wireless data communication devices in any area of healthcare institutions, and no general ban policy is necessary, or legislation to this effect. Higher powered communication radios and data communication modems, which may pose a higher risk of interference, should be used sparingly and in emergency situations only if they are very near to medical devices, implanted or not.

Another kind of indirect effect of cell phones and other portable voice and data communication media is the risk posed by using them while driving a motor vehicle. Since this risk does not relate to an effect of RF fields, it has not been examined by the review.

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