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Not so smart 'alecks'!

This is in reply to the articles written by "smart alecks" (Kevin, 'There is zero proof of phone mast radiation', Tito, 'Still no proof', Varghese 'Nowhere to hide' and Bell, 'Spaced out..?'), commenting on radiation from mobile phone masts, phones and radiation in general.

Basically, what they have said is well-known to the educated public.

l Mr Kevin, we all know that there are different types of radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum. Radiation may be defined as energy in transit in the form of high-speed particles and electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic radiation is very common in our everyday lives in the form of visible light, radio and television waves and microwaves. It is divided into two categories - ionising radiation and non-ionising one.

Ionising radiation has sufficient energy to remove electrons from the orbits of atoms resulting in charged particles and is evaluated for protection. Examples include gamma rays, protons and neutrons.

Non-ionising radiation doesn't have sufficient energy to remove electrons from their orbits. Examples are microwaves, radio waves and visible light.

We take advantage of the properties of non-ionising radiation for common tasks: microwave radiation - telecommunications and heating food; infrared radiation - infrared lamps to keep food warm in restaurants; and radio waves - broadcasting

l Mr Kevin, we all know about space radiation. It consists primarily of ionizing radiation, which exists in the form of high-energy, charged particles.

There are three naturally occurring sources of space radiation - trapped radiation, galactic cosmic radiation and solar particle events.

The sun, other stars and high-energy objects outside the earth's atmosphere emit space radiation. Yes, it bombards the earth on a regular basis, but we never really pay attention to it except for the UV rays from the sun.

The reason is because the earth has natural barriers that protect us from the worst kinds of radiation. Mr Kevin, you forgot to tell the public about it.

If you remember your high school science class, radiation comes in varying strengths - alpha, beta and gamma. The best illustration is what materials they can penetrate. Alpha particles are the weakest, can be easily blocked by a piece of paper or skin. Beta particles are stronger and can penetrate the skin. This is where we see the effects of radiation. It can strike DNA causing spontaneous mutations. However, aluminium and other substances of similar density can deflect the particles. Gamma particles are the strongest. This is the most common type of radiation in space. Only the densest substances can stop them and even then they are absorbed upon contact.

Mr Kevin, the earth's atmosphere, the main shield, works in two ways: First, it uses its natural magnetic field - magnetosphere - to redirect dangerous particles away from the surface. Radiation is made of high-energy atomic particles so the earth's magnetic field deflects them. Second, the density of our atmosphere; the lower levels of the atmosphere absorb the remaining radiation that gets past our magnetosphere. This leaves only the weakest and more beneficial types of radiation behind.

l Mr Kevin, we also know about electromagnetic radiation and computers/TV. Computers and electronic devices are an integral part of our work and personal lives. As a result, we are exposed to electromagnetic radiation emitted by them.

l We all know that mobile phones can pose health risks if used excessively for long periods of times. A smart decision is to switch it off and use it only when necessary. That is what I do.

l I thank 'Tito' for proofreading my letter 'Shoot the Messenger' of May 3.

Some comments to Mr Varghese's letter. This gentleman is obviously confused about the subject matter. Price or barcode scanners don't emit radiation per se. The price scanner "reads" the barcode by sweeping a laser across the bars and measuring the amount of light reflected off the Universal Product Code. Also very funny is the term "satellites roaming in space", and how is it possible that he connects "lava ash downing flights" with the subject matter?

But Mr Varghese you are correct that we can't hide from radiation. In other words, outside the protective cocoon of the earth's atmosphere is a universe full of radiation - it is all around us.

I maintain that mobile towers don't belong in residential areas like the one on Road 1122, New Tubli, and they pose health risks, but the mobile phone industry continues to assert that masts pose no risks. However, almost all scientists in the field would disagree, at the very least claiming that no such assurance can be given.

I still maintain that the current limits for mast radiation have been influenced more by economic and political imperatives than by research into health and safety.

I have been saying it before, and am saying it now that authorities across the world had maintained that asbestos, cigarettes, thalidomide and the blood supply were "safe", which were later found to be harmful. It was in hindsight a mistaken judgment.

A concerned New Tubli Resident

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:May 29, 2010
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