Yesterday the Business Daily carried a story on Judges declining to occupy office at the Elgon house, Upper Hill, Nairobi. The Judges are said to be scared of the communication mast near the building saying that their health could be affected by the mast. CCK has moved in to reassure the Judges that the masts used in the country are benchmarked with recognized institutions and follow recommendations by World Health Organization and that signal strengths from communication masts do not pose any health risks. “We benchmark our standards on well established institutions and whose recommendations have been adopted by World Health Organisation. So far, we have not established any health concerns as in regards to the strengths of radiation emitted by masts,” said Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) licensing, compliance and standards director Christopher Kemei.
The story got me wondering on how careful we can be when it comes to health risks stemming from technological developments. Health risks in technology are real; but more so at industrial levels. Those working with high level radiations in factories that manufacture the gadgets are supposed to be worried if the working conditions do not provide adequate protective mechanisms for their safety. But gadgets that have been approved for daily use should not pose major risks that push us to be too careful.
In the field of IT, the health risks were first associated with CRT monitors due to the radiations they emit. According ergonomics classes I attended, I was advised that the CRT monitor should be placed at least 2 meters away from my eyes; that using the monitors at close range without anti-glare glasses either on me or on the monitor would be a detriment to my eyesight within two to five years of continual use. Well I used CRT monitors for over six years at close range (thanks to campus computer lab and office computers setup) and until now I am one of the few with best eyesights at night. Anyway when people moved to TFT screens then later to smartphones with OLED screens and retina displays it seems the health scare mongers forgot about the dangers of screen emissions.
When the mobile phones first came there were a lot of hullabaloos on their usage and cancer. Just recently I read a post discouraging mobile phone users from receiving the phones via right ears (OK, so I thought, the smartphones must be really smart to differentiate between right and left ear when it comes to causing brain damage ha!..the warning had some biological explanations that well, I have not cared to investigate further). Before that there were talks of how keeping the phones at the chest pocket could cause heart attack.
And now we are at communication masts. So many Kenyans live near communication masts built within the estates and no one seems to care about their health. Or is it because the communication masts at estates are placed within residential places of ordinary wananchi? Why can’t LSK call on radiology experts to independently investigate the masts’ emissions before allowing the common wanachi to live near them? I wonder whether the judges live in areas miles away from the nearest communication mast. The problem with creating health scare like these is that they are based on presumptions. Scare mongers don’t want to first conduct thorough researches on their claims before scaring the public. They want their pessimism of science and technology to worry everyone else probably with an agenda of discrediting technological advances. Researches that have been done after the mongers have managed to scare the populace have not been able to directly associate technology use with the claimed health risks. Thorough researches conducted on microwave ovens, mobile phones, and now communication masts have all reported no relationship between the gadgets and cancer, heart attack and other terminal health risks.
My advice to all who would be scared by the current and any future health scare on technological advances, we can’t be too careful when it comes to health and technology. Cigarettes alcohol, fumes from vehicles, dirty water, industrial polluted air and the likes are riskier substances; actually we ought to be worried more about the ultra violet rays from the sun thanks to global warming than the low energy spectrum of radio waves that the technology gadgets emit.