2006.01.11 Cell phone: thoughtful gift or present from hell?

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Among the multitude of gifts I received for Christmas (is four a multitude?) was one of those pay-as-you-go cell phones that many people buy for emergency use. It seemed like a pretty good present at the time. If I had car trouble on the road, I wouldn’t have to worry about where the nearest telephone might be. It would especially be handy after dark. Then I made the mistake of reading the owner’s manual that came with the phone.

The manual contains a four-page message from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concerning the safety of wireless phones. While there hasn’t been any conclusive proof of health risks, most studies covered about a three-year period, while the FDA suggests a follow-up period of 10 years or more when looking for evidence of cancers and some other health maladies that might be caused by radiofrequency energy emitted by the phone.

While that alone may not be a cause for concern (although the manual devotes four pages of small print to the subject), there are enough other problems to give me second thoughts about the phone. Most people are aware not to use the phones around pacemakers, hearing aids and other medical devices, as well as to refrain from operating the phone on an airplane. But how about in a car?

According to the phone manual, signals from the phone could affect vehicle “electronic fuel injection systems, electronic antiskid (antilock) braking systems, electronic speed control systems, air bag systems.” Now, if your car starts acting strange, it might be the fault of your phone.

Especially watch out for that airbag, according to this manual warning: “Do not place objects, including installed or portable wireless equipment in the area over the airbag or in the airbag deployment area...serious injury could result.” Those people who insist on using their phones while driving may be in for a surprise when the phone causes the air bag to go off, leaving a phone-shaped indentation on the side of their face.

Then there’s the explosion possibility. Again, it’s fairly common knowledge that you are supposed to turn off your phone while refueling your vehicle, although I’ve seen many cell phone owners who ignore that warning. Unfortunately, the idiot with the phone won’t be the only one fried to a crisp if the phone emits that dreaded spark. 

The manual mentions other, less obvious locations when the phone could spark an explosion, such as below deck on a boat, or areas where the air contains particles such as grain, dust or metal powders. Farmers and factory workers, beware.

And if you’re clumsy, watch out. The latest issue of Consumer Reports contains the comforting news that a dropped cell phone with a fully charged battery could overheat from the impact and explode. Their advice is to “leave it on the ground for a few moments to make sure there’s no problem.” You may want to use those few moments wisely by running for your life.

By now, you may have come to the conclusion that the cell phone is more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re not the type who likes to test the odds, getting rid of your phone may be your best option. But what to do with it?

You can’t just throw it away. The manual warns against disposing of the phone in a fire or as household waste.

Putting it in your garage or basement is out, too, as the manual also rules out keeping it in environments that are hot, cold, dusty, dirty, humid, or wet.

This is getting to be a bit of a problem, isn’t it? Offhand, I can think of only two possible solutions.

First, if you’re made of money, you could rent one of those temperature-controlled storage units and put the phone inside, hoping for the best.

Or, wrap up the phone, think of the name of your worst enemy, and send them an early birthday present. And don’t include the manual.

– Jan. 11, 2006
  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017