Monday, February 18, 2013

Cellphone Use on Planes: A Bad Idea

SPECIAL REPORT: Cellphone use may soon be allowed on U.S. flights

Ten O'Clock News, KTVU-TV (SF Bay Area Fox Affiliate),  Feb 17, 2013

Video clip (3 min.):


Cellphone use on planes could become reality

KTVU, Feb 17, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. — A new change to the ban against using a cellphone when flying could be coming soon, but there are some emerging controversies over cellphone use on planes, including a possible health risk.

Some European and Middle East airlines now allow personal cellphone use while flying outside United States airspace.

Onboard equipment solves navigation interference problems, but in the United States the Federal Aviation Administration requires passengers to turn off their cellphone for take-off and landing, only allowing for airplane mode at altitude.

Regulators are poised to allow regular, in-flight cellphone use on domestic airline flights.

This has polarized some experts and passengers.

"I think it's a bad idea personally because we'll be listening to everyone's gossip and their whole life story," said Karen Sager of Napa.

"I think the pros would be that if there's an emergency you can get hold of somebody," said Sonoma resident Lisa Carlsson.

Flight attendants worry no one would pay attention to cabin instructions.

And then there's another concern, passengers health.

"Looking at brain tumor risk and other kinds of cancer risk, I would say it's a bad idea," said Joel Moskowitz, director of the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Family and Community Health.

Moskowitz said cellphones radiate low power microwaves and that inside a metal container, such as a jet fuselage, microwaves reflect and amplify.

He said over-limit exposures are well documented in container-like buses and trains -- exposures that are linked to health effects.

"You're going to have very high exposures in certain parts of that container and it's hard to predict even where those hot spots, so to speak, occur" Moskowitz said.

But according to author and U.C. Berkeley physicist Richard Muller the danger from these things is so small that there are more important things to focus on like crossing the street. Muller supports the use of cellphones on planes.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "I think it's time we did it. The only downside is now I can't escape my cellphone when I'm flying in an airplane."

Frequent flyers told KTVU they are eager for more in flight connectivity.

"I'd have access to a lot more emails than paying the outrageous fees for Wi-Fi on the plane," said Uwem Umontuen of Nashville.

"I think as long as it was kept to emails and text messaging that would be OK," said Taneha Lay, another Nashville resident.

Though, several new surveys by the airlines conclude that most passengers want solitude.

"It's a nice quiet environment to do work, I don't want to hear people talking on their phone" said Amy Heiserman of Denver.

So far no U. S. airline has asked for the FAA to allow in flight cellphone calls, but that day could be coming.

Related News Release:

Secondhand Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation: An Emerging Public Health Problem?