Whenever they are turned on, cell phones communicate at infrequent intervals with a nearby base station even when they are not being used for a call. This is necessary to tell the system where the user is in case a call should come in. Thus, even while they are inactive, the phones are a source of (very low) radiofrequency energy exposure to the user. Hands-free kits reduce exposure to a user by removing the phone from the vicinity of the head. There is no identifiable health benefit in using the kits, but there is no detriment either, and using them may increase a user's peace of mind. Contrary to a widely publicized report by a British magazine last year, the kits are effective in reducing exposure. (This is not necessarily true of other devices that can be bought to be used with phones.) In your case, the cell phone and hands-free kit are clearly an important link to the outside world and I would not hesitate in using them. There may be comfort issues with having the earpiece in place for a long time, but radiofrequency radiation exposure should not be a concern at all. The hands-free kits will reduce exposure below that which you would receive if the phone were kept close to your head. Kenneth R. Foster Professor, Department of Bioengineering
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DOES THE RADIATION ONLY EXIST WHEN I'M ACTUALLY MAKING A CALL, OR JUST ANY TIME PHONE ON?