EMF Health-effects Research

Effect of mobile phone on life-saving and life-sustaining systems.

Irnich W, Tobisch R

Biomed Tech (Berl) 43(6):164-173, 1998

[Article in German]

Since the beginning of the nineties there have been warnings not to use mobile phones in the vicinity of medical devices. Functional failures of dialysis machines, respirators and defibrillators prompted the banning of their use in many hospitals in Scandinavia, and then in other countries. Since we believe that a general ban in hospitals is problematic, we decided to investigate the influence of mobile telephone on life-saving and/or life-support systems, with the aim of establishing rules for its use in hospitals.

We investigated available phones of varying power of the C-, D- and E-net, as also of a cordless phone meeting the DECT standard.

The aim was to identify the devices susceptible to interference and determine the minimum distances at which interference occurred. A total of 224 devices classified into 23 types of devices were examined. Nine different sets of transmission conditions were applied, giving a total of 2016 tests.

Our results permit the conclusion that the ban on mobile phones in hospitals is based not on actual events, but on theoretical considerations in the absence of any practical information on the actual susceptibility of devices and their reaction to the electromagnetic fields involved. The fact that hazardous situations are very rare is due firstly to the need for the simultaneous occurrence of four coincidences, and the fail-save feature of medical devices.

We would therefore recommend that all life-saving and life-support systems that can also be used outside the hospital should be made mobile phone-proof. When apnoea monitors and respirators are protected from such interference, hazardous situations could be avoided by establishing the rule: "No portables, and mobile phones only at a distance of at least 1 metre from medical devices". With regard to emergency telephones, the minimum distance to medical devices should be at least 1.5 metres.

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