Drunk Doctors? Why Wireless Headsets May be a Bad Idea for Patient Care and Doctors’ Health

Commentary by Cindy Sage:  Not long ago, a Physician Assistant in a hospital emergency room told us she was asked to wear a wireless headset (that connects wirelessly to the internet) while seeing her patients. She declined.

In that same week, a young mother went to a new internist in the bay area. The nurse asked if she would give consent for the doctor to wear a wireless headset while examining her child. She also declined.

What is it that these two young women know? Is it something you should be aware of? Here are some important things people should know about the problems posed by wearable wireless computers in the doctor’s office.

Driving drunk, and talking or texting on a cell phone may have in more in common than you think with extended use of a wireless headset. The exposure levels from a wireless headset are about equivalent to (or in some cases higher) than holding a smart phone to the head. Use of a cell phone while driving disrupts cognition and increases the risk of vehicular collision by 4-fold. Now imagine your doctor under the influence of constant workplace RF exposure while they treat patients, prescribe treatments, write prescriptions and juggle intense workday tasks.

Effects on brain function seem to depend in some cases on the mental load of the subject during exposure (the brain is less able to do two jobs well simultaneously when the same part of the brain is involved in both tasks). Some studies show that cell phone exposure speeds up the brain’s activity level; but also that the efficiency and judgment of the brain are diminished at the same time. Faster work but worse mental capacity is not a good thing for a practicing medical doctor.

Multitasking, memory, learning, attention, and concentration are all impaired by the use of wireless devices. Why would anyone want a distracted doctor with impaired thinking skills treating them? Or any healthcare person for that matter? And, doctors should know that wearing the equivalent of a smart phone mounted against their head is a potential risk for brain cancer (glioma and acoustic neuroma).

Next time you need to see your doctor, you may be asked if you object to them wearing wireless headsets. This could easily happen to you. Be prepared with some information.

Is your doctor using wireless medical glasses? A new paper by Cindy Sage and Lennart Hardell warns about the risks to doctors and their patients.

ABSTRACT
Wireless-enabled headsets that connect to the internet can provide remote transcribing of patient examination notes. Audio and video can be captured and transmitted by wireless signals sent from the computer screen in the frame of the glasses. But using wireless glass-type devices can expose the user to a specific absorption rates (SAR) of 1.11–1.46 W/kg of radiofrequency radiation. That RF intensity is as high as or higher than RF emissions of some cell phones. Prolonged use of cell phones used ipsilaterally at the head has been associated with statistically significant increased risk of glioma and acoustic neuroma. Using wireless glasses for extended periods to teach, to perform surgery, or conduct patient exams will expose the medical professional to similar RF exposures which may impair brain performance, cognition and judgment, concentration and attention and increase the risk for brain tumors. The quality of medical care may be compromised by extended use of wireless-embedded devices in health care settings. Both medical professionals and their patients should know the risks of such devices and have a choice about allowing their use during patient exams. Transmission of sensitive patient data over wireless networks may increase the risk of hacking and security breaches leading to losses of private patient medical and financial data that are strictly protected under HIPPA health information privacy laws. Link to this article:  https://doi.org/10.1080/15368378.2017.1422261

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Federal Research Raises Flags about Cancer Risks From Cellphone Radiation

Environmental Working Group: WASHINGTON – Data from the largest-ever animal study of cellphone radiation effects, released today by the federal National Toxicology Program, confirms earlier evidence from human studies that cellphone radiation increases the risk of cancer.

The research found that male rats exposed to radio-frequency radiation had a greater chance of developing malignant brain cancer, tumors in the heart and tumors in other organs. Various tumors were also observed in mice exposed to radio-frequency radiation. The amount of radiation to which the laboratory animals were exposed included the levels emitted by cellphones millions of people use everyday.

“This is the most authoritative study published that connects cancer with cellphone radiation it should raise alarms for policymakers and awareness for all Americans”, said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at EWG. “These studies should have been done before more than 90 percent of Americans, including children, started using this technology day in and day out.”

The threat that radiation from wireless devices could be a public health risk only mounts with todays report from the NTP. In 2011, the World Health Organizations International Agency for Research on Cancer declared the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones as a possible carcinogen based on human epidemiological studies that found increased gliomas and acoustic neuromas in long-term cellphone users.

“As new telecom networks are built around the country, in-depth assessment of childrens health risks is essential”, Naidenko added.

EWG has been at the forefront of public interest organizations raising concerns about cellphone use and cancer. The decade-long, $25 million federal study confirms reports by EWG from 2009 and 2013 that highlighted potential health risks from cellphones and wireless devices, especially for children.

EWGs 2009 Science Review on Cancer Risks and Childrens Health summarized comprehensive studies showing a variety of health harms linked to long-term cellphone use. This included increased risk of two types of brain tumors, including glioma; decreased sperm counts, motility and vitality among men; neurological effects; and changes in brain metabolism.

In December 2017, the state of California officially issued guidelines advising cellphone users to keep phones away from their bodies. When the groundbreaking guidelines were made public, California Department of Public Health Director Karen Smith said: “Simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults Children’s brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use. Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cell phones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night.”

To help concerned consumers take steps to protect themselves and their families, EWG has created tools and tips that can help reduce exposure to cellphone radiation. This includes EWGs Guide to Safer Cellphone Use and Six Questions about Cellphone Radiation and Your Health.

Results of the federal studies released for peer review by the National Toxicology Program today are available here.