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In this New Year, I want to take this unique opportunity to wish many readers who have sent regular compliments to me for the  informative and helpful hints they have obtained from reading the column.

In the same way, I want to sensitise us to the events of last month. It is on record that most of us witnessed several outings such as weddings, engagements, birthdays, funerals, memorials and more.

A great number of people attended these functions almost on a daily basis. The consequences of such outings are unknown to many people. I will emphasise them with these stories.

A story that brings attention to our peculiar situation in Nigeria to the front was an experience between Prof. Adeoye Lambo of blessed memory and me. As the Regional President of the International Federation of Medical Students Association, my office had dealings with the World Health Organisation. On one occasion, Prof. Lambo and the then Director- General of WHO wanted us to meet in Lagos during his one week visit to Nigeria from Geneva.

Unfortunately, we could not have the meeting but Lambo managed to put a call to me that,   members of my committee and I should meet him at the VIP lounge in the airport as he prepared to catch his flight back to Geneva.

He then apologised for not meeting us in town. In his excuses, he characterised our Nigeria situation thus, “This is a very strenuous country in terms of our activities. One will leave a friend or relation’s birthday service to go to a breakfast reception and proceed to work after which one will  the leave office to join a funeral service or meet the reception.

“That is if one did not have to attend  the Christian wake the previous night. The journey could end up at another friend’s birthday night party. He gets home about 10 pm, if not 12 midnight, only to wake up in the morning to pay a visit to the aging father or mother in Abeokuta, before proceeding to an Iwuye ceremony in Ijebu!”

According to him, he had become very tired from these engagements on this trip and he wondered how Nigerians managed to do all this. His concern was for our health! Unfortunately, this pattern continues up till today.

The second story actually typifies another health hazard, which is our frequent use of cellphone. I know a few relations and friends who have died recently of brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, and acoustic neuroma metastasis. These are people who were very concerned about their way of life. Very little or no social alcohol, meticulous living.

The only point I could see was excessive use of mobile phone or the present of several telephone masts near the house. That led to the suspicion of  the probable cause of death.

It has been reported that 91 per cent of American adults and 60 per cent of teens own mobile devices and  that has revolutionised communication in the 21st century .

The cellphone

Whether you own an Android, an iPhone, a Blackberry, or a basic flip phone, chances are you check your phone for messages, alerts, or calls even when your mobile device isn’t ringing or vibrating, says Pew Internet & American Life Project survey.

Nigeria is currently home to about 190 million connected telephone lines, with 145 million having an active subscription. Internet users, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, are about 86 million.

Another report states that 85 per cent of Nigerians have access to the Internet through mobile phones. The modern convenience that cell phones provide is responsible for its increased daily use.

According to the Morningside Recovery Rehabilitation Center, the average American spends 144 minutes a day using his or her phone during a 16-hour period.

With an estimated six billion subscriptions worldwide and counting, cell phones have become one of the fundamental means of communication in the society.

Everyone must agree with me that, in Nigeria, the above statistics must be more than double. In most cases, we spend a huge period exchanging unnecessary pleasantries, innuendos, and greetings ranging from  one to five minutes or more, before we get to the subject matter or the reason for the phone call.

So our exposure is far more than the developed countries. Compare: “Blake speaking. Can I help you?” to “Hello, hello, yes, hello ooo. How are you? Can you hear me? Who  is speaking?” This can go for some minutes and then  you hear, “Wrong number!”

While cell phones provide an efficient and easy way to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers, excessive use can take a toll on your health. Mobile phones use transmitting radio waves through a series of base stations where radiofrequency waves are electromagnetic fields that cannot break chemical bonds or cause ionisation in the human body, says the World Health Organisation.

Although cell phones are considered to be low-powered radiofrequency transmitters, your handset transmits power when it is on, and therefore it is important to increase your distance from the handset to reduce radiofrequency exposure.

The Federal Communications Commission  suggests that cell phone users should keep a minimum distance of 20 centimeters from their handset to significantly reduce radiation exposure.

Adults and especially children can suffer the long-term effects of radiation waves on the brain. “Young children particularly need to be careful,” Dr. Devra Davis, director of environmental oncology at the University of Pittsburgh, told CNN.com.

“We do not have enough information nor do we have enough time to be sure that cell phones are safe, and there’s reason for concern that they may be harmful,” she said.

The University of Pittsburgh also warned its faculty and staff to limit their cell phone use due to the possible cancer risks.

Don’t gamble on your life, and learn about the reasons why increased cell phone use can have short-term and long-term effects on your health.


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