Nine Cell Phone Myths Debunked

Nine Cell Phone Myths Debunked

You've probably heard a lot of urban legends about cell phones. They cause cancer. They crash planes. If you sneeze and hiccup at the same time while talking on one, you die. Like many myths and rumors, many of these stories are based on speculation, misunderstanding of technology, and outright lies. Then again, some of them have facts and experts to support them.

Here, Switched sorts through the mess and explains some of the most popular rumors and legends. Whether you believe us or not is up to you.

1. Cell phones crash planes.

Myth: If you use a cell phone while flying, the signal can interfere with the plane's compass and navigation systems, possibly leading to a crash.

True or False? It's debatable.

Anyone who's flown knows that flight attendants ask you to turn off all electronics, including phones, until after takeoff. According to one pilot who was interviewed by ABC News, the reason for this is so you pay attention to safety instructions, and, in the case of an aborted liftoff, "I don't want a laptop flying across the cabin."

A UK study in 2003 showed some interference with compasses and navigation systems, but that was done in controlled settings, not on real planes. More recent studies by the NASA and the FAA have found no instances where a cell phone caused a crash, although some pilots claimed otherwise.

Currently, the approach is "better safe than sorry," but they say that systems in aircraft are shielded enough not to be disrupted. As soon as it's proven that there's no link or threat, you'll be able to talk someone's ear off instead of watching the crappy in-flight movie.

2. Cell phones can cause gas station fires.

Myth: While pumping gas, using or turning on your phone can release a charge of static electricity that will ignite the fuel.

True or false? False.

This rumor dates back to the '90s, when a phony e-mail made the rounds of people's in-boxes around the world. The e-mail claimed that Shell Oil had issued a warning about three instances of cell phones causing fires at the pumps. When contacted about it in 2003, Shell claimed it was a complete hoax and that it wasn't aware of any such incidents.

While it has been proved that static electricity can cause fuel vapors to combust, cell phones do not emit a strong enough amount to ignite anything. Smoking, however, will still cause problems.

See Also: Angry Wife Accused of Burning 400 Phones

3. Cell phones cause cancer.

Myth: Prolonged cell phone use can cause brain cancer or tumors because of radiation.

True or false? Debatable.

Ever since cell phones became popular, both the media and average people have claimed that cell phones can cause cancer. Unfortunately, there have been many medical studies on the issue and they still don't offer any definitive proof.

A 2005 study of 4,000 Europeans by the Institute of Cancer Research found no link to any types of cancer among regular phone users, but did say that radiation could potentially cause adverse effects, so moderation was recommended.

See Also: Japanese Study Clears Mobiles Of Brain Cancer Risk

Last month, an Israeli scientist claimed that phone use causes tumors in salivary glands, saying that regular users had an increased risk of 50% for developing tumors. A few weeks before that, an Australian cancer specialist said the exact opposite (same goes for coffee and breast implants).

For now, this one seems like a personal choice, so proceed at your own risk.

4. Cell phones can be used to open up locked cars.

Myth: Broadcasting the sound of a remote keyless entry device over a phone can open up a locked car.

True or false? False

The rumor is that if you have an extra key remote at home, you can call someone and have them hit the open button while you hold your phone up to the lock. Well, those entry systems use radio waves and proximity – think about when you've tried to open your car from too far a distance – and can't be transmitted over a phone.

Unfortunately, if you lock your keys in the car, you'll have to get your spare set or AAA to open it for you.

See Also: 5 States With BIG Fines

5. Cell phones use #77 instead of 911 for emergency calls.

Myth: Dial 112 anywhere in the world to reach emergency services, or dial #77 to reach highway patrol anywhere in the U.S.

True or false? Mostly false.

You've probably heard a variation of this story: a woman gets pulled over by an unmarked car, suspects the cop is a fake, calls one of these numbers and is connected to a local police force that tells her that he is, in fact, a fake, and she escapes.

First off, neither of these numbers will automatically connect you to someone who can tell you right away that you're in danger. Calling #77 in some parts of the U.S. will connect you to the local highway patrol, but in many areas it won't.

The solution? Dial 911. It will connect you every time and it's the same amount of keystrokes.

See Also: Cell phone caller arrested for making 27,000 911 calls.

The other is that 112 is a worldwide emergency mobile number that you can call from any location if you're in trouble. Well, you can call 112 in many foreign countries, as it is the standard emergency number, especially from GSM phones in roaming areas, but the number will not work in the U.S.

Again, stick to 911 domestically, and, go online to find out what the local emergency number is in another country before you leave the U.S.

See Also: Countries That Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving

6. Dialing a special code gives you extra battery life.

Myth: Entering *3370# or some other code will unlock a reserve amount of battery to allow you to make another call.

True or false? False.

Sure, it'd be nice if this trick really worked but, unfortunately, once a battery's drained, you're out of luck. One European Nokia executive even called this idea "pure science fiction." Some phones actually use codes like that to enhance voice quality, which decreases battery life.

Instead, keep your phone charged and don't rely on this one.

See Also:
-- How to Give Your Battery a Boost
-- Cell Phones With Great Battery Life

7. Cell phones interfere with hospital equipment.

Myth: Cell signals disrupt hospital equipment and can kill patients.

True or false? False.

Many uniformed people have claimed that the radio frequency signals from phones somehow screw up medical technology in hospitals, so it's unsafe to use your phone in any of these settings. Even some hospitals have cell phone bans as a way to avoid this potentially life-threatening scenario.

Thanks to a study by the Mayo Clinic, this was proved to be completely untrue. 300 tests using two cell phones, four carriers, and 192 medical devices were conducted at the clinic's Rochester campus over five months and not one problem occurred. The study even recommended that hospitals lift their bans, so you can forget about this one.

8. Hitting a button gets you a number that will help you get your phone back if it's stolen.

Myth: Pressing *#06# will give you a serial number that you can use to prevent your stolen phone from being used and help investigators find it.

True or false? Both.

Yes, entering the code *#06# on many phones with GSM (those from T-Mobile or AT&T Wireless) will bring up a 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI number that is unique to your phone. It's also usually printed underneath the battery. Depending on your carrier, you could use this number, if you wrote it down, to flag the phone as invalid if someone tries to use it with a different SIM card or provider. Unfortunately, this doesn't really do much for you in terms of getting your phone back.

The smarter option is to just report the phone as stolen to your service provider, which protects your account from unwanted charges. And invest in some handset insurance since phones just about top the list of most frequently stolen gadgets.

9. Cell phone use lowers sperm count.

Myth: Carrying a phone in your pocket and constant use can lower your sperm count (that is, if you're a guy).

True or false? True

Sorry fellas, but if you're on your phone all the time, you might have a lower sperm count or abnormal swimmers.

A study at a Ohio fertility clinic tested 361 men with infertility issues and divided them based on cell phone usage. Those who used their phone more than four hours a day were found to have much lower sperm counts and higher amounts of poor quality semen.

See Also: Heavy Cell Phone Use Tied to Poor Sperm Quality

The study is being reviewed currently, as it didn't take other factors such as drug use into account, and follow-up studies will also test electromagnetic radiation on sperm cells in labs to see if they're directly affected.

It will be a while before we know anything for sure, but in the meantime, you might want to keep your talk time down.


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