Feb
03
2008

DECT Phones

Since we authored this page in Feb 2008 several things have happened. Firstly, Dect has been hacked – see our other recent posts for more info. Secondly, Siemens now make a Gigaset Eco+ Dect phone that’s cheaper than the low-radiation Orchid model, nicer looking and potentially more secure against eavesdropping identity thieves! See our Eco-Dect page for more info.

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If you bought a new cordless phone for your home, in the last 5 years, it will mostly likely be a DECT model.

The advantages of DECT phones are: better call quality, so no interference; encrypted link, so no eavesdroppers; and support for multiple handets, so easy to transfer calls. On the surface this is great.

Because DECT supports multiple handsets, the main base station is constantly transmitting a carrier signal 24/7. If you have the main base next to you bed or home PC, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in that beam, probably without even realising it. If you only have a single DECT handset, then its charger unit is also the main dock. If you have multiple handets, the main dock is the one that plugs into the BT wall socket.

DECT is probably the most pervasive pulsed RF transmitter in UK homes. When you drive or walk past a house with DECT the Electrosmog detector picks it up easily, and DECT is really common. If you live in a semi-detached property and your neighbour has a DECT phone, on the other side of the wall from your bed, it really could disrupt your sleep (see other articles on this site about scientific studies that proved pulsed RF wrecks sleep quality – see our Shielding Info page for possible solutions).

If you read literature produced by government agencies in Germany & the UK, about DECT, you begin to appreciate that they hold contrasting opinions. For instance some other European nations are cautious:

Here’s a quote from the Health Minister in Salzburg, Austria: “The official advice… is not to use WiFi or DECT in Schools or Kindergartens”

And from Germany: “The German Federal Radiation Protection Agency (Bundesamt fur Strahlenschutz – BfS) has expressed concerns over DECT phone use. They stated in a January 2006 press release that a DECT cordless phone is often the strongest single source of microwave radiation in a private home.

To prevent possible health risks the Agency recommended minimizing personal radiation exposure (if a DECT phone is used) by placing the base station in a place where you do not spend much time, for example a hall.

For the workplace the Agency specifically advised to avoid placing DECT phones on work desks and called upon manufacturers to redesign the phones to include a feature of power output control, so that the power output during a call would be adapted to the distance of the handset from its base station. This would allow phone use only to the level of power necessary to keep the communication going and power would be down while on standby and connected to the base station/charger”.
(from emfacts.com)

“If patients insist on having a DECT phone, at least advise them not to place the base station by the bed or anywhere where they spend extended amounts of time. As for a recommended distance from a bed head or desk, at lease three meters would be an absolute minimum.”(emfacts.com)

“It is recommended that advice to new parents would be to have nothing to do with DECT baby monitors whatsoever.” (emfacts.com)

However, our own UK Health Protection Agency are much more Electrosmog friendly:

Firstly, although they state there is no cause for concern, they make a point of mentioning:

“Often the cordless phones in bedrooms are secondary units with a charger, and the main base station/charger is somewhere else in the house.”

So, is there a problem with having the main DECT dock near your bed then? Why mention this if there’s no danger.

Then : “One situation where a user may be particularly close to a base station would be if the main charger unit were placed on a bedside table. If such a base station were 30 cm from the head, this would be at least ten times further away than a phone handset and SAR values would be at least a hundred times lower, and thus thousands of times below the ICNIRP guidelines. Often the cordless phones in bedrooms are secondary units with a charger, and the main base station/charger is somewhere else in the house.”

The problem here is ICNIRP. The safety guidelines from ICNIRP relate to ‘heating effects’, no heating effect, no problem. However, two 2008 studies, mentioned elsewhere on this site, have found that mobiles well within ICNIRP safety guidelines can alter skin proteins and wreck sleep quality.

So, in summary, the UK Health Protection Agencies website is still parroting last years view of the subject, while our more enlightened Euro neighbours – Germany, Sweden & Austria – have at least attempted to put the safety of their citizens first, since at least 2005.

One thought does occur to me. Could the government be held culpable, if it’s proved they’ve allowed the mobile companies – who paid so much for their 3G licenses – to harm us. What better way to muddy the waters than offer no early safety advice on DECT. How would you ever prove if it was your GSM mobile that sent you mental, or your cordless DECT phone? Just a thought…

Being a concerned parent leads me neatly to my next point about DECT : Baby monitors/alarms. A DECT baby alarm’s transmitter unit will be placed usually in a small bedroom with a cot. The unit will usually be placed close to the baby, and the said unit will be beaming out pulsed RF 24/7. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that babies can suffer interrupted sleep when a DECT baby alarm is present, but that the same babies sleep soundly when an old fashioned analogue unit is used. Read more & more info.

If you already have a DECT baby alarm, you can easily do the equivalent of the Pepsi Challenge. Try a week without and a week with (obviously turn off power to your own DECT phone & WiFi at bedtime too). You never know you might advance the cause of science. After all, babies don’t know about mast paranoia, pulsed RF emissions, etc, etc – so there’s really no need for double-blind trials! Obviously, you’re going to need to be objective in your observations, though. Just a thought…

New low radiation DECT phones – if you really, really must.

Maybe someone will come up with a baby monitor / alarm that works through the household wiring. A bit like the Homeplug units that can replace WiFi. Again, just a thought… (just checked on the 17/02/09 and Tomy now do this very item! see it here : http://www.tomy.co.uk/products/baby-link/

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