Sssshhhh! Ministries Look at Cell Phone-free Zones on Public Transit

Environmental Protection Minister Erdan warns that passengers not using cell phones are exposed both to noise and radiation that exceeds allowable levels.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan last week asked Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to establish a joint team to recommend ways to reduce the use of cell phones on buses and trains. Erdan warns that passengers not using cell phones are exposed both to noise and radiation that exceeds allowable levels.

"My ministry has been receiving complaints about noise from the use of cell phones by some passengers on public transportation for quite some time now. Moreover, there is also the concern of unreasonably and unjustifiably high levels of radiation," Erdan wrote.

Cell phone, AP

Erdan based his statements on measurements by his ministry of radiation and noise emissions from cell phones. According to the data, when one fourth of the passengers in one train car or bus use their cell phones, all the passengers are exposed to a level of radiation higher than the allowable 0.8 watts per kilogram. Levels are higher in buses than in trains.

The metal casing of buses and trains makes it more difficult for the cell phone signal to broadcast and receive, and therefore it emits more radiation as it attempts to do so. When buses and trains pass through non-urban areas where antennae are less frequently placed, they also have to emit a stronger signal. Also, the radiation cannot easily escape the metal casing and dissipate.

As far as noise is concerned, the Environmental Protection Ministry has calculated that two people five meters apart talking on their cell phones for 16 minutes out of every 60 minutes is enough to expose the other passengers to unreasonable noise levels.

Erdan also said that unlike other public spaces, people on buses or trains cannot move elsewhere to avoid the noise and radiation. As cell phone usage continues to grow, it could become another reason people will avoid using public transportation, which is in the common interest of both ministries, Erdan wrote Katz.

Erdan proposed that experts from both ministries compile recommendations based on current practices in Western countries. Experts in the Environmental Protection Ministry say that in the United States, for example, one train car on a particular line is reserved in which cell phone use is prohibited.