African American businessman talking on mobile phone, smiling. Close-up, isolated over white.

By Ruth Choji


The introduction of Global System for Mobile telecommunication, GSM in 2001 revolutionised communication in Nigeria. However, the use of mobile handsets, especially second hand, outdated models among the masses, comes with health risks, that are hardly known to users. Ruth Choji writes

Some Nigerians were not surprised when the chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, during its Special Day at the 37th Kaduna International Trade Fair warned Nigerians to desist from using second hand phones (tokunbo phones) or refurbished phones.

According him, some of the devices did not meet international benchmarks for safety and other requirements and were used and dumped in some other countries before they were imported into Nigeria. Ogochuwku Dozie, an IT expert notes that “Some of the tokunboh or refurbished phones are those that were  returned by customers  for one complain or the other that  are now being resold at discounted prices as refurbished handsets by several retailers. Even in developed countries, people still buy refurbished phones. Of course they are not new phones. When consumers return a faulty handset with a minor defect, it is repaired and sold as refurbished handset. Second hand phones are those that have been used for long or short duration, but refurbished phone have been tested by the company and most of the times comes with same warranty as new phone. Since the phone was returned because of a problem which has now been fixed, you have less chances of running into trouble with a refurbished phone as compared to second hand devices. Most electronic goods, be it new phones can be faulty but they are usually repaired by technicians before being displayed in the market and are often sold for a cheaper price. You will be surprised to know that some persons prefer them to new ones.

“Another reason why I like second hand phones is that, it helps us in protecting the pollution of the environment. They go through more rigorous testing than new phones. But I always advise that the buyer of these phones should ask for warranty and return policy. Make sure that all inbox accessories and charger are functional.”

On her part, Dr Adebisi Omowunmi,  a neurologist stated that “As much as smart phones have made life easy for people, excessive use can affect  your health negatively because they  transmit radio waves through a series of base stations. Radio frequency waves have electro-magnetic fields that cannot break chemical bonds or cause ionization in the human body.

“When the phone is on, it is necessary to keep it a bit far from your body to reduce radio frequency exposure. It is suggested that, cell phone users keep a minimum distance of 20 centimeters from their handset to reduce radiation exposure. The constant use of cell phone can have negative effects on your stress levels. This is because of the constant ringing, vibrating alerts, and reminders which can put the cell phone user on edge.

“While you continue touching of it, it can pass germs to you. The greasy, oily residue you may see on your cellphone after a day’s use can contain disease-prone germs than those found on a toilet seat.  The way you respond to messages at rapid speed can cause pain and inflammation of your joints. Back pain is also common with increased cell phone use, especially if you hold the phone between your neck and shoulders as you multi-task.

“It has been proven that long periods of cell phone use cause you to arch your neck and hold your body in a strange posture which leads to back pain. Everybody can testify that a continuous staring at your mobile can cause problems in your vision later in life because screens on mobile devices tend to be smaller than computer screens.

“Continues phone usage can also affect your sleep patterns. Energy and cost are associated with extracting materials that go into a cellphone. The disposal of cellphones often leaves a toxic imprint on the environment because the  printed circuit boards contain toxic metals  like lead, nickel, and beryllium. The liquid crystal displays contain mercury while the batteries contain nickel and cadmium, particularly in older ones.”

Andy Uche, a second hand phone seller in Nyanya Markert, a Nassarawa state suburb stated that “People like second hand phone because they are cheaper and cuter than the new ones. iPhone models drop drastically because new ones are always coming out. Some people come to sell their own so that they can increase money to buy the latest phone.

“So buying a used iPhone is your chance to pay less for the desired device without signing a long-term contract. Some buy second hand iPhone because they have already been tested but new iPhones usually suffer from various technical issues related to the innovative software and a large release.

“The fact that the phone has been used by somebody is your guarantee. Older models do not have the same software advancement and innovations as the latest ones. The used iPhone that you are targeting might not possess features like voice-controlled Siri, 3G speed, GPS, high quality camera, and the rest.  And then, used iPhones have less memory and hard drive space.

“Used phones are less expensive to purchase than brand new phones.”



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