Tribal member assists research into cell phone health hazards

by Dec 6, 2019Health, NEWS ka-no-he-da





Kristin “Sassy” Washington, a healthcare communications major at Western Carolina University, recently conducted research with her classmates on the dangers of extended daily cell phone usage.

“People are placing themselves in danger by the constant distraction to their phones,” she said.  “Our phones are causing sleep disturbances, neck and upper back discomfort, and our phones are said to be even dirtier than a toilet seat at times.”

Washington, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who is minoring in Cherokee studies, said the research was conducted mostly by her observations and online.  “I was inspired to start this project because I have noticed the dependency that society has developed with their mobile technology.  My children feel the need to have access to what their peers are doing, and adults are just as guilty of the same.”

She said that all ages interested her in the research project – not just young people.  “A large percentage of society owns a cell phone, and one site stated that people touch their phones, on average, 2,000 times per day.  Most people use their phones at least five hours per day, and there are even people who are on their devices for 12 hours.  This is a small percentage but still relevant.”

Washington said the project has made an impact on her as well.  “I’ve cut down on my use, and I feel it’s helped me become much more observant.  Even if I was just changing a song on my phone while driving, those seconds could have resulted in harm to myself or others.”

She added, “My recommendation would be for people to set specific times for phone usage and to place their phones out of sight while driving or needing to focus on a specific task.”

Having spent 10 years as a paramedic with Cherokee EMS, Washington plans to one day be a patient advocate or a hospital liaison.  “I still have a strong desire to help people.  I want to be an educator and help people see that they can have an active role in their health and health care.”

She presented the project findings, along with three other students, in Dr. Scott Eldredge’s health communications class.