Mobile phones radiation has been a concern for the medical world over the last few years as the prolonged use of mobile phones has increased to an unprecedented level. There have been several studies that have linked mobile phone use to different types of cancer, but on the other hand there have been other contradictory studies that have failed to establish any such evidence.
This status quo is thus far inconclusive in proving that mobile phones are a definite carcinogenic threat (as Cancer Research UK explains).
Scientists across the world believe that not enough is yet known about the harmful effects of mobile phone radiation to completely rule out the threat. Mobile phone technology has been rapidly changing and there is much more research required to gauge definitively if there is a link with cancers of the head, neck, brain, nerves and other cancers linked to the use of these devices.
This article takes a look at why some scientists believe that radiation from such handheld devices can cause cancer.
How Mobile Phone Radiation Works
Mobile phones have low power transmitters in them (of about 0.75 to 1 watt of power) compared to 3 watt powers of typical car batteries. These transmitters are usually placed closed to the antenna.
According to UniqueMobiles tech rep, during use, the transmitter takes the sound of the user’s voice and encodes it onto an electromagnetic sine wave and sends the signal through the antenna and into space to be picked up by a mobile phone tower in the vicinity.
Electromagnetic radiation is made of, simply put, magnetic and electric energy traveling at the speed of light. Different frequencies of such radiation have different effects on our tissue.
The type of radiation related to mobile phones is called non-ionizing (microwaves and light waves are other examples) – it does not radically alter molecules and chemical reactions in the body like ionizing radiation (such as X-rays and Gamma rays) but it does have some heating effect.
Since users hold mobile phones close to their head while speaking through it, there is a good chance that some of the radiation can get absorbed by tissues, thus damaging it and causing cancer cells to develop.
The fundamental questions that are being asked by researchers are:
- How much radiation is considered unsafe?
- Can there be any long term effects of mobile phone use?
The FDA states that the use of mobile phones has not been linked to any adverse health effects based on existing scientific literature available. However, that does not rule out the fact that there is very little known about the long term effects of such radiation.
Why Mobile Phone Radiation Is A Cause For Worry
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that even though mobile phone radiation frequencies are quite weak, they can still stimulate changes in the brain.
Another earlier study revealed that children may be at a greater risk of contracting brain tumor because of mobile phone use. A number of other studies have suggested that the radiation can damage sperm count in men that carry their mobile phones in their trouser pockets or belts.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the amount of exposure to radiofrequency energy depends on the phone technology, the distance between the user and the phone’s antenna, the extent of use and the distance of the user from the mobile phone towers. A series of studies have already suggested this, but with rapid changes in technology, some of the research done so far has quickly become obsolete.
A case in point is a 2010 study (based on 2005-2006 data) that revealed 2G networks that used TDMA and GSM technologies by Verizon and AT&T exposed users to a whopping 30 to 300 times more radiation energy than the CDMA technology used by Sprint and Verizon. By the time the study was published, most US users had already moved on to 3G technology.
Meanwhile, according to the latest developments, many mobile carriers have moved on from 3G to LTE. Some studies suggest that LTE may be exposing users to more radiation than 3G. Therefore it may be true that wireless carriers can also affect radiation exposure, irrespective of the brand or technology of the handset used.
Some Tips for Mobile Phone Users
A radiation level of up to 1.6 watts per kilogram (this is the specific absorption rate or SAR of the handset) is considered safe by the FCC. Any mobile phone that emits higher levels of radiofrequency energy is illegal. In order for users to reduce potential risks from mobile phones, it is recommended that:
- Hands free headsets be used
- Phones with antennas far away from the user be used
- The antenna should be kept extended during use
- Calls inside buildings be limited
- Phones be used in open spaces as far as possible
- Children be allowed limited use of mobile phones
- Mobile phones be kept far away from the head when sleeping
It is also wise, when purchasing a mobile phone, to stay away from certain brands and handsets that are known to have high radiation levels. According to a list recently published by technology reviewers Cnet, some of the biggest offenders include Verizon Wireless technology’s Motorola Droid Maxx (SAR 1.54) and Motorola Droid Ultra (SAR 1.54), T-Mobile’s Alcatel One Touch Evolve (SAR 1.49), MetroPCS’ Huawei Vitria (SAR 1.49) and Sprint’s Kyocera Hydro Edge (SAR 1.48) and Kyocera Kona (SAR 1.45). Users can find out the specific absorption rates of their phones by visiting FCC website and entering their phone’s FCC ID code.
It is not yet completely clear whether mobile phones can cause cancer or significant damage to the human body. However, the WHO has classified mobile phones and other wireless devices that use non-ionizing radiation as a group 2b risk, which means that they have the potential to be cancer causing.
With a 2012 survey suggesting that the average college student spends at least 118 minutes a day on their mobile phones and with one in ten children owning mobile phones by the time they are five, it is wise to stay as safe as possible until we know better.
Published on Feb 19, 2014