The use of cellular phones and wireless devices in the modern day and age has become integral. Finding places to eat, paying bills, playing games, online banking, GPS; there is very little the cell phone of today cannot do. Estimates show that over 5 billion people use mobile devices today (Silver, 2019). It is therefore, not surprising that the benefits as well as the adverse effects of wireless devices have been debated much upon, especially in the last 50 years. While no one can deny the usefulness of cell phones, it is the harmful effects of the radiation on human health which has sparked much interest in recent years. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared “mobile phone radiation on the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) scale into Group 2B - possibly carcinogenic”. What this essentially means is that risk of carcinogenicity may exist. Therefore, additional research needs to be conducted into the long term use of cell phones (Bhargavi, Balachandrudu, & Nageswar, 2013). “The familiarization and dependency of mobile phones has grown at an alarming pace”, and with it has grown the debate on the health risk created from the exposure to radiation (Kesari, Siddiqui, Meena, Verma, & Kumar, 2013). There is an exponential amount of data proving both sides of this discussion as valid, and it can be quite confusing trying to sort through this inordinate amount of information.
However, what various studies do agree upon is that radiofrequency, emitted from wireless devices is dangerous enough to the human health to warrant caution. Even if it cannot be proven without a shadow of a doubt that there are numerous health risks associated with long term use of cell phones; there is ample evidence showing that enough risks exist. Appliances like cellular phones “emit radiofrequency (RF) energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by tissues close to the phone/appliance” (Naeem, 2014). How much radiofrequency energy human beings are exposed to will depend on the type of phone they have, how close they keep it to their bodies and their distance from cell phone towers; among other factors (Naeem, 2014). And while radiofrequency is emitted from all sorts of appliances, it is cellular phones that the world needs to be particularly cautious of; the only appliance to have become a constant companion to people.
The question then arises, that if all of the above is true, why do some studies show cellular phones to be completely and utterly safe? Well, while there may be many reasons behind this, the main one is profit. Industries continue to profit from the sale of cell phones. In one journal article, it was found that unlike the studies dependent upon industry funding, the “Swedish studies (which were independent of industry funding) found irrevocable evidence that significant increased brain tumor risk can arise from cell phone and cordless phone use” (Morgan, 2009).
This is not to state that simply owning a mobile phone will cause cancer and brain tumors; but there is undeniable evidence that close proximity to one’s phone, the type of phone they own, and the consistency with which they use it are causes definitively linked to the risk of several health problems. Studies have found that cancer and brain tumors are not the only threats from elongated cell phone use. Health issues linked with RF from electronics such as cell phones, microwaves etc. include “childhood leukemia, brain tumors, genotoxic effects, neurological effects and neurodegenerative diseases, immune system deregulation, allergic and inflammatory responses, infertility and some cardiovascular effects” (Kesari, Siddiqui, Meena, Verma, & Kumar, 2013). And it is not just the more serious illnesses which can be caused by exposure to RF. Minor health issues such as “headache, impaired concentration and memory, and fatigue” can also be caused by extended cell phone use (Khan, 2008). Apart from it impacting human health; “medical equipment or implanted pacemakers, certain hearing aids and implantable defibrillators can also, albeit rarely, be affected by mobile phone radiation (Bhargavi, Balachandrudu, & Nageswar, 2013).
However, there are plenty of ways to prevent risk from such damage. Certain cell phones, like the Doro Flip and Alcatel Flip phones, or the Coolpad mobile phones have been found to emit low radiation levels. A German report recently listed several other phones with the lowest Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) amongst which the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 won the ranking, with an SAR of only 0.17 watts per kilogram (Siddiqui, 2019). There is also a high volume of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) protection devices available in the market that one can buy to protect oneself from radiofrequency; everything from phone covers to even the clothes one may wear. The fundamental function of such devices is to protect the human body by shielding it from EMF and RF. Furthermore, there are specific precautions that can be taken as part of one’s daily routine. When talking on a cell phone, the phone should be used at a distance, and on speakerphone mode. When around people, instead of bringing the phone to the ear, a headset can be used. When on their person, cell phone should be kept switched off (when not in use). When at work or when sleeping, cell phones can be put away at a distance. “It is best to use the phone when there is the maximum number of bars, indicating the best reception” (Bhattacharjee, 2014). Poor signals can cause phones to emit increased levels of radiation. Studies also state “that cell phone use should be avoided in elevators, cars, trains or planes because cell phones draw more power, and emit more radiation, in enclosed metal spaces” (Bhattacharjee, 2014). Instead of using cell phones all day, landline use can be increased.
Decreasing dependency on appliances like cell phones, dishwashers, microwaves, and laptops may sound harder than it actually is. Cell phone usage does not need to be brought down to a zero; all that is needed is a little precaution and small lifestyle changes. Just a little effort on everyone’s part can have a butterfly effect and benefit human health in the long term.
Bhargavi, K., Balachandrudu, K., & Nageswar, P. (2013, April). Mobile Phone Radiation Effects on Human Health. International Journal of Computational Engineering Research, 3(4), 196-203.
Bhattacharjee, S. (2014). Protective Measures to Minimize the Electromagnetic Radiation. Advance in Electronic and Electric Engineering, 4(4), 375-380.
Kesari, K. K., Siddiqui, M., Meena, R., Verma, H., & Kumar, S. (2013, March). Cell phone radiation exposure on brain and associated biological systems. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 51, 187-200.
Khan, M. M. (2008). Adverse effects of excessive mobile phone use. International Journal of Occupational Medicie and Environmental Health, 21(4), 289-293.
Morgan, L. (2009, August). Estimating the risk of brain tumors from cellphone use: Published case–control studies. Pathophysiology, 16(2-3), 137-147.
Naeem, Z. (2014, October). Health risks associated with mobile phones use. International Journal of Health Sciences, 8(4), V-VI.
Siddiqui, A. (2019, February 8). List of High and Low Radiation Emitting Smartphones is Out, Samsung and Apple Have a Huge Presence in it! Retrieved November 22, 2019, from Digital Information World: https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2019/02/the-cell-phones-that-emit-the-least-and-most-radiation.html.
Silver, L. (2019, February 5). Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally. Retrieved November 22, 2019, from Pew Research Center: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/.