How Harmful Is Your Cell Phone, Really?

How Harmful is your Cell Phone, Really?

Kavya Narayanan HEALTH

A study in February 2013 predicted that by 2014, there would be as many mobile phones in used as people on the planet. Sure enough, there are about 7.2 billion subscriptions formobile phones worldwide, and increasing. In a 100 countries around the world, the number of cell phones exceeds the countries’ population. Russia has 1.8 times more active cell phone accounts than people. UAE is no less guilty by demographics, showing this trend of two phones per individual as early as 2008!

What about cell phone use concerns us?

Apart from ‘cell-phone elbow’, increased ear bacteria and earwax, cancers of the brain (gliomas and meningiomas) are the most worrying of the many claimed risks of using cell phones frequently, especially now that mobiles are practically extensions of the human head.

The crux of the concern is ‘electromagnetic fields’- one of the most pervasive environmental influences today.

How Harmful is your Cell Phone, Really?

Electromagnetic radiation?

Electromagnetic fields are considered ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’. To gage its health effects, WHO established an ‘EMF Project’ in 1996, the results of which show no impact of cellphone use on human health.

In the same vein, a group of Danish researchers conducted the largest study ever on the subject and found no evidence that the risk of brain tumors was elevated among 358,000 mobile phone users over an 18-year period. This adds up, because cell phone radiation does not emit enough energy to break/ionize molecular bonds (unlike UV, X-rays and gamma rays that generate mutations in DNA), and thus is an unlikely cause of cancer.

Maybe because EMF does have side effects! (Increased body temperature, skin ageing, light sleep disturbances)

Over a short term, mobile phone usage causes ‘Tissue heating’. Energy from the device is absorbed by the skin and temperature of our organs rises… slightly.

Long term effects have been harder to study despite numerous studies of links between cancer and mobile phone use. Reason being that cancers are not detectable until many years after the causative interaction, and mobile phones were not widely used till the early 1990s. So, research can reveal short-term effects, while not for cancer and tumors.

How Harmful is your Cell Phone, Really?

Faster Aging:

At moderate levels of prolonged exposure, radiation can cause skin dryness, wrinkling and what is known as ‘photo-aging’. This ain’t good news, ladies!

Cognition and Sleep:

Effects of Mobile phone radiation has been studied extensively on sleep and EEGs (Electro-encephalographs, used to study brain activity). A 2008 study showed that after a 3 hour phone call, people spent more time in “light” sleep, and less time in the later “deep” stages of sleep- a small sleep impairment. Such changes are really minor and unlikely though, considering that you’d have to be crazed in love to spend 3 hour every day for months to have your sleep disturbed by cell-phone radiation!

How Harmful is your Cell Phone, Really?

Do the Math:

After a 1000-odd studies, there is more proof to show its safety than its harm. Yet, chivalrous would be the one who heeds no precautions. You’d best avoid the radiation, no matter how small or how small the harm. So, here’s some advice that could keep you out of harm’s way:

  • Switch to ‘Airplane Mode’: this turns off the transceiver, this prevents messages and calls coming through, while still keeping the mobile operational.
  • Younger people should avoid carrying phones in front pocket, to avoid harm done to the reproductive system.
  • When not in use, keep your WiFi and data packages off. This reduces your exposure to EMF.
  • Use hands-free and Bluetooth devices to keep the phone away from your head.

Is my Laptop equally guilty?

Laptops too receive WiFi signals and emit EMF. The EMF from laptops is lesser than that from phones, but still enough to cause heating and ageing.

Could it be your laptop screen?

Old computers and TVs use an outdated technology called Cathode Ray Tube screens where images are swept across the screen by magnetic fields. Here, small amounts of X-rays and other ionizing radiation are generated. Nowadays, LCD displays use significantly small amounts of energy, and much safer. However, TV sets and computers (no matter what technology) emit a strong EMF.


How Harmful is your Cell Phone, Really?

For men who want kids someday:

Men who sit with laptops on their lap create a rise of approximately 5°C around their scrotum. Interestingly, a 1° rise for longer than 20 minutes causes a decrease in sperm activity by more than 40%! This means lower fertility, more chances of miscarriage and defects. So raise that laptop at least a few inches, or place it on table. One day you can tell your children stories of Ned Stark, Zlatan or watch Star Wars together.

Women are also susceptible to laptop radiation:

Women, especially pregnant women, are also sensitive to laptop radiation. Studies show ADHD in children who have been around an above average exposure to radiofrequency while in the womb.

So the answer lies not in the science alone, but in moderation. Most of us assume radiation to be either chemotherapy or nuclear bombs! It actually just refers to any energy transferred in wave form. NO, let’s not kiss our phones goodnight and tuck them under our pillow, and YES, we can moonwalk in the shower to MJ with your phone on its loudest (if you’re into that). Happy texting, y’all!