The number of cell phone users in the world has increased rapidly. These handy contraptions have spread virally in usage across the globe. Many are so dangerously addicted to cellphones that keeping it out of reach even for a while is out of question. With modern society not only using cell phones on a daily basis, but very often for a large part of the average day, it becomes a grave matter of concern.
It’s time to get very serious about cell phone safety. Slowly, the awareness is spreading to different countries around the world. Recently, California officially issued ground breaking guidelines advising cell phone users to keep phones away from their bodies and limit use when reception is weak. It might be difficult for addicts to follow the advice, but it might create a greater impact on your health if caution is not exercised.
What is the concern?
There is a genuine concern that cell phones may cause risk of cancer or other health problems. Cell phones emit radiofrequency radiation (radio waves), a form of non-ionizing radiation, from their antennas. Parts of the human body nearest to the antenna can absorb this energy and harm the health.
Traditionally, it has been thought that only high doses of radiation could cause serious harm. However, more recent information suggests that even long-term exposure to low levels of radiation over long periods of time can be harmful as well.
How serious is the issue?
According to the UN, presently 6 out of 7 billion people of the total world population, have access to mobile phones, which is more than those who have access to working toilets.
According to the IDC, 79% of people between 18-44 carry their smart phones with them 22 hours a day. As a reminder, there are only 24 hours in a day.
What is the risk?
Studies link radiation and RF energy exposure from long-term cell phone use to an increased risk of brain cancer, neurological disorders, lower sperm counts, memory and learning deficits, among other health problems. Scientists also warn that children’s developing brains could be at greater risk.
What is RF energy?
Cell phones work by sending and receiving signals to and from cell phone towers. These signals are a form of electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RF) energy. Other sources of RF energy include cell phone towers, TV and radio transmitters, smart meters, and microwave ovens.
When a phone sends signals to a tower, the RF energy goes from the phone’s antenna out in all directions, including into the head and body of the person using the phone. Cell phones also emit RF energy when using Wi -Fi and/or Bluetooth, but at lower levels.
RF energy is not as powerful or as damaging to cells or DNA as some other kinds of electromagnetic radiation, such as X -rays. Some scientific studies have, however, suggested that there may be increased health risks from exposure to RF energy.
Is non- iconising cell phone radiation harmful?
Although not as harmful as ionizing radiation (X-rays etc.), studies have shown that non-ionizing EMF radiation, such as that emitted by cell phones, can cause insomnia, decreased bone density in the pelvis, infertility in men, and can affect brain activity.
In 2011, the IARC classified mobile phone radiation as Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic, the same category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform. This means that there could be some risk of carcinogenicity; additional research into the long-term heavy use of mobile phones is needed.
How is the degree of exposure determined?
The degree of exposure depends on several factors, including the type of cell phone being used, how far the user is from the cell phone’s antenna, how much time is spent on the cell phone and how far the user is from cell towers.
Can cell phones worsen vision?
Blue light from phone screens can cause health effects like eye strain, pain and precipitate blindness, a recent study finds. The blue-tinted screens of cellphones and other electronic devices damage cornea, impact vision and may cause or precipitate macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, according to researchers from the University of Toledo (UT) in Ohio.
Is there strong evidence for cancer risk?
There is no strong or consistent evidence as of now that mobile phone use increases the risk of getting brain cancer or head tumors but various studies are progressing and more information is being gathered..Occurrence of other health issues in long term users have been substantiated by researchers.
The United States National Cancer Institute points out that "Radiofrequency energy, unlike ionizing radiation, does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer, but the possibility of risk cannot be ruled out." Furthermore, in 2018, research from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found that exposure to high levels of RFR — like what’s used in 2G and 3G cellular phones — could cause cancer in rats.
Also, scientists have reported that the RF waves from cell phones produce effects in human cells kept in lab dishes that might possibly help tumors grow. However, the FDA recommends reserving the use of cell phones for shorter conversations or for times when a landline is not available.
What is the extent of radiation emitted by cell phones?
While there is no universal guideline for safe level of cellphone radiation, a recent study shows the amount of RF energy emitted while a cell phone is held close to the ear to talk, organized by model and brand. The information was compiled by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz), which tests devices for a nationwide certification for environmental safety called Blue Angel.
The brand of phones they tested that emit the most radiation could put out 1.68 watts per kilogram. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States sets the standard for phones at 1.6 W/kg. For comparison, the Blue Angel standard in Germany requires that phones have a specific absorption rate (SAR) of no more than 0.60 W/kg.
What is meant by SAR value?
SAR Value is a measure of the maximum energy absorbed by a unit of mass of exposed tissue of a person using a mobile phone, over a given time or more simply the power absorbed per unit mass. SAR values are usually expressed in units of watts per kilogram (W/kg) in either 1g or 10g of tissue.
Which are the phones with highest and least radiation?
The 5T model from the Chinese manufacturer OnePlus topped the list with 1.68 W/kg. Apple was the American brand highest on the list, with the iPhone 7 tested at 1.38 W/kg. The iPhone X, has lower numbers (1.09 W/kg when held by the ear for model number A1865) according to the manufacturer, as does the current-generation Samsung Galaxy S8 (0.75 W/kg when held at the ear).
Based on the German findings, Statistica- the German portal for statistics have prepared a list of 15 phones based on their radiation levels.
How to find out radiation level in phones?
It is possible to check radiation level in terms of SAR of your smartphone by dialing a USSD code *#07#, if results show SAR below 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg) then it is well within the safe limits according to the current standards otherwise it is advisable to change the smart phone immediately.
What are radiation blocking devices and do they actually work?
EMF neutralizing devices claim to help protect against EMF without physically blocking them entirely. There is no proof of their scientifically proven efficacy or evidence that these products for EMF protection for cell phones really work. The available reviews about them are mixed.
Why is it not safe to keep cell phones near while sleeping?
First of all, apart from the danger of proximity to radiation throughout the night hours, snoozing with your cellphone is most likely messing with both your physical and mental health in at least a few different ways. It can not only disrupt your quality of sleep and clutter your mind but it can also potentially be a major fire hazard. According to the 2017 Hartford Home Fire Index, charging your phone in bed is a "high risk" for starting a fire. Experts in the field have also warned to be aware of the negative effects that EMF (electromagnetic field) exposures can have on health and well-being, especially while sleeping and while charging the phones.
Are Bluetooth headsets dangerous?
Though bluetooth headsets are supposed to emit far less radiation compared to that generated by cell phones, their placement is a matter of concern to health experts. Because of the proximity of the bluetooth devices, particularly the wireless headsets or earpieces to the body or the head, some experts predict that even at lower SAR levels, prolonged, chronic use of wireless devices could very well add up over time and hurt our health.
If planning long duration phone calls or listening to music for hours, the safest alternatives are using the speakerphone feature on the phone and wired headphones, as per the advice of Dr. Santosh Kesari, neuro-oncologist and chair of the department of translational neurosciences and neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, This is especially important for children, who are still developing, have thinner skulls and therefore are more sensitive to radiation.
How to avoid cell phone radiation?
• Use airplane mode as often as possible.
• Do not sleep with your cell phone near you, especially under the pillow
• Keep the phone away from your body as much as at least 10 inches.
• Keep the phone away from your head as much as possible even during calls.
• Reduce cell phone use when the signal is weak.
• Remove your headsets when not on a call.
• Keep the duration of calls short.
• Wireless or Bluetooth headsets are said to cause more danger than wired ones, hence limit the usage
• Use speaker phones whenever possible
• Never charge the cellphone near the bed while sleeping.
(Author is the Director TGL Foundation, Chairperson CSA and Editor - The Intl Journal, Sr Dir FWO)