How much time do you spend on your cell phone? Do you know the mobile phones’ health hazards and risks caused because they keep on emitting radio waves as long as they are switched on? Since the very basis of cellphones is radio signals that carry voice, you are in constant exposure to these radio waves as long as you keep the cell phone near your body. The exposure increases manifold when you are talking about it.
Cooking The Brain: The Evil In Mobile Phones & Cellphone Towers
Though there are few pointers that link cell phone usage to diseases such as cancer, the dangers of using mobile phones still exist. This article examines some studies that link the usage of cellphones to different diseases and dangers. Before studying cell phone dangers, let us explore the hazards of living in areas having cell phone towers.
Cell Phone Towers: What Could Be The Exact Problem?
It has not yet been completely established that cell phones are really a danger but researchers are exploring the issue, and some have found strong links that say living in an area with cell phone towers with high frequency can cause cancer. According to a study conducted by the Indian Thermal Analysis Society (ITAS), three cancer cases were found in the same building that lies opposite to a cell phone tower. All these three cases belong to Usha Kiran Apartments opposite to cellphone tower built on Vijay Apartments (Carmicheal Road, Mumbai, India). A prominent Indian daily Mid-day had carried an article on the issue of Usha Kiran Apartment residents suffering due to mobile towers.
Based on different case studies, the ITAS concluded that people living within a 50 to 300-meter radius of cell phone towers are at higher risk of diseases due to electromagnetic radiation. This conclusion derives from the fact that in India, an acceptable standard of radiation is 9.2Watt per square meter. For other countries, the “danger zone” is different – based on their acceptable standard of radiation. For the US, it is 580 – 1000 Micro-Watts per square centimeter. This translates that people living within 2 to 2.5 miles in the radius of cell phone towers are at risk of health hazards.
In yet another incident, a resident of New Delhi (India) recently filed a petition to ban cellphone companies from erecting any cell phone towers within 50 meters of schools, hospitals, and residential areas. According to him, his son got cancer due to a cell phone tower that was erected on his house. He says within a year of the tower being installed, everyone in his family gained weight and started suffering from sleeping problems. This story was also covered in the Time of India.
In a study conducted by Building Biology Institute of Germany, they state that anything above 10 Micro-Watt per square meters is a matter of concern as it will affect the biological cells in all kinds of lives – plants, animals, and humans. For towers that emit more than 10 microwatts per square centimeter, the study classifies exposure concerns as severe.
Scientists and researchers blame the electromagnetic radiation from radio waves as agents that increase the risk of cancer in people using cell phones – especially in children. In the case of cell phone towers, people living in nearby areas are constantly exposed to high electromagnetic radiation. Since electromagnetic radiation is responsible for alterations in the functioning of biologic cells and tissues, these people are at a greater risk of acquiring radiation diseases.
Mobile phones health hazards
Among the major problems found in people living near cellphone towers are:
- Tumors, in particular, Gliomas
- Dry Eye,
- Muscle problems
- Damage to the brain – depending upon how many cell phone companies are using a particular cell phone tower. ITAS claims that the more number of cellphone companies sharing a single tower, the greater the hazards of cell phone towers.
Read: Is Bluetooth Radiation harmful or safe?
Specific Absorption Rate
The specific absorption rate – or SAR as it is known – refers to the rate of electromagnetic energy that is absorbed by the human body when using cell phones and other devices emitting radio waves. It is measured in Watts per Kg of human tissue. If the SAR limit of cell phones is 1.6W/Kg (as in the US), the total time that a person can use cellphones is a maximum of 6 minutes. Given an error margin of 3, the total time a person can use cellphones translates to only 20 minutes per day.
While some countries have now made it mandatory to display the SAR value of cell phones on their handsets, others have not yet woken up to the dangers of using cellphones. Wikipedia has some more information on SAR including the equation to calculate SAR.
Read: How to protect yourself from Laptop radiation.
Cellphones – What Are The Dangers?
According to the National Cancer Institute (USA), there are two types of electromagnetic radiations – ionizing and non-ionizing. The first type is found in X-Rays etc, and it has been proved that they cause severe diseases in people who are exposed to such emissions. Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiations that are picked up by biological cells and tissues that are directly in contact with cellphones – hands and ears. The National Cancer Institute says there is no proof that cellphones can actually increase the risk of cancer but still, it can increase the temperature of body cells in contact with cellphones.
In another study by Dr. Girish of the Indian Thermal Analysis Society, a human body is safely kept in a microwave oven of 700-1000W for only 19 minutes. This means that people can carry on a cell phone conversation only for 19 minutes at a time without harming themselves.
It has also been found by studying rats that prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation can lead to severe brain damage. People using cellphones to a particular brain side have more risk of damaging that side of the brain – leading to complex disorders that may or may not be reversible.
According to Dr. Keith Black, Chairman of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles:
What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.
Due to the changes in the electrical activities of the brain, people can suffer from the following problems:
- Cardiovascular problems
Among other major problems that have been linked to excessive cell phone usage are:
- Damaged blood vessels that translate to the loss of protection to the brain
- Brain Tumor, esp Gliomas
- DNA damage – resulting in tumors and cancers
- Sleep disorders
- Irreversible fertility
- Skin problems – caused mainly by overheating of cells and include rashes, sores, and even skin tumors
- Hearing loss due to overheating of eardrums
- Damage to red blood cells – slowing down blood circulation and thereby exposure to other diseases
Read: List of cellphones with the highest and lowest emissions.
Dangers of Using Cellphones in Children
Children are at a greater risk of procuring diseases from the excessive usage of cell phones because their skull is thin compared to adults. Children using cell phones beyond limits run into a major risk of procuring brain damage – due to increased heating of brain cells – other than risking a loss in hearing and vision.
We may have started using mobile phones later in life, but these days children right from the age of 10 and 12 want a mobile phone and have one. Their usage is uncontrolled. No one wants to use a landline anymore… What will happen after 20 and 30 years? Only time will tell. We can only hope that it is not a time-bomb which will explode when today’s children are 50 and 60 years old …
The World Health Organization said in May 2011 that mobile phones might cause cancer and other health hazards and urged phone users “to limit their use and take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure to mobiles”. It concluded that mobile use is “possibly carcinogenic to humans’, a term that places mobiles in the middle of the rating scale that contains 5 levels of carcinogens, and ranked mobiles just below things definitely known to cause cancer such as smoking!
Also read: Health problems caused by smartphone overuse.
Mobile phones Safety advice:
- For talking, keep your cell phone away from the body.
- Use some hands-free devices such as earphones or Bluetooth while communicating.
- Do not keep cell phones on the body while talking.
- Use more of landline phones as they use analog signals.
- Try texting as an alternative to talking on cell phones.
- Try not to talk on the mobile phone for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Go here to find out if you are you are addicted to your phone.
Images in this story are part of the study conducted by the Indian Thermal Analysis Society.