The cell phone or smartphone industry is the largest growing industry today. Every other day the industry comes up with new, advanced cell phone models and most of us are tempted to buy them.
Besides the fact that cell phones help in easy communication, did you know that there may be a possibility that it is adversely affecting your health?
A few national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have stated that there is no established scientific evidence that the use of cell phones causes any health effects. However, the possibility of harm cannot be completely ruled out.
The National Cancer Institute claims that there are three reasons why people are concerned that cell phones may pose a threat to health.1
- Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy (RF), a form of nonionizing radiation, from their antennas. The tissues close to the antenna absorb this energy.
- There has been an increase in the number of cell phone users. As of December 2014, there were more than 327.5 million cell phone subscribers in the United States, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.
- The number of calls, the duration of calls, and the amount of time people use cell phones have increased drastically.
What is radiofrequency (RF) energy?
Radiofrequency (RF) energy is a form of electromagnetic radiation. The electromagnetic radiation can be of two types: ionizing and nonionizing radiations.
Ionizing radiations include X-rays, radon, and cosmic rays. Exposure to these rays like X-rays is known to increase the risk of cancer.2
Nonionizing radiations include radiofrequency and extremely low frequency or power frequency. These have low frequencies and low energies. Although there are studies that have examined the possible health effects of nonionizing radiations from microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is no consistent evidence that shows that these radiations increase the risk of cancer.
The only consistently recognized effect of RF energy is heating.3
How Are People Exposed?
Cell phones work by sending signals to (and receiving from) nearby base stations using RF waves. The RF waves in a cell phone come from its antenna. The waves are strongest at the antenna and quickly lose energy as they travel away from it.
The cell phones are usually pressed against the side of the head when we use them. Those body tissues closest to the phone absorb more energy than the other parts.
The following factors affect the amount of RF energy a person is exposed to.4
- The amount of time a person uses the cell phone.
- The way the person uses the cell phone. For instance, if the cell phone is on speaker mode the cell phone is held away from the head.
- The distance between the cell phone and a cell phone tower. If the cell phone is closer to a cell phone tower, there is good signal. However, if the cell phone tower is located away from the cell phone, then more energy is required to provide good signal.
- The amount of cell phone traffic in an area. Higher traffic means that the cell phone requires more energy to provide good signal.
- The model of the cell phone also affects the amount of RF energy a person is exposed to as different phones emit different amounts of energies.
Health Risks With Cell Phones
1. Cell Phones And Cancer
Most of us believe that the use of cell phones may increase the risk of cancer. However, there is no consistent scientific evidence that supports this belief. As mentioned earlier, tissue heating is the only consistent effect of cell phone use.
At the frequencies the cell phones use, the heating is absorbed by the skin or superficial tissues, resulting in insignificant temperature rise in the brain or any other organ.5
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also claims that there is no substantial evidence that links cell phone use to cancer and hence we cannot arrive at any conclusion unless further research is undertaken.6
2. Cell Phones And Germs
Cell phones are home to germs if we use them when our hands are dirty. A research has found that one in six cell phones is contaminated with some sort of fecal matter, probably because their owners did not wash their hands with soap after using the toilet. Some of the phones were found to harbor E. coli bacteria from fecal origin. If ingested into the body, E. coli can cause fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.7
Another study found the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on the cell phones. Staph infections can turn into deep, painful abscesses.8
From these studies we can conclude that we must keep our hands clean at all times. If our hands are dirty the same will be passed to the objects we touch.
3. Cell Phones And Accidents
Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.9
Distracted driving is driving while doing some other activity which takes your attention away from it. Texting, talking on the cell phone, eating, and other activities account for distracted driving. Studies have also found that people using a cellphone had delayed braking reactions and were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not conversing on a cellphone.10 Distracted driving is harmful for both the driver and the pedestrians.
4. Cell Phones And Eyestrain
Small screen and bright light can the strain eyes. The eyes use more muscles to adjust to the different lighting in and around the screen. This is when you feel your eyes are hurting. Those using cell phones may also have a habit of holding them too close to the eyes, which also add to eyestrain.
Keeping adequate distance between your eyes and the cell phone and increasing the font may help reduce eyestrain. Also, use the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20-second break from your cell phone every 20 minutes and focus on something at least 20 feet away.11
Prevention is better than cure, so let’s get into the habit of avoiding cell phones when wired telephones are available, texting instead of making a voice call, limiting the duration of calls, and making calls where reception is good.
|↑1, ↑3||Cell Phones and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑2||Do x-rays and gamma rays cause cancer? American Cancer Society.|
|↑4||Cellular Phones. American Cancer Society.|
|↑5||Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones. World Health Organization.|
|↑6||No Evidence Linking Cell Phone Use to Risk of Brain Tumors. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑7, ↑8||Health Risks of Using Mobile Phones. South University.|
|↑9||Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑10||The dangers of driving and talking on the cellphone. British Columbia Medical Journal.|
|↑11||The 20-20-20 Rule. Canadian Association of Optometrists.|