Cell phone radiation is bad. We have heard that a lot. In this article, we explore the extent of risks associated with cell phone usage. More than half of the world’s population uses mobile phones. This number will likely go up in the coming years, and so will the frequency of usage. 

The introduction of new software and gaming applications are increasing the time we spent with a mobile device. While we know that could be dangerous for our health, we are not taking it seriously enough. But why should we? There isn’t any serious threat; there are no studies that warn us about cell phones and their risks. According to the FDA, the current limits on RF (radio frequency) energy allocated by the Federal Communications Commission are acceptable. Based on the information provided by the FDA, there is no scientific evidence that cell phones could damage health in a significant way.   

What’s happening?

No research directly points to the hazardous effects of long-term cell phone usage. Should we just trust these studies? How can we know for sure that the current studies haven’t been funded by wireless company CEOs? According to the Guardian, there’s corporate propaganda to keep the argument alive regarding cell phones and cancer. There are no prominent studies that will highlight the link between cell phone usage and cancer. If there are any, they aren’t promoted enough or are attacked by the industry that doesn’t want a profit decline. 

Let’s dig a little.  

What we know so far  

All mobile phone devices emit radiofrequency waves. The energy emitted from these waves could cause a heightened risk of tumors in the brain and neck region, body parts that are frequently exposed to cell phone radiation while talking on the phone.  

How do mobile phones emit radiation?

Mobile phones send and receive signals from the nearby cell towers through RF waves. These waves fall between FM and microwaves, which are non-ionizing. RF waves too are non-ionizing and do not have enough energy to alter the DNA structure that could lead to cancer. In comparison, X-rays and gamma rays are much stronger and could cause gene alteration leading to cancer. However, RF waves can become damaging at very high levels where they heat the body tissues closest to the device (in this case neck and head).

There is no sufficient evidence that it could lead to any damage; however, some researches point out that the exposure and its potential damage could depend on certain factors that include:

A. the amount of time spent on a mobile phone

B. the proximity of the mobile phone

C. the location of nearest cell phone tower

D. the amount of mobile phone traffic in the location

E. phone-specific absorption rate

The phone specific absorption rate is the amount of RF energy emitted from the phone and absorbed by the body of a user. Different phones emit different SAR levels. According to FCC (Federal Communication Commission), the maximum SAR allowed in the states is 1.6 W/kg. However, the SAR value is not a solid indicator for RF exposure in a particular user as usage can differ among users. Users with high cell phone usage may get more exposure from a low SAR phone than those using a high SAR phone for a limited duration. 

Can RF exposure cause tumors?

As most cell phones are held near the head, there is a debate whether that exposure could lead to tumors including gliomas, meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, and salivary gland tumors.

Both lab-based (studies done on animals) and human studies show a very weak link between cancer and mobile phone usage. A recent lab study conducted by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the Ramazzini Institute (Italy) concluded that RF exposure to lab rats leads to certain cancers of the brain and cancer of adrenal glands. 

In 2019, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) concluded that both studies have certain limitations that don’t allow for certainty.  

The INTERPHONE study (the largest study that has been done so far on the subject), looked at cell phone usage and its link to brain cancer in thousands of people and concluded no direct link.

Another large-scale study was the Danish Cohort Study that compared people who had a cell phone subscription between the years 1982 and 1995 and those who didn’t. This study too found no heightened risk of brain tumors in cell phone users. Although this study had a larger scope, it still had its limitations. For example, it did not take into account the amount of time spent on a cell phone. Additionally, cell phone usage has changed rapidly in the past 10 years, which makes the studies conducted before that useless in this regard. 

Similarly, another large-scale study in the UK called ‘the Million women’ to study included nearly 800,000 women examined the risks of cell phone usage over 7 years. It did not establish a direct link between cell phone radiation and brain tumors but reported a possible connection between long-term mobile phone usage and acoustic neuromas.

Is there any research regarding Bluetooth and 5g technology?

Bluetooth radiation didn’t get as much attention as cell phone radiation and hasn’t to this day. The industry uses a lack of study as an excuse to deem Bluetooth safe. Just because there hasn’t been any research should not mean that a technology is safe. 

There have been some off the radar studies that have highlighted the damaging effects of Bluetooth devices including Bluetooth earphones and headsets. Yet regulatory agencies continue to claim that the non-ionizing radiation emitted by both Bluetooth and cell phones does not harm human health.  

What kind of damage a Bluetooth device could do?  

Bluetooth devices use the microwave frequency (2.4 GHz – 2.4835 GHz), the same frequency as the microwave oven. This generates abnormal electromagnetic fields that can create a stress response in the body. The stress response, as a result, assaults our immune system. While most experts and regulatory bodies consider Bluetooth radiation to be at a safe SAR level, it’s unclear if the SAR level defined ‘safe’ by the industry is safe or just a limit set to convince the buyers and deter the critics.

The limitations of current researches

All the mentioned researches have their drawbacks. 

A. These studies did not follow cell phone users for long enough. Tumors take time to develop. 

B. Most studies did not take into account the usage of a cell phone. With most studies being case-control, it is hard to draw conclusions based on limited information. 

C. The studies so far did not consider children. Additionally, the studies did not consider cell phone use in modern days. Cell phone usage has become more widespread in the past 10 years. Children weren’t using mobile phones 20 years ago as they are today.

Will there ever be a complete study?

Most experts do not have an official statement regarding cell phone usage and cancer, including the American Cancer Society. Some agencies have called RF radiation to be possibly carcinogenic to people, while others have closed the topic citing studies done so far as “inadequate evidence”. 

Why has research failed to offer any credible evidence? Why isn’t there a bigger conversation about the subject? 

Our research points to a lack of proper research regarding the risks of cell phones and its possible link to corporate agendas. Wireless industry CEO’s and telecommunication industry leaders don’t want to continue the discussion. But they don’t want to end it either; they want to keep the argument suspended so that lack of certainty assures the customers. The phrases “there is no clear evidence” or “more research is required” are conveniently used to deter any criticism or lawsuits that may soil the industry’s reputation.

Cell phone usage risks 

According to some experts, cell phones can cause several health issues that can impact daily aspects of life. Some of these issues include: 

A. Germs

Cell phones travel with you wherever you go, and so do the bacteria and germs that are on your phone. Do you remember where did you put your phone last time? On the shop counter? Maybe on top of the ATM and perhaps on a park bench. While you would wash your hands, dd you consider cleaning your phone? Without realizing it, we touch our face (eyes and mouth) after using our phone, which could lead to potential health problems.

B. Cancer

The most debated topic regarding cell phone health concerns is perhaps brain cancer. There is not enough research to support cell phone usage link with brain tumors. However, some private research studies (not funded by the industry and its affiliated regulatory bodies) link cell phone radiation to certain types of brain cancer.

C. Neck and back strain 

Long-term cell phone usage has been linked to neck and back strain that can cause temporary pain and discomfort.

D. Trigger finger 

Trigger finger is a condition where one of your fingers can get stuck in a bent position. It may go back to its original position with a snap, hence, the name trigger finger. Continuous use of cell phone (for example, texting over a period of time) can cause trigger finger regardless of your age. 

E. DNA damage

Multiple studies show that cell phone radiation can cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. At the same time, a number of other studies indicate that cell phone radiation is of extremely low frequency, not strong enough to alter the DNA or cause significant health risks such as cancer. An average mobile phone user does not have a complete understanding of how radiation (ionizing or nonionizing) can cause DNA damage, and what are the consequences of that DNA damage. Ionizing radiation, such as UV rays, directly affects the DNA structure causing breaks and permanent damage 

The DNA offers a blueprint for the essential proteins that our cells need to function. So damage to the DNA can lead to serious issues like cancer. However, (fortunately) our cells are capable of fixing certain damages. 

While ionizing radiation causes direct damage to the DNA, non-ionizing radiation interferes with the normal mechanisms of oxidative repair leading to oxidative stress. This further leads to cellular and DNA damage. So non-ionizing causes DNA damage in an indirect way. 

F. Mental health

Mobile phones mess with our mental health in several ways. First, the internet itself is causing several psychological problems in both teens and adults. Teens are an easy target as they do not have the emotional intelligence to handle criticism, negative comments, or other forms of online bullying that come with social media. 

EMF radiation caused by cell phones can impact your hormones. Yes, you read that right. So, it’s more than just cyber-bullying. Increased cell phone usage is hurting your health on a cellular level (as we already know how it damages DNA). Additionally, these changes can cause behavioral effects including drastic mood changes, frustration, irritation, lack of self-esteem, and much more. 

G. Turmoiled relationships 

Since cell phones are affecting our mental and physical health in the long run, they can easily become a cause of turmoiled relationships. In recent years, people are spending more time with their cell phones than with their family or friends. Additionally, when people choose to talk over text, a lot of the conversation can get lost in translation causing miscommunication.  

What do we talk about when we talk about cell phone radiation? 

Here’s what so dangerous about cell phone radiation: we can’t see it. Cell phones emit different kinds of radiation. 

First, when your phone is trying to find a signal or is connected to an internet or phone service provider, it is emitting EMF, electromagnetic radiofrequency. When you put your phone on airplane mode, it cuts off that radiation. However, just because EMF is cut short doesn’t mean your cell phone is safe. Phones still emit different kinds of radiation in airplane mode. 

When your cell phone is on and is connected to an internet provider, a phone service, and a Bluetooth, it has layer after layer of radiation. 

Luckily, all of these radiations bundled into a mobile phone do not cause significant damage if used sparingly. They will only induce DNA damaging changes when used over a long period of time. 

What needs to be done

So we understand that cell phones and Bluetooth devices have a potential bad effect on our health. What do we do until there’s enough research? Should we just believe what we are told and continue to absorb non-ionizing radiation hoping it won’t cause any damage? 

Prevention truly is better than a cure. Here’s what you can do until there’s enough evidence for what a cell phone can and can’t do to our health. 

Tips for safe cell phone usage 

A. Avoid placing the phone to your ear. Use hands-free. Avoid Bluetooth earbuds/headsets too.

B. Have a separate computer room. Keep all your technological devices in that room. When you go to sleep, leave your phone there or put it on airplane mode. 

C. Take breaks. Do not use any technological device for too long. If the device is getting heated, leave it. 

D. Do not use old cell phones and other technological devices.

E. You can invest in a cell phone that has a lower SAR value, but so far it is not clear if SAR value could be a good indicator of how much radiation is being absorbed by the body and how much of it can be dangerous. We recommend that you practice caution with whatever cell phone you choose to purchase. 

F. Use blue light filter on your mobile and laptop. 

G. Avoid carrying your cell phone in your pocket. Get a bag.

H. When not in use, turn off internet/Bluetooth/network services. 

The bottom line 

There’s isn’t enough research to help us fully understand the risks of cell phone usage. But does that mean that we should ignore all precautions? Remember that lack of research does not mean we are good to go. Regardless of what the phone companies tell us, we need to make sure we use technology in a safe way. Limit your technology use (including cell phones and computers) and increase the time you spend with your friends and family and nature. Better safe than sorry. 

When it comes to protecting your health, it’s important that you take care of your whole body. Here’s a routine that can help you do that: a simple routine to stay healthy.

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