How much time do you spend on your cellphone? Do you know that cellphones 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 cellphone near your body. The exposure increases manifold when you are talking on it.
Cooking The Brain: The Evil In Mobile Phones & Cellphone Towers
Though there are few pointers that link cellphone usage to diseases such as cancer, the dangers of using mobile phones still exist. This article examines some studies that link usage of cellphones to different diseases and dangers. Before studying cellphone dangers, let us explore the hazards of living in areas having cellphone towers.
Cell Phone Towers: What Could Be The Exact Problem?
It has not yet been completely established that cellphones are really a danger but researchers are exploring the issue and some have found strong links that say living in an area with cellphone towers with high frequency can cause cancer. According to a study conducted by Indian Thermal Analysis Society (ITAS), three cancer cases were found in the same building that lies opposite to a cellphone 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 carried this 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 50 to 300 meter radius of cellphone towers are at higher risk of diseases due to electromagnetic radiation. This conclusion derives on the fact that in India, 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 cellphone 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 cellphone towers within 50 meters of schools, hospitals and residential areas. According to him, his son got cancer due to a cellphone 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. Here is the link to the story on bad effects of cellphone towers in Times 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 micro-watts per square centimeter, the study classifies exposure concerns as severe.
Scientists and researchers blame the electromagnetic radiation from radio waves as the agents that increase risk of cancer in people using cellphones – especially in children. In case of cellphone towers, people living in nearby areas are constantly exposed to high electromagnetic radiation. Since electromagnetic radiation is responsible for alterations in functioning of biologic cells and tissues, these people are at a greater risk of acquiring radiation diseases.
Among the major problems found in people living near cellphone towers are:
- Tumors, inparticular Gliomas
- Dry Eye,
- Muscle problems
- Damage to brain – depending upon how many cellphone companies are using a particular cellphone tower. ITAS claims that the more number of cellphone companies sharing a single tower, the greater the hazards of cellphone towers.
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 cellphones and other devices emitting radio waves. It is measured in Watts per Kg of human tissue. If the SAR limit of cellphones is 1.6W/Kg (as in the US), the total time that a person can use cellphones is maximum 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 cellphones 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.
Cellphones – What Are The Dangers?
According to 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 is 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 Indian Thermal Analysis Society, a human body be safely kept in a microwave oven of 700-1000W for only 19 minutes. This means that people can carry on a cellphone 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 into 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 electrical activities of brain, people can suffer from the following problems:
- Cardio-vascular problems
Among other major problems that have been linked to excessive cellphone usage are:
- Damaged blood vessels that translate to loss of protection to brain
- Brain Tumor, esp Gliomas
- DNA damage – resulting into 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 ear drums
- Damage to red blood cells – slowing down blood circulation and thereby exposure to other diseases
Dangers of Using Cellphones in Children
Children are at a greater risk of procuring diseases from excess usage of cellphones because their skull is thin compared to adults. Children using cellphones beyond limits run into major risk of procuring brain damage – due to increased heating of brain cells – other than risking loss in hearing and vision.
We may have started using mobile phones later in life, but these days childern right from the age of 10 and 12 want a mobile phone and have one. Thier 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 todays children are 50 and 6o years old …
The World Health Organisation said in May 2011 that mobile phones may cause Cancer and other health hazards and urged phone users “to limit their use and tke 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 contain 5 levels of carcinogens, and ranked mobiles just below things definitely known to cause Cancer such as smoking!
- For talking, keep your cellphone away from body.
- Use some handsfree device such as earphones or Bluetooth while communicating.
- Do not keep cellphones on body while talking.
- Use more of landline phones as they use analog signals.
- Try texting as an alternative to talking over cellphones.
- Try not to talk on the mobile phone for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Images in this story are part of study conducted by the Indian Thermal Analysis Society.