Can Mobile Phones cause Brain Damage?

Mobile phones: you get some good news, you get some bad news. (photo credits from fotolia.com)
Mobile phones: you get some good news, you get some bad news. (photo credits from fotolia.com)

We bring them everywhere with us and some of us don’t just have one, but lots of them. They allow us to connect to our loved ones, even to those  in far away places. We capture memories with them and they entertain us whenever we get bored. These days, it’s almost impossible to live without them. No one can deny the convenience mobile phones have brought us, but through the years, research have shown conflicting results whether the use of mobile phones pose a serious health threat.

In 1993, George Carlo, PhD, JD, an epidemiologist and medical scientist, was hired by a pool of telecommunications bigwigs to investigate the hazards of cell phone use, which at that time, was just starting to boom. But after a few years, the relationship had gone sour when his research revealed preventable health hazards associated with cell phone use. Cell phones expose us to a form of electromagnetic radiation called radio frequency (RF) energy. Scientists have suspected that this radiation might increase the risk of brain cell damage leading to tumors, and in 1995 they found this to be the case in rats.  There were no conclusive studies, though, that such is the same case with humans.
In 2006, the Danish Cancer Society has released results of a study claiming that there is no direct link between cell phone use and brain tumors, which Dr. Carlo disputed as the research was funded by the cell phone industry  and “was designed to bring a positive result. But something positive came out of these series of events. The medical community is paying attention, and so is the media.
In May 2011, World Health Organization (WHO) has included mobile phone use as “carcinogenic hazard” along side lead, engine exhaust and chloroform. The announcement was made after a team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the US, analyzed a peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The group found enough evidence to categorize mobile phone exposure as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Prior to this announcement, WHO has maintained that the use of mobile phones has no adverse health effects but recent studies have shown that:
  • at this time, there’s been an increase glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for mobile phone users, but associations to other type of cancer has not been established yet
  • there’s more risk in contracting brain cancer for people who hold their cell phones against their heads compared to those who keep their handsets away from their heads.
  • regular use of a cell phone doubles your risk of developing neuro epithelial tumours on the outside of your brain.
  • radio waves from cell phones are known to cause damage to DNA and cells, effects that are passed on to the next generation of cells.
  • other dangers include genetic damage, brain dysfunction, brain tumors and other conditions such as sleep disorders and headaches.

Currently, there are more than two billion cell phone users being exposed every day to the dangers of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). The danger mechanism is triggered within seconds, so the amount of time spent on the phone is irrelevant, according to Dr. Carlo. Researchers say that the safe level is low, we can’t even detect it.

Mobile phone manufacturers responded by issuing warnings of the  possible effects of mobile phones usage.

Apple included  the statement “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body.” in the Apple Iphone 4 safety manual.

Research in Motion, the makers of Blackberries advises users to “keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 inch (25 millimeters) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting.”

We can’t deny the convenience of using mobile phones but we can’t take these risks for granted. Here’s a few measures that we can do to minimize our exposure to electromagnetism radiation.

Use a headset or speakerphone . One study shows that using a headset lowers radiation exposure eightfold with the logic that the further the phone is from the body, the less radiation is absorbed.

Keep your phone out of your pocket. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery published a study in 2010 linking cell phone radiation to decreased bone density in the pelvis, and another study conducted in 2008 by the Cleveland Clinic found that it lowers fertility in men.

Limit children’s use of mobile handsets. They have thinner skulls, and their brains are still developing making them more vulnerable to any potential harmful effects of RF radiation.

Avoid talking while driving. Aside from the distraction it creates,  using your phone in the car forces your cell signal to jump between wireless towers. Since RF is highest when a connection with a tower is first established, talking while traveling can increase exposure.

Don’t chat with a poor signal. Poorer signal means your phone will have to work harder to get reception, the harder it works the more radiation it emits.

Don’t use those so called radiation shields. Those shiny stickers that claim to block radiation don’t work; they actually force the cell phones to transmit at a higher power.

Don’t wear wireless headsets if you don’t use themEarpieces don’t emit as much radiation as a phone, but they release some even when you are not in a call. Don’t wear such when you don’t need to use them.

 

Technology may make everything easier for us, but not without a price.

 

Web References:

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/aug2007_report_cellphone_radiation_01.htm

http://www.oprah.com/health/Dr-Oz-Explains-Cell-Phone-Dangers-and-How-to-Avoid-Them

http://drbenkim.com/articles-cellphonedangers.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/31/who.cell.phones/index.html

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