Chapter 2 cover

Chapter 2

Health effects of mobile radiation

Electromagnetic radiation is known to affect the human body in various ways. In 2011, mobile phone radiation was classified as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Is your mobile phone safe?

If you rarely use your phone then yes, it is safe. Although, the overuse of mobile phones may cause health problems. 1, 2, 3

In 2012, the International Telecommunication Union reported that there were nearly six billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide. 4 That is 86 out of every 100 people, and the number is still growing.

Consequently, a lot of attention is being given to concerns about the possible health effects of mobile phone usage. They are raised due to smartphones emitting a form of energy known as radiofrequency (RF) waves. RF waves are known to be emitted by mobile phone antennas. Keeping the phone a safe distance away from your head is crucial as the tissues closest to the phone absorb more RF energy.

Research reached a turning point in 2011, when mobile phone radiation was classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer 5 part of the World Health Organization (WHO), suggesting that the low levels of radiation from mobile phones could have cancer-causing effects.

Independent scientists from the WHO based their opinion on the results of studies on cancer in both humans and animals, as well as other relevant data. We often reference this data as it is verifiable evidence for the adverse health effects of mobile phone usage.

Extensive scientific research has been carried out. Scientists are now certain that the degree of risk depends on the length and strength of exposure. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) published their preliminary findings on mice and rats exposed to radiation. A solid two year study (still ongoing) investigating the potential health hazards of mobile phone use. Surprisingly, it suggests that animals exposed to radiation are more likely to develop brain tumours in the future. The risk is slightly increased but due to the fact that these are rare tumours, their findings are alarming. A few years ago, a different study proved that radiation has an impact on semen, which could lead to infertility. 6

More scientific research was carried out to investigate fertility and each study confirmed that samples of sperm exposed to mobile phone radiation would die three to four times faster than those which weren’t exposed. The latest study from Canada found that one has to use a phone for only about 550 lifetime hours to double the risk of developing glioma. It is sufficient to talk for only an hour a week (over a dozen minutes daily) for 10 years to increase the possibility of an adverse reaction. There is evidence to support the claim that exposure to RF waves emitted by mobile phones can also cause other harmless, albeit inconvenient, effects. The potential for risks from decades-long use of mobile phones is still uncertain, and the research on it is ongoing.

How can mobile radiation affect you?

Neurological effects on humans appear to include brain tumours, 7 Alzheimer's disease, 8, 9 acoustic neuroma, 10, 11 glioma, 12, 13 hearing loss, 14 and reduced melatonin production. 15

Other effects on humans appear to include toasted skin syndrome, 16 DNA damage, 17 leukemia, 18 increased brain-blood barrier permeability, 19 and infertility. 20, 21, 22

Some people may have developed bad habits which encourage radiation exposure, such as women who carry a mobile phone in their bras (which increases the risk of breast cancer) and men who carry a mobile phone in the front pocket of their trousers (which affects fertility). It is worth knowing what can happen due to inappropriate or extensive mobile phone usage.

Who is more vulnerable to radiation?

Children 23, 24, 25

The bodies of children are immature and their nervous and immune systems are still developing. Electromagnetic radiation is known to penetrate the brains of children much deeper than it does the brains of adults. These differences are due to the higher water content in children's tissues.

Studies carried out in Sweden indicate that youngsters who begin using either cordless or mobile phones regularly before the age of twenty face over a fourfold increase in the risk of developing ipsilateral glioma. 26

The World Health Organization considered the study of child mobile phone users and brain cancer as a high priority. This kind of research will give reliable results because brain tumour rarely develops in children and it is easy to find out if mobile radiation may increase it.

Pregnant women

Pregnant women should be aware of the fact that there may be a risk associated with radiation exposure and child development issues. 27 Research found that maternal mobile phone use during pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of behavioural problems, particularly hyperactivity. During this particular study individual participant data from 83,884 mother-child pairs, divided into five cohorts from Denmark (1996-2002), Korea (2006-2011), the Netherlands (2003-2004), Norway (2004-2008), and Spain (2003-2008), were used and categorized according to the mobile phones usage habits of the mother, especially with regards to making calls.

Child behavioural problems were reported in the questionnaires by mothers. Almost 40% of the mothers who gave an account of no mobile phone use were less likely to have a child with overall behavioural or emotional problems. Expecting mothers should keep mobile phones away from their abdomen, 28, 29 just in case.

What the expert says:

I often ask the question: “How many times higher do you think the radiation background levels are today compared to 30, 40, 50 years ago?” Once there was a very brave man who answered: “100 times higher.” In fact it is one million billion times higher! 30

Olle Johansson,
(Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden)

Breast cancer does not generally occur in younger women, especially when they have no family predisposition or genetic history. However, a study conducted at the University of California in 2013 reported that four women aged 21 to 39 were diagnosed with multifocal breast cancer that originated at different locations in the breast. None of them had a medical record of this kind of cancer in the family but they did have one thing in common. Each of them regularly kept a mobile phone in her bra.

This harmful habit lasted for at least several years, about 10 hours a day. The breast tumours developed in the regions of their breasts where the mobile phones were placed. Pathology of all four cases shows striking similarity; all tumours are hormone-positive, low-intermediate grade, having an extensive intraductal component, and all tumours have near identical morphology. These cases raise awareness to the lack of safety data of prolonged direct contact with cellular phones, the researchers have concluded. 31

Resources
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