The cellular phone is a pervasive technology that has evolved from a luxury item justified only by the rich businessman to a necessity to some and an addiction to others. According to Portio Research Limited approximately 4.344 billion cell phones are in use globally. Since the latter part of 2008 one fifth of households in the United States have chosen this technology as their sole method of voice communication, replacing traditional landline telephones. Source: Fram, (2009). A 2009 Marist Poll found that “87% of U.S. residents say they own a cell phone.” So what exactly is a cellular telephone? History tells us that Alexander Graham Bell received the first U.S. patent for a communication device called the telephone in 1875. This device allowed a human voice to be transmitted across a cooper wire. We grew up with the telephone and in my generation every house had at least one telephone. The first patent for “cordless phone” technology was given in 1959 but the technology did not become commercially viable until the breakup of the Ma Bell monopoly in the early 1980’s, it was then that several companies started manufacturing wireless phone systems. These cordless phone systems were still connected to landlines but in actuality were two way radios using RF or Radio Frequency technology. Radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum of radiation. Today’s cell phones use EHF (Extremely High Frequency) or microwaves which are the same technology our microwave ovens are based on. Because the telephone started out as a safe technology we grew up using, people do not even think about the possible negative health consequences of using their cell phone.
Cell phone usage has negative effects to your health. However when it comes to the health risks associated with using a cell phone, there is conflicting research.
Mobile phone technology is new and its effects are unknown.
We have only been using wireless communication technology for the last thirty years. There are not large enough studies conducted over long enough periods of time to come to the conclusion that this technology is safe. Cigarette smoking and even X-Rays where once thought to be safe, until enough information came to light to prove the dangers of using them. Most of the major studies have been done in countries that have a financial stake in the manufacturing of cell phones. Interphone is one of the largest studies ever done. It took place over the course of ten years and included the research of 13 different countries, comprising subjects from the age of 30-59. Even with large studies such as Interphone (which included 14,078 cases), there are on going debates about what the data actually means, thus with no conclusive results the report remains unpublished. “But one thing they all agree on is that more research is needed.” (Reardon, 2009, para. 6). Another issue involved is that the technology being used is rapidly evolving; the current incarnation of the cell phone is less than ten years old. The Stewart Report from the International Experts Group on Mobile Phones claims (Stewart, 2000, 40) “New Telecommunications technologies have been introduced without full provision of information about their nature and without prior discussion within the scientific community about the consequences for health.” The research is static while the technology is dynamic.
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The use of Cell phones increases the risk of cancer.
Using a cell phone held up against your ear can increase your risk of getting cancer or brain tumors due to the proximity of the radiations’ source to the head and brain. There are many studies available which indicate a link between various types of cancer and cell phone usage. A study done in Sweden by Dr. Lennart Hardwell showed that the risk of acoustic neuroma and glioma are increased from 20% (low grade giloma) to 400% (high grade giloma) by long term mobile phone use (>10 years), highest risk category being ipsilateral exposure. Source: (Harwell, Carlberg, Söderqvist, Mild & Morgan, 2007). Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, MD and Director of the University of Pittsburg Cancer Institute and UPMC Cancer Center testified before the Domestic Policy Subcommittee Oversight and Government Reform Committee “My attention was directed to a large body of evidence, including expert analyses showing absorption of RF into the brain and the comprehensive Bioinitiative Report, review of experimental and public health studies pointing to potential adverse biologic effects of RF signals, including brain tumors, associated with long-term and frequent use of cell phones held to the ear.” Source: Herberman, R. (2008). Dr Herberman felt strongly enough about the connection between increased cancer risk and using a cell phone that he issued a warning to his staff which included 10 detailed steps to reduce exposure to the RF electromagnetic radiation.
Cell phones do not cause cancer.
Sources such as the US Food and Drug Administration and the American Cancer Society have found cell phone usage has not been directly linked to an increased risk of brain, and other cancers. The United States Food and Drug Administration is the government agency responsible for evaluating and regulating the safety of products that emit radiation. These products cover medical to entertainment electronics. The FDA website under the topic of Radiation emitting products, health issues, a simple question is asked and answered, “Do cell phones pose a health hazard?” Source: www.fda.gov (2010). The answer clearly states the scientific evidence has not proven that cell phones cause cancer or any other health issues. The American Cancer Society has evaluated close to 30 studies which were focused on the relationship between tumors and cell phone usage. The results of these studies have been similar. “Most studies do not show a “dose-response relationship” — a tendency for the risk of brain tumors to increase with increasing cell phone use, which would be expected if cell phone use caused brain tumors.” Source: www.cancer.org (2010). Certainly these organizations are credible and have no financial interest in the outcome of this controversial health topic.
Mobile phones emit low-level RF.
Because the RF levels emitting are so low, there is no direct link between mobile phones and health issues. According to the FDA cell phone levels of RF are low putting them into the range of microwaves. Microwaves produce non-ionizing radiation, not to be confused with ionizing radiation such as gamma or x-rays which does have a damaging effect on biological tissue. The Federal Communications Commission defines a biological effect as a measurable change in a biological system. The presence of a biological change does not translate into something that is biologically harmful. When the biological effect “causes detectable impairment of the health of the individual or of his or her offspring” it is categorized as harmful to ones safety. Source: U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Office of Engineering and Technology, (1999). These RF levels are only at their peak when actually transmitting and receiving, which limits the amount of exposure.
The FDA stated that no prove existed that cellular phones are dangerous, however if people still have apprehension there many preventive methods that can be implanted to further decrease exposure to the already low level of RF energy.
In this cartoon the author is suggesting that user is aware that using his cell phone is dangerous, by the comical way he attempts to protect himself with the metal helmet. In addition he appears to be discussing these concerns with his physician, who states “If you’re worried about the dangers of mobile phones why don’t you use it less.” As with any other type of radiation, the time of the exposure is one of the factors that determine the patient dose. By suggesting that the patient use his phone less the doctor is re-enforcing this principal. With the advent on new technologies such as mobile internet, text messaging and email people are using their cell phones for extended periods of time and carry them constantly. By turning the phone off when not in use the patient could further decrease his exposure. Another concept radiation protection uses is increasing the distance between them and the source of radiation. This patient could eliminate the need for his humorous helmet by using some ear buds with a microphone. The ear buds would allow him to use his cell phone without having the phone pressed against the temporal bone, which is in close proximity to the brain. Most cell phones today included these ear buds in the box, I know my Blackberry did. The other option is to use the speakerphone which is my personal favorite, especially in the car. I would also recommend he not carry the phone on his person, he could simply turn the phone off or put it in “Airplane” mode when not using it.
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Radiation protection is founded on the premise that there is no safe amount of ionizing radiation. We should apply this approach when thinking about how and when we use our cellular phones even though they emit non-ionizing radiation. All the negative health implications of long-term cell phone usage are still unknown. Brain tumors take at least 10 to 20 years to manifest themselves. Source: Khurana, G. (2008). Taking a lesson taught to us from history with the health issues associated with x-rays and cigarettes, we need to take a more conservative approach when using a cell phone. Cell phones are now rated for how much specific absorbed rate per kilogram (SAR) they emit. There are many sources on the internet that compare the specific absorbed rate of phones from various manufacturers. Choose a cell phone model which emits a low amount of radiation to begin with. As consumers we should demand that objective studies be done over a long period of time using a number of subjects significantly relative to the amount of people using this technology. These studies must be conducted by experts in the medical community familiar with studying the mechanism of the causes of cancer. We should pressure our lawmakers to put in place more stringent requirements when it comes to minimizing the specific absorbed rate and improve the design to minimize. While not within the scope of this paper, I would be negligent not to mention the importance of controlling the cell phone usage of our children; their bodies are far more susceptible to the effects of RF radiation. Source: Khurana, G. (2008). The biggest challenge is to make people understand that no one is asking them to stop using their cell phone. Cell phones are an invaluable communication technology. For your own well being and that of your family please be aware of the dangers and how to limit the effects of them.
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