Due to the rise of wireless mobile technology in recent years, there have been several questions posed on the safety of mobile phones. Mobile phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range and people believe that this may be harmful to the health of human beings. Due to these concerns, there is a large body of research in place. These bodies of research involve both epidemiological and experimental and both on humans and non-humans. More concerns have even been raised regarding other digital wireless systems and data communication networks as well.

According to the World Health Organization, the negative health effects are not likely caused by mobile phones or their base stations. They will be making recommendations regarding the matter in October of 2009. There are national radiation advisory authorities in Austria, France, Germany, and Sweden that are recommending lessening their exposure to mobile phones. Some of their recommendations include

  • using hands-free technology to minimize the radiation to their heads
  • keeping their mobile phone far away from their bodies
  • not using their telephone in a car without an outside antenna

The overall health risks

There have been a lot of scientific studies on the effects of mobile phone radiation. These studies are reviewed by scientific committees in order to identify the overall risks. In 2007, an assessment was published by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks or SCENIHR that there is no significant health effect on human beings exposed to mobile phone radiation. This assumes a moderate and normal level of exposure. They claim that

  • the normal exposure to mobile phone radiation will not cause headaches or dizziness
  • moderate exposure to mobile phones does not cause brain cancer, negative neurological effects, or negative reproductive effects
  • there are inconclusive studies that say that mobile phones could cause a benign tumour in the auditory nerve
  • there are still more studies to be done regarding the effect of mobile phones on children

Absorbing Radiation

The calculated specific absorbed radiation or SAR distribution in an anatomical model of a head that is next to a one hundred and twenty five megawatt dipole antenna peaks at nine point five. This is averaged over one milligram cube. This is according to the USAF and the AFRL.

Part of the radio waves that are emitted by a mobile telephone handset are absorbed by your head. For example, the radio waves that are emitted by a GSM handset can peak at two watts while a US analogue phone can transmit as much as three point six watts. The other digital mobile technologies like the CDMA2000 and the D-AMPS use lower power output under one watt. The mobile phone standard of the regulatory agencies in each country is responsible for the maximum power output of each phone. In most systems, the cellphone and the base station check reception quality and signal strength and in turn, the power levels are increases or decreased automatically in order to accommodate certain situations like being inside a building or outside a building, in a moving vehicle, and so on and so forth.

The SAR or the Specific Absorption Rate is the rate at which radiation is absorbed by the human body and the maximum level that has been set by the government regulation agencies in the different regions of the world are as follows

  • in the United States, the FCC has a set SAR limit of one point six watts per kilogram which is averaged over a volume of a gram of tissue in the head
  • in Europe, the limit has been set to two watts per kilo gram on an average of ten grams of tissue

These SAR values depend a lot on the size of the averaging volume and without them, comparisons between measurements can never be made. This means that the European ten gram rating must be compared amongst them whilst the American one gram rating should be compared in their respective range also. You can check the SAR data for specific mobile phones and more useful information on the manufacturer’s websites and maybe even on third party websites as well.

Thermal Effects

One of the more well understood effects of microwave radiation is dielectric heating wherein any dielectric material like the living tissue of human beings is heated by means of the rotation of polar molecules in an electromagnetic field. When a person uses a cellphone, what happens is that the heating effect occurs at the surface level of the head and then the temperature there increases. In this kind of case, the level of increase in the temperature is also related to its environment like being under direct exposure to sunlight. In order to disperse the excess heat, the brain will increase the blood flow of the area. This blood circulation capability is not capable with the eye though. According to research, exposure to this kind of radiation for two to three hours has produced cataracts in rabbit’s eyes with SAR values ranging from one hundred watts per kilogram to one hundred and forty watts per kilogram. This has produced lenticular temperatures at forty one degrees. Studies show that premature cataract are not linked with the use of cellphones because of the low power output of these devices.

The relationship of mobile phones and cancer

There was a study in 2006 in Denmark that linked the use of mobile phones and the occurrence of cancer. It tracked four hundred and twenty thousand Danish citizens over a period of twenty years and found that there is no relationship between mobile phones and cancer. According to the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection or BfS, they consider this report inconclusive.

So that you will be able to investigate the risk of cancer for mobile phone users, a cooperative project which includes thirteen countries was launched. They called this cooperative INTERPHONE. Their idea is that cancers need time to develop so only the studies with more than ten years should be of interest.

Here are some of the following studies related to long term exposure

  • A Danish study in 2004 that was ten years long showed no evidence
  • A Swedish study in 2005 drew the conclusion that mobile phone use is not related to glioma or meningioma
  • A British study in 2005 stated that there is no significant risk of acoustic neuroma for the first decade of using a mobile phone. One must still keep in mind that the long term effects of such use has still to be discovered
  • A German study in 2006 states that there is no risk of glioma or meningioma for cellphone users although the long term effects of such use are still to be known
  • A joint study which was conducted across northern Europe states that the results do not indicate an increased risk of glioma in relation to the use of mobile phones although it is possible that the most heavily exposed part of the brain may have long term effects that are unknown of

Some other studies related to cancer and mobile phones state that

  • A Swedish scientific team at the Karolinska institute has conducted an epidemiological study in 2004 that resulted in findings that the use of mobile phone over a decade has been associated with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma which is a type of benign brain tumour. This was not noticed in people who have used phones for less than ten years
  • The INTERPHONE study group of Japan used a new approach to study the relationship between brain tumours and cellphone use. They determined the SAR inside a tumour by calculating the radiofrequency absorption at the specific location of the tumour. The cases that were examined were glioma, meningioma, and pituitary adenoma. The findings of this study stated that there was no increase in the ratio. There was no significant trend against the SAR-deprived exposure

A study in Sweden in 2007 published two epidemiological papers which consisted of two cohort studies and sixteen case-control studies and they discovered the following

  • cell phone users are at an increased risk of malignant gliomas
  • there is a link between cell phone use and a higher rate of acoustic neuromas
  • tumours are more likely to occur on the side of the head where the cell phones are more often used
  • one hour of cell phone use everyday will significantly increase the chances of developing a tumour after a decade

The INTERPHONE said in February 2008 that the long term findings can be causal or artifactual and they can be related to differential recall between cases and controls

A self published non-peer reviewed meta-study from an Australian Neurosurgeon said with the increasing bodies of evidence, there are far more health ramifications of cell phone use compared to asbestos and smoking. This was criticized as an unbalanced analysis of literature and as a selective support for the claims of the author.

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