Mobile Phone: Carefree or Take Care?
Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is simply waves of energy travelling through space or through things.
The difference between gamma-rays from nuclear bombs and those that let our phones and microwaves function is how much energy those waves have. Radio waves have the lowest energy on the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves are also referred to as ‘frequency’. Frequency is just how often you get hit by a wave of radiation if you stand in it’s way. Therefore low frequency = a long wavelength.
Mobile phones emit low levels of radiofrequency (RF) radiation, when in use and when in stand-by mode. The radiation is in the frequency range of 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz).
Mobile phones communicate by transmitting radio waves through a network of fixed antennas called base stations or towers. The waves emitted are referred to as electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
RF radiation is also called non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation (NIR) because the radiation is at such low levels that it can’t break chemical bonds or cause ionization in the human body (means we don’t get fried). NIR refers to ultraviolet, light, infrared, and radiowaves and in daily life, common sources include the sun, household electrical appliances, mobile phones, Wi-Fi, and microwave ovens.
Ionizing radiation, eg x-rays, can transmit enough energy to a molecule or atom to break chemical bonds or remove electrons and is thus capable of damaging biological tissue.
The primary concern with mobile phones is prolonged use over a longer term and possible links to cancer. This is of heightened concern with our younger generation.
"While an increased risk of brain tumors is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential health effects in children and adolescents are underway."
Did you know mobile phone companies have Fine Print warnings?
For iPhone go to Settings/General/About/Legal/RF Exposure.
Telstra does send out periodic texts on the safe useage of mobiles and refers the user to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines. They also provide a fact sheet on their website “Your Mobile and Your Health” (last reviewed 19th February, 2015).
The WHO website/Fact Sheet #193 (10/2014) states these key facts:
- Mobile phone use is an estimated 6.9 billion subscriptions globally.
- The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
- Studies are ongoing to more fully assess potential long-term effects of mobile phone use.
The heat some of us experience when using the phone is the interaction between radiofrequency energy and the tissues of our human body. With short term use, at the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body (WHO Fact Sheet). The studies that have given weight to the safety of mobile phones have been short term. There are serious concerns for the cumulative effect over long term usage.
So what does all this mean practically?
The handset only transmits power when it is turned on. The power (and hence the radiofrequency exposure to a user) falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the handset. A person using a mobile phone 30–40 cm away from their body – for example when text messaging, accessing the Internet, or using a “hands free” device – will have a much lower exposure to radiofrequency fields (EMFs) than someone holding the handset against their head. Exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls.
When your mobile phone indicates that the signal is weak, it has to put out a stronger signal. And the stronger the signal, the greater the amount of radiation that’s being delivered to your body. Not good! Avoid using the phone when the signal is weak.
The key is to not let this amazing device monopolise you, it is there to serve you! Take charge by increasing the use of the airplane mode, people will adapt to your frameworks. Creating some space around you in regards to your phone will benefit you. There is no tyranny of the urgent when you have easy access to messages. Also, use the speaker phone or other handsfree options or the landline. Take some time to think through what will work for you, you are worth it!
To summarise, creating new mobile phone habits in your home.
- Keep the phone away from your brain – if you must sleep with it close by put it on airplane mode to minimise the effect of the signal.
- Avoid carrying your phone on your body – not in the bra or pocket.
- Create new habits re charging your phone – these days it doesn’t take too long to charge your phone and it won’t take long for you to change your habit (if you have been charging it while you sleep within your reach). At the end of the day, during dinner, find a time that works for you. I put mine on the charger while preparing dinner and then again in the morning when I get up, before my morning rituals. Sleep time is a good time to detach from your phone and keep that distance.
- Minimise the call use of children – the Safer Phone Zone website states
“Children should only use cell phones next to their heads for emergencies. Children’s skulls are thinner than adults’ and their brains are still developing. Hence, radiation from cell phones penetrates more deeply into their brains and is likely to cause more damage.” Children should use a landline, text or use the speaker phone function – anything to keep the mobile away from their heads.
I recommend the phone is flat on a table for children’s use, whether texting or gaming, same goes for the iPad. Avoid them holding it.
Dr Devra Davis is an award-winning scientist and a global safer phone campaigner. In her book, Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Is Doing to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family
She outlines eight dumb ways users increase their risk. There is a summary available on this CBS News website, it is worth reading.
My desire is to establish her creditability with you as her work is critical to a healthy future. She was the founding director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the U.S. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 1983-1993. During this time her work on passive smoking was instrumental in tobacco smoke being banned from airplanes and the environments of young children.
From 1994 to 1999 she served as President Clinton’s appointee to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and was the Founding Director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the U.S. National Research Council. She was Founding Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and Professor of Epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health (2004-2010) — the first institute of its kind in the world, to examine the environmental factors that contribute to the majority of cases of cancer.
In 2007 she founded the Environmental Health Trust, to provide basic research and education about environmental health hazards and promote constructive policies locally, nationally and internationally. As well as continuing as President of the Trust she is currently the Visiting Professor of Medicine at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, and Visiting Professor of Medicine at Ondokuz Mayis University, Turkey.
I seriously recommend you watch her lecture, presented in Melbourne, Australia in 2015.
Dr Devra Davis is an internationally recognised expert on electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and other wireless transmitting devices.
Environmental Health Trust – Dr Davis cites many studies to support her case. Please take the time to read these important key issues on mens fertility, the possible links to breast cancer, and wifi in schools. You can find more information in the Menu: Media & Publications/Scientific Publications
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything. – Albert Einstein
Electromagnetic Radiation Safety – California Public Health Dept
Children Face Highest Health Risk from Mobile Phones
Health Effects from Mobile Phone Tower Radiation
Workplace OHS If you are a OHS professional this Australian website, Workplace OHS (for OHS Professionals) gives strategies to minimise risk.
The International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
All the best,