Can mobile phones make us sick? What do cell phones do to our bodies and our minds? Cellular (cell) phones first became widely available in the United States in the 1990’s. Since that time the use of mobile phone devices has increased dramatically . The widespread use of cell phones has led to cell phone towers being placed in many communities.
Cell phone towers, also called base stations, receive and transmit radio frequency (RF) signals. As of November 2011, there were more than 6 billion subscriptions worldwide for mobile phones. In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified mobile phone radiation on the IARC scale into Group 2B, which means it is “possibly carcinogenic.” That means that there “could be some risk” of carcinogenicity, and that more long-term, research is needed particularly on heavy use of mobile phones.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
According to Martin Röösli, Environmental Research, mobile phone users have reported feeling several unspecific symptoms during and after using cell phones. These symptoms include:
- burning and tingling sensations in the skin of the head and extremities
- sleep disturbances
- loss of mental attention, reaction times and memory
- tachycardia (heart palpitations)
- digestive problems.
However, researchers note that all of these symptoms can also be attributed to stress and that current research cannot factor out the effects of stress and the effect of mobile phone radiation.
HOW DO CELL PHONE TOWERS WORK?
Cell phone base stations may be free-standing towers or mounted on existing structures, such as trees, water tanks, or tall buildings. The antennas need to be high enough so they can cover the area. Base stations are usually from 50-200 feet high. nternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) noted that exposure to the brain from RF fields from cell phone base stations (mounted on roofs or towers) is less than 1/100th the exposure to the brain from mobile devices such as cell phones.
WHAT DO PUBLIC AGENCIES TELL US?
The agencies that usually classify cancer-causing exposures (carcinogens) – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – have not classified the cancer-causing potential of cell phone towers.
“Radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS [personal communications service] transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits. These safety limits were adopted by the FCC based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the Federal Government responsible for health and safety. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students.”
In May 2011, WHO, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer announced it was classifying the electromagnetic fields from cell phones and other sources as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
The World Health Organization advised the public to adopt safety measures to reduce exposure, like use of hands-free devices or texting.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH TELL US?
Researchers agree that more long-term research is needed to determine the effects of mobile phone usage and the effects of cell phone base stations.
Researchers from a German study conducted by Joachim Schüz and others in 2006, stated:
“In conclusion, no overall increased risk of glioma or meningioma was observed among these cellular phone users; however, for long-term cellular phone users, results need to be confirmed before firm conclusions can be drawn.”
A 2009 study examined the effects of exposure to radio frequency radiation (RFR) from a standard GSM cell phone on the cognitive functioning of humans. The study confirmed that longer (slower) response time were needed for a spatial working memory task when the subjects were exposed to RFR from a standard GSM cellular phone. The phone was placed next to the head of male subjects, and showed that longer duration of exposure to RFR may increase the effects on performance. Right-handed subjects exposed to RFR on the left side of their head on average had significantly longer response times when compared to exposure to the right side and sham-exposure.
CAN LONG-TERM CELL PHONE USE CAUSE BRAIN CANCER?
A Swedish scientific team at the Karolinska Institute led by Stefan Lönn and others, conducted an epidemiological study (2004) that suggested that regular use of a mobile phone over ten or more years was associated with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma, a type of benign brain tumor. Those who used mobile phones less than ten years did not show an increased risk.
Reseachers from the Interphone Project, a 2010 thirteen-nation project and the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, did not find a solid link between mobile phones and brain tumors.
The International Journal of Epidemiology published a combined data analysis from a multinational population-based case-control study of the two most common types of brain tumors, glioma and meningioma, entitled, “Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: Results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study”. The authors reported the following conclusions:
“Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones. There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation. The possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation.”
Researchers who report that there is no substantial evidence that long term exposure to cell phones causes brain cancer, refer to statistical information and cross comparisons with data from cell phone usage and brain cancer incidence.
However, in 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified mobile phone radiation on the IARC scale into Group 2B, which means it is “possibly carcinogenic.”
HOW CAN WE BE SAFE?
Even though there appears to be no correlation between brain cancer and increased mobile phone usage, mobile, the World Health Organization’s International Agency and national radiation authorities recognizes long-term use of cell phones as being potentially harmful and having adverse effects. Safety precautions are recommended.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and some national radiation advisory authorities, including those of Austria, France, Germany, and Sweden, have recommended that people take measures to minimize exposure to radiation from cell phone usage. Some examples of the recommendations are:
- Use hands-free to decrease the radiation to the head.
- Keep the mobile phone away from the body.
- Do not use telephone in a car without an external antenna.
- Use mobile radiation tracking apps to help to limit radiation exposure
Interphone Study Group (2010). “Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: Results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study”. International Journal of Epidemiology 39 (3): 675–694.
Luria, Roy; Eliyahu, Ilan; Hareuveny, Ronen; Margaliot, Menachem; Meiran, Nachshon (2009). “Cognitive effects of radiation emitted by cellular phones: The influence of exposure side and time”. Bioelectromagnetics 30 (3): 198–204.
Lönn, Stefan; Ahlbom, Anders; Hall, Per; Feychting, Maria (2004). “Mobile Phone Use and the Risk of Acoustic Neuroma”. Epidemiology 15 (6): 653–9.
Röösli, Martin (June 2008). “Radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure and non-specific symptoms of ill health: A systematic review”. Environmental Research 107 (2): 277–287.
Schüz, Joachim; Böhler, Eva; Berg, Gabriele; Schlehofer, Brigitte; Hettinger, Iris; Schlaefer, Klaus; Wahrendorf, Jürgen; Kunna-Grass, Katharina et al. (2006). “Cellular Phones, Cordless Phones, and the Risks of Glioma and Meningioma (Interphone Study Group, Germany)”.American Journal of Epidemiology 163 (6): 512–20.
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
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