Feb 8, 2019 in Analysis

Cell Phone Safety

It is a well-known fact that successful life in modern society is nearly impossible without the advances in technology. Computers, the Internet, cell phones and other inventions help people to send and receive information and work with different types of data in the way they need. The majority of digital devices have been proved safe, but some of them are being studied in terms of safety even after years of their invention, and among the latter are cell phones. In fact, cell phone safety was one of the issues that caused much controversy over last decades. Moreover, the studies that confirm the cell phone safety are being doubted by a group of specialists who claim them to be biased. Apparently, it is evident that the fight for the truth still continues. Hereby, it is vital to investigate the question of cell phone safety deeper in order to understand potential threats and measures people should take to oppose them.

First, a cell phone is a device based on a radio technology. In fact, it is a radio but smaller and more complicated. As a device, a modern cell phone comprises several sections of circuitry, which are “radio waves receiver and transmitter, central control processor, digital signal processing parts, signal converter, power control and battery” (Poole). Among above-mentioned constituents, it is crucial for the study to understand the radio part. In fact, this section is responsible for receiving and transmitting data in the form of radio waves of certain frequency. On the side of a radio receiver, there is a demodulator that is responsible for extracting data from the received signal. Moreover, on the transmitter side, there is a modulator that adds data into transmitted radio waves. In fact, all the data that is being received and transmitted by a phone to and from other phones using cellular base stations as intermediary units that set phone connection and provide its stable quality. Thus, the reception and transmission of radio waves is a very important function for a cell phone. 

Second, for several decades, scientists have been discussing the question of radiation influence on living beings. Apparently, it is unclear if radio waves can affect the human body since they influence different objects such as phones and radios. In order to investigate it, one should get acquainted with the nature of radio waves. In fact, radio waves are special waves of electro-magnetic nature that existed long before the invention of the phone or radio. For example, they exist in outer space and are emitted by stars on par with ultraviolet, infrared and radiation waves. The electromagnetic nature of this phenomenon means that these waves have electric and magnetic fields. The frequency of a wave is the number of its oscillations, which is measured in Hz, while the strength of such field is measured in watts per square meter (“Mobile Communication - Radio Waves & Safety”). With the advances in modern technology, man-made radio wave emitting devices appeared, among which cell phones have controversial reputation. They are believed to emit electromagnetic field, which is at low electromagnetic spectrum and can be compared with microwave radiation. In fact, this field and the waves are not so strong to influence the molecules as it emits non-ionizing radiation. Apparently, it is unable to damage molecular, atomic and chemical bonds, unlike ionizing radiation; thus, it is potentially safe. However, some of the specialists say that radiation emitted by the antenna of the phone is capable of having possible thermal effects on the human body. For example, with long telephone calls, human ear lobes’ temperature can increase (“Mobile Communication - Radio Waves & Safety”). Talking about physical characteristics of radio emitters, one can state that radiation is the strongest in the source or the emitter. On the contrary, with the distance, the power of emission gradually decreases. A person that speaks on the cell phone holds it in the way that the antenna is in its closest position to the head. Thus, the majority of the studies are concerned about the cell phone’s possibility to cause brain tumors such as cancerous tumors (gliomas), non-cancerous tumors of brain (meningiomas), nerve that connects the brain to the ear (acoustic neuromas) and salivary glands (American Cancer Society). 

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Considering the threats of cell phone radio waves emission, some scientists say that research studies on the subject for the last two decades have shown no conclusive evidence that it can cause any health effects. What is more, during last two decades of studies, there have been established no cause and effect connection between the cell phone radiation level and people’s diseases ratio (“Mobile Communication - Radio Waves & Safety”). The majority of laboratory studies and human statistic studies agree that the risk of any kind of tumors or health problems connected with cell phone radiation is either extremely low or does not exist. Moreover, many scientists agreed that cell phone radiation is too weak to damage DNA cells or other cells that can cause tumors. In fact, laboratory studies investigated the probability that cell phone radio waves can help tumors to grow; however, they did not find any evidence confirming tumors growth stimulation. Human studies, in their turn, many of which included case-control studies, have yielded results showing no connection of cell phone radio waves exposure and emergence or growth of tumors. “In most studies patients with brain tumors were not reported to use cell phones more than the control group. Most studies do not show “dose-response relationship” and the connection of the side of brain with tumor and the side where people hold their cell phones” (American Cancer Society). Furthermore, two large studies of the issue have shed light concerning the problem of cell phone radiation impact. The Interphone study, which has included 5,000 people with brain tumors and 5,000 without them from 13 countries, is the largest study so far. Its results have shown that there is “no link between brain tumor risk and the frequency of calls, longer call time, or cell phone use for 10 or more years” (American Cancer Society). In 10% of cases, there was evidence of increasing risks of glioma and meningioma, but it was doubted because of the issues affecting the clarity of the experiment. Another part of the study researching the risk of acoustic neuroma showed no direct connection with cell phone radiation. Although the study has shown no positive results, the researchers insisted on further studies on this question because of the shortcomings. In fact, the results of this research coincide with another large study, which is a Danish nationwide cohort study. It was held in Denmark during 1990 and 2007 and accrued 3,8 million person years. The aim of the research was to investigate the risk of central nervous system tumors among the subscribers. The results have shown no correlation between the dose of received radiation and organism responses as well as between the years of subscription and the location of a tumor (Frei et al.). Although the Danish study seems to be complete and comprehensive, it had a lot of limitations such as potential misclassification of exposure and lack of information regarding an actual frequency of mobile phone usage. These facts seem to be sufficient for the study to be criticized by a group of scholars that believe cell phone radiation can influence the human body. For instance, Kundi fears of flaws in the methodology of studies in terms of time the respondents were exposed to cell phone radiation, the flaws in the determination of the exposure, recall and response errors (qtd. in Mangosing). His opinion is that such studies only assess relative risks and give no concrete results. Moreover, this issue finds support among the other group of researchers that claim that the risk of cancer and other health problems were caused by cell phone radiation. What is more, some of the scientists claim such doubtful studies to be biased by the telecommunication companies. Sometimes, they even sue against the laws intended to defend people or inform them about the potential threats of cell phone radiation. For example, in 2010, the Cellular Telephone Industries Association sued the city of San Francisco for implementing the act that required mobile phone retailers to inform the customers about the radiation levels of the cell phones they sell (Johnson). According to Davis, cell phone radiation is capable of altering the living cells and “create the same types of damage that we know increase the risk of cancer …” Moreover, some animal studies have shown increased cancer rates in rodents exposed to RF energy under controlled conditions (Mangosing). Some of the scientists consider the latest research studies insufficient because brain cancer may develop during a period of about forty years (“Dr. Mercola Interviews Devra Davis”). Furthermore, most of scientists disapprove of the fact that all the studies are concentrated on the brain influence, while some of the researchers try to evaluate the connection between cell phone radiation exposure and cognitive impairment and lower sperm counts in men. As for men, there is scientific evidence that “cellphone radiation interferes with sperm production, sperm quality, and sperm vitality” (“Dr. Mercola Interviews Devra Davis”). Apparently, one more study has come to similar conclusions, stating that “sperm samples that were exposed for one hour to levels of radiation from a cell phone had the most deformities and the worst swimming abilities” (“Dr. Mercola Interviews Devra Davis”). Furthermore, Android and Apple phones have print warnings to keep the phone 2.54 centimeters away from the abdomen (“Dr. Mercola Interviews Devra Davis”).

To draw the conclusion, one can say that notwithstanding all of the mentioned facts, the absence of negative radiation influence of a cell phone has not been completely confirmed yet. The question of the cell phone radiation influence on the human body remains quite controversial because some of the studies are being conducted under the pressure of telecommunication companies or are claimed to be biased. Other studies have drawbacks that make them either incomplete or defective. With all the advances in modern science, a proper study of the influence of cell phone radiation on people needs more than forty years to prove anything. In this sense, both sides lack the evidence and proper methodology. Regarding the pressure from mobile telecommunication companies and associations, one can presume they oppose any attempts to prove their business to be harmful for people. Consequently, people should take appropriate measures in order to protect themselves from possible negative threats of cell phone radiation, especially in a situation when some precautions are written in the cell phone instructions. To summarize, it is better to protect oneself from cell phone radiation, although there is no direct evidence that it is harmful. It is better for one’s health to presume the mobile phone to be dangerous until this fact is officially denied.


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