There are over 400 million cell phone subscribers in the United States alone, according to the CTIA. And cell phone use is now so common that you might even be reading this article on your smartphone.
With the huge increase in cell phone use, many people wonder what effect this tiny, highly technological device could have on our health. While smartphones seem more helpful than harmful, many healthcare professionals are concerned that cell phones might have to potential to cause dangerous health problem – like certain types of cancer.
Why Are Cell Phone Users Concerned?
According to the National Cancer Institute, there are three main reasons why people are concerned that their cell phone may cause cancer or other health problems.
- All cell phones release radiofrequency radiation (RF) – a type of low-energy radiation. Though there have been many health concerns about RF, there hasn’t been enough studies as to whether or not RF energy can cause harmful effects on the human body.
- Right now in the U.S, there’s approximately one cell phone for every person in the country. And it’s not uncommon for children to have cell phones as well.
- With the increase in cell phone users, the amount of time spent using phones is on the rise. This has caused an increase in the number of stations for transmitting wireless signals.
In December 2017, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) actually released a warning to residents advising them to avoid holding the mobile phones close to their heads, stating that long-term use could possibly be linked to certain types of cancers and other health effects. Of course, the warning does indicate that the science behind cell phones is still evolving and there aren’t any proven studies as of yet.
How Does Radiofrequency Affect the Human Body?
All cell phones work by sending and receiving signals – to and from – cell phone towers. According to the CDPH, these signals are a form of “electromagnetic radiation” (known as radiofrequency energy, or RF). There are many sources of RF energy including TV and radio transmitters, microwave ovens, and of course, cell phone towers.
When you use your cell phone, it sends a signal to a tower. The RF energy travels from the phone’s antenna and is transmitted in all directions. That RF energy has the power to travel through your head and body.
Though this form of RF energy is not as strong as other kinds of electromagnetic radiations such as X-rays, there have been studies that suggest long-term exposure to RF Energy from cell phones may increase a person’s risk to many health problems, including cancer.
Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself
Though there are quite a lot of studies on the safety of cell phones, none of the results have been proven (many of the studies vary in results and are inconclusive). However, there’s enough preliminary evidence to warrant caution. Here’s how you can protect yourself from potential dangers of exposure to RF energy.
According to the FDA and the CDPH, there are steps that cell phone users can take to protect themselves.
- Limit the use of cell phones for shorter conversations – and avoid holding it close to your head. Instead, opt to use speakerphone or a wireless headset.
- It’s better to send text messages instead of talking on the phone.
- If you’re downloading large files such as apps or music, avoid using your phone while the files are downloading.
- Never carry your cell phone in your back pocket or anywhere close to your body. When you’re not using your phone, keep it in a backpack, briefcase, or purse.
- Try not to use your cell phone when it’s transmitting high levels of RF energy (this happens when only one or two bars are shown).
Other tips included keeping your phone a few feet from your bed or turning off your phone when you go to bed. Also, headsets are a better option than holding your phone close to you – but always take off the headset when you’re not in a call as they can release a small amount of RF Energy.
We don’t know 100 percent if cell phones are harmful to our health – but with a rise in studies, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Cell phones will always be around so it’s important to take the reasonable measure and steps to reduce your exposure to RF energy.