“The voluntary exposure of the brain to microwaves from hand-held mobile phones… [is] the largest human biological experiment ever.” – Professor Leif Salford, Head of Research at Lund University, Sweden.
Exposure to radiation from cell phones is a growing concern, not only in the United States, but around the world. As more and more studies point towards a link between cell phone radiation and headaches, certain types of cancer and even lowered sperm count, consumers are searching for ways to protect themselves from this potential threat.
There are several different types of radiation present in our surroundings on a day to day basis. Electromagnetic energy from cell phones and radio towers are categorized as non-ionizing radiation and are generally thought to be harmless, while ionizing rays from x-rays and nuclear energy have been proven to cause cancer.
However, in recent years the sheer number of non-ionizing instruments in our environment has caused some scientists to wonder if the assumption that this type of radiation is truly safe at low levels as once thought. As cell phones, microwaves, satellites and radio have all become much more widespread, people claim to suffer everything from headaches to cancer as a result of their exposure to this “harmless” radiation.
What is Radiation?
Within the electromagnetic spectrum, radiation is either ionizing or non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation is harmful to humans because exposure causes cells and genetic matter to mutate or change form. This can lead to various types of cancer, affecting the thyroid, breast, bladder, colon, liver, lung, esophagus, ovaries and stomach. Scientists also suspect links to other forms of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Non-ionizing radiation, while it has believed to be safe, is now proven to overheat cells, causing them damage as well. Scientists cannot pinpoint the level at which this type of radiation becomes unsafe, as testing on humans presents an ethical dilemma. However, in animal studies, exposure to cell phone radiation for as little as two minutes is proven to have a damaging effect on the brain and blood vessels.
Is Cell Phone Radiation Really Harmful?
The problem is that no definitive studies are available, one way or the other. With some scientists still arguing that cell phone radiation isn’t dangerous at all, how is a consumer to know who to trust? Recently, several companies have created cell phone radiation blockers to ease the concerns of some cell phone users. Those who choose to do so can simply use this accessory to block up to 99% of cell phone radiation.
All cell phones and cell phone towers emit Radio Frequency (RF) energy, a type of electromagnetic energy. This RF energy differs from the type of electromagnetic energy found in gamma rays and x-rays and has been thought of until recently to be completely harmless. X-rays are a type of ionizing radiation, meaning that they damage human cells by stripping electrons away from their normal locations.
Since RF energy is non-ionizing, scientists believed that it would not have this same effect on human cells. However, tests on animals show that the heat created by cell phone radiation can indeed damage cells by overheating them. The extent of the damage is impossible to know or understand until further testing is done, but this type of testing on humans is a moral and ethical no-no.
How Cell Phone Radiation Shields Work
As their name suggests, these cell phone accessories simply block cell phone radiation, preventing it from entering the ear or head. They are usually made of ceramic or other conductive materials and are readily available in stores or online for most cell phone models.
Some critics still believe that these devices are not enough. After all, cell phone radiation is all around us, especially in high population density areas and locations near cell phone towers. What else can be done to protect yourself from the harmful effects of cell phone radiation?
Reduce Your Exposure To Cell Phone Radiation
Since studies have shown that the overheating effect of cell phone radiation on the brain can occur in just minutes, limit your calls to those that are absolutely necessary. Use a landline for longer telephone calls.
Do your research before buying a wireless device. Most cell phones sold in the United States list their Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) in their manual. This number refers to the actual amount of RF energy absorbed by the body, so a lower number indicates a lower radiation exposure risk.
Invest in an airtube headset. While many people believe that using a headset offers some kind of protection, regular headsets actually intensify the radiation as it enters the ear canal. Avoid using your cell phone in metallic enclosures such as elevators, where radiation has nowhere to go but into your body.
Limit your cell phone use and choose cell phone radiation blockers as an extra measure of precaution. Until more is known about RF energy and the effects it has on the human body, it is up to you to protect yourself as best you can!
Shouldn’t Cell Phones Be Banned If They Cause Cancer?
It is quite a leap from speculation to fact to assume that because non-ionizing cell phone radiation causes cell damage in animals, it must cause cancer in humans. However, the trends now becoming apparent in cancer as a result of low-level radiation exposure suggest an alarming link between the two.
Governments around the globe have taken steps to regulate the amount of non-iodizing radiation that a cell phone or microwave can emit. But is it enough? Victims of so-called “low-level radiation sensitivity” or “electromagnetic sensitivity” claim to suffer from migraine headaches, nausea, stomach ailments, hearing and vision problems and more as a result of the barrage of electromagnetic pollution in our environment. Simply avoiding these emissions simply isn’t possible as more and more cell phone towers and satellites pop up around the world.
How Much Exposure is Safe?
The problem seems to be that without solid scientific proof that exposure to cell phone radiation causes cancer, governments are unwilling to take a stand proclaiming them a danger to humans. However, it is impossible to set a safe exposure level standard until scientists can prove that this low-level radiation isn’t responsible for the symptoms the victims of electromagnetic sensitivity suffer.
Part of the problem is the latent period; that is, the time between exposure to radiation and cell mutation. A person exposed to low-level radiation may develop cancer twenty years later, but by that time it could be blamed on any number of factors including genetics, pollution or smoking tobacco.
Until scientific evidence either proves or disproves the link between non-ionizing radiation and cancer, it is up to each person as an individual to try to limit their exposure to these potentially harmful rays.
The Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation
While the dangers of using a cell phone are well known, many simply choose to ignore the risk or simply do not fully understand the extent to which they are damaging their health by being constantly connected through mobile devices.
Cell Phone Radiation Exposure
One widely held myth is that a cell phone user can protect themselves from the radio waves emitted from their device by simply using a headset. However, studies show that this offers little to no protection – environmental microwave radiation pollution cannot be blocked out by holding your cell phone farther away from the body.
Cell phones, satellites, cell phone towers and radio towers all emit radiation on the exact same frequency as a microwave oven. This electrical pollution is in your home, your car, your workplace, your shopping mall – anywhere that these devices are present, they are emitting radiation.
Moreover, you can’t simply escape their effects by trying to avoid using a cell phone yourself, or even by making your workplace a radio-wave free environment. Because satellites and cell phone towers emit these waves and are present in our society in such huge amounts, the pollution is widespread.
It is true that much of the evidence pointing to cell phone radiation is inconclusive, suggestive or could be construed as circumstantial. However, this is because it is difficult and even unethical to perform the testing on humans.
Scientists classify electromagnetic waves as either “ionizing” or “non-ionizing”. Ionizing radiation such as x-ray waves and atomic radiation, is known to cause cancer. Non-ionizing radiation – such as microwave radiation – has been believed to be safe until recently.
Many tests have been performed on animal subjects and the results are frightening. In one Swedish study, Neurosurgeon Leif Salford exposed young laboratory rats to cell phone radiation. The animals were later dissected to examine their brains for traces of albumin, a normal component of blood that does not usually cross the brain barrier. In 18 years of testing, these scientists have consistently found traces of albumin in the rat brain tissue. What does this mean? Simply put, the microwave and cell phone waves affected blood vessels and allowed a substance not normally present in the brain access to the organ.
In fact, even a one-time exposure to cell phone radiation, for only two minutes, showed that albumin was able to leak into the brain. Experts believe that this proves that reducing the amount of exposure does not prevent the damage from occurring.
Why is This Radiation Only Now Becoming a Problem?
Some skeptics are weary of these studies, claiming that if we’ve lived peacefully with radio and TV towers for this long, surely they must be safe.
In fact, researchers Örjan Hallberg and Olle Johansson beg to differ. Co-authors of the paper titled Cancer Trends During the 20th Century, they found that in the United States, Sweden and dozens of other countries, mortality rates for skin melanoma and for bladder, prostate, colon, breast and lung cancers closely paralleled the degree of public exposure to radio waves during the past hundred years.
Many others believe that the problem is the sheer amount of radiation we are now exposed to. As more and more satellites, cell phone towers and wireless networks pop up, it becomes harder to dismiss reported cases of microwave sensitivity as sheer coincidence.
In short, it is prudent to believe that cell phone radiation does indeed pose a danger to our health until studies can conclusively show that it is safe. There is simply too much evidence pointing to a serious health risk for us to simply discount the threat.