Cell phones are a wonderful thing. You can talk. Take pictures. Listen to music. Converse over email or text messaging, and browse the Internet among a handful of other things. I love to use my cell phone and actually use it more then any other phone at the office or at home. However, I use it with immense concern. I have concern about the use of the phone causing health issues, like cancer and brain tumors over time. Are these concerns warranted?
I have studied technology and specifically wireless communications as a graduate student at Northwestern University. My professor had advanced scientific & wireless knowledge and advised us all to get headsets for our cell phones. So why would someone who works in the field be this concerned to offer this advice? Given that cell phones operate with Radio Frequencies (RF) and thus use a form of electromagnetic energy located on the electromagnetic spectrum between FM radio waves and the waves used in microwave ovens, radars and satellites. How many times have you heard not to stand in front of the microwave since it could cause health issues?
The FCC offers recommendations for the appropriate and safe amount of exposure to RF energy. I found these RF Safety FAQ’s to be somewhat helpful in identifying and answering some my exposure questions.
According to the FCC, “the threshold level is a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) value for the whole body of 4 watts per kilogram (4 W/kg)”. So what does that mean to a normal human being? I will use myself as an example; I weigh 171 pounds which converts to approximately 78 kg. So that means I can absorb 312 watts in my whole body. Still what does that mean in the case of a cell phone? The FCC has also required all wireless phones in the U.S. meet a conservative radiation safety standard of 1.6 SAR and most do with much to spare. When translated into wattage, wireless phones maximally emit power in the range of 0.2 to 0.6 watts. When you compare this to what a walkie-talkies which emit radiation in excess of 10 watts or an AM radio stations, which emit radiation at levels of 50,000 watts or more! However these numbers do not take into account outside factors that come into play when using a cell phone. The amount of RF you are exposed to with the use of a cell phone depends on a number of factors which include:
1.) The age of your cell phone (an older analog model would create higher exposure levels than a newer phone).
2.) The duration and frequency of using your cell phone (this one is scary!)
3.) The distance from the base station pushing out the signals.
So let’s take a closer look at the three points above. Age of the cell phone is pretty self-explanatory; most people have upgraded from their “Saved by the Bell” Zach Morris phone to the newer digital style phones with all the bells and whistles so I would not be too concerned. However, if you have not, I would advise you to upgrade as soon as possible. There are a number of deals available that make new phones cost next to nothing.
Secondly, the duration and frequency of using your cell phone scares me a little bit. So if my phone emits 0.2 t0 0.6 watts of energy, how much is that same amount amplified by placing it directly next to the soft tissue of the brain? Currently, I subscribe to a cellular service package with unlimited night and weekend minutes. I did some checking and I usually use around 900 minutes a month. So this means that my brain is getting zapped with 0.2 to 0.6 watts of RF energy on an average of 900 minutes a month. I do not imagine this can be good for the soft tissue of my brain, especially since the FCC does not examine the affects of RF produced by cell phones on the soft tissue of the brain.
Third and finally, the distance from the base station you are connected to should be taken into account. This one may be very difficult to measure and quantify. In my specific network with SprintPCS, I rarely go with lack of service, which I assume means I am always fairly close to the next station to make up the web of cell pods that push out the signals.
The cellular network is set up in a hexagonal pattern which maps over the entire area you live. As you move from one hexagonal cell to the next you are fairly close to the center of the cell at all times. Though I do not know what scientific evidence I can draw and quantify from this information in relation to health issues.
So after examining those three factors, it seems that much like cigarette smoking was accepted and not linked to illness until the appropriate medical and scientific knowledge was gathered to prove otherwise, it is possible that cell phone usage and exposure to RF energy on soft tissue could cause serious health issues (i.e. tumors). So in the meantime there are a few options:
Use a headset connected to the headset jack (not a Bluetooth device) to get the handset away from the soft tissue of the brain. Or get a cellphone with a speaker phone to get the handset further way from your skull.
Since an inadequate length of time has passed to show evidence that there is no link between tumors and cell phones because right now the studies conducted on cell phones and health concerns have been performed with adequate duration to do otherwise. I am going to have to go with option number two and use a headset for as many of the 900 minutes a month that I currently spend with the handset pressed firmly to my skull while is send waves electromagnetic radiation through the soft tissue of my brain and I would advise you to do the same until more solid research has been concluded.