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Mobile Phone Usage and How it Affects Your Health

Last updated on October 24th, 2019,
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Mobile phone and your health

In today’s world, Mobile phone has found its way to become a part of our lives, something most of us can’t live without. In 2014, it was estimated that there were about seven (7) Billion mobile phone subscribers world over, a figure just a little below the entire world population. Interestingly, the number has kept growing as expected. It is important to understand the risks and possible effects of mobile phone use (in addition to the effect of emitted radiofrequency on health ) and make up your own mind about how you use your mobile phone.

There are different types of mobile phones but majorly categorised under two which are feature phones – mobile phones that support services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, video games, and digital photography in addition to telephony, and secondly, smartphones which refers to mobile phones which offer greater advanced computing in addition to all the capabilities of a feature phone. The unifying thing here, however, is that they all communicate using the same principle. So, note that in this article, when a mobile phone is mentioned, it refers to either of the two above mentioned categories.

How Mobile Phone works and the Reason for The Health Concerns

The mobile phone system works like a two-way radio. A mobile phone has a radio receiver and a transmitter. Mobile phones communicate using what is called Radio Frequency (RF). The radiofrequency links mobile phones and establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator which enables you to communicate anywhere using the device.

To illustrate, When you make a call, your phone uses radiofrequency (RF) radiation via its antenna to ‘talk’ to a nearby base station (an area where the service provider mast or antenna is erected or placed). Once the base station has received your signal, your call is directed through the landline phone system and connects you to your destination. At this point, the question is, Is Radio Frequency harmful?

The answer can be very confusing since many different opinions (we would be examining the facts). It is known that if RF radiation is high enough, it has a ‘thermal’ effect, which means it raises body temperature. Mobile phones emit low levels of RF radiation which we are exposed to on a daily bases, this has raised a number of concerns as it could cause health problems such as headaches or brain tumours.

Major Health Concerns and What Researchers say

As the number of base stations and local wireless networks increases, so does the RF exposure of the population.

Intensive international research has found no conclusive or convincing evidence that mobile phones are damaging to health in the short or long term (source: BetterHealthChannel).

The levels of RF exposure from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increases are insignificant and do not affect human health.

Cancer: Over the past 15 years, studies examining a potential relationship between RF transmitters and cancer have been published. These studies have not provided evidence that RF exposure from the transmitters increases the risk of cancer. Likewise, long-term animal studies have not established an increased risk of cancer from exposure to RF fields, even at levels that are much higher than produced by base stations and wireless networks. (source: WHO)

Other health effects: Few studies have investigated general health effects in individuals exposed to RF fields from base stations. Most studies have focused on the RF exposures of mobile phone users. Human and animal studies examining brain wave patterns, cognition and behavior after exposure to RF fields, such as those generated by mobile phones, have not identified adverse effects.RF exposures used in these studies were about 1000 times higher than those associated with general public exposure from base stations or wireless networks. (source: WHO)

At this point, researchers have concluded for now that no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them. Researches are still ongoing.

Other Indirect Health Effects

While researchers have not yet established any direct effect of exposure to mobile phone or base station radiation to adverse health conditions, this has not ruled out many other indirect adverse effects of mobile phone use.

Behavioral and Mental Health: This is a growing concern amongst smartphone users who easily become addicted to their devices. Recently, addiction to social media was linked to depression and anxiety in a published research article.

Interference with medical electronic devices: The RF radiation from mobile phones is capable of interfering with many medical electronic devices which can be very dangerous. It’s always advisable not to use a mobile phone in the hospital especially where medical electronic equipment is used.

Road Accident: It is a known fact that distractions from using a mobile phone while driving have caused a lot of accidents, injuries and permanent deformities and claimed countless lives.

Precautions

All evidence so far suggests that mobile phones aren’t harmful, but long-term risks and consequences are yet to be clarified with research still ongoing.

However, if you are concerned, you can reduce your exposure to RF radiation by following these simple precautions (source: BetterHealthChannel), they also apply to other indirect health effects.

  • Choose a mobile phone model that has a low specific absorption rate (SAR), which refers to the amount of RF radiation absorbed by body tissues
  • Use a landline phone if one is available
  • Keep your mobile phone calls short
  • Use a hands-free kit (earphones)
  • Not carrying your mobile phone close to your body when it is switched on
  • Being wary of claims that protective devices or ‘shields’ can reduce your exposure to RF radiation – there is no evidence to suggest these devices work. In fact, they can increase RF radiation, because the phone will automatically increase its RF output to combat the effects of the shield to get the best level of communication.

STAY HEALTHY, STAY STRONG AND STAY SAFE

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