It’s hard to imagine a world without cell phones. While in
the grand scheme of things these little devices are relatively new, they’ve
become an essential part of modern life. But just how safe are these tiny computers?
You’ve probably heard all sorts of things about how cell phones may or may not be harming you. You won’t have to browse long to find arguments for everything from phones causing joint damage to the classic “smartphones make people dumb” argument.
But most phone-related health discussions seem to center on the issue of cell phone radiation effects on the human body.
Cell phones use a lot of energy and give off a lot of
radio waves. These factors, and the fact that you often use phones around your
head, may raise some red flags about radiation. Yes, cell phones do emit
radiation, but whether this radiation is damaging or not is less certain.
What Kind of Radiation Do Cell Phones Emit?
When you think of the word “radiation,” you may
think of x-ray machines or nuclear power plants. With those images in mind,
hearing that cell phones emit radiation might be alarming. But the type of
radiation phones give off isn’t the same as these other sources.
Cell phones use radiofrequency waves (RF waves) to send
and receive signals from cell towers. These RF waves are a type of non-ionizing
radiation, a spectrum that includes Wi-Fi signals and visible light.
Non-ionizing radiation is weaker and less dangerous than ionizing radiation,
which includes gamma rays and UV light.
Ionizing radiation is potentially dangerous because it can
break apart chemical bonds in DNA. The effects of these waves can be as small
as getting a sunburn or as severe as developing cancer. Non-ionizing radiation,
on the other hand, doesn’t affect your DNA’s chemical makeup, although it can
Is This Radiation Harmful?
Now you know that your phone’s RF waves aren’t the same as
X-rays. But you’re around your phone a lot more than you’re around sources of
ionizing radiation. Does this prolonged exposure have any adverse side effects?
Two 2018 studies found a connection between RF radiation and cancer in rats.
Both studies showed that rats were more likely to develop rare tumors
called schwannomas after extended exposure to low levels of RF waves. But
before you throw your cell phone in the trash, you should consider a few other
Just because RF waves can lead to cancer in rats doesn’t
mean it does the same to people. There are only a few recorded cases of
schwannomas in humans throughout medical history. There have also been plenty
of studies covering RF radiation in humans, none of which presented substantial
evidence for phones causing cancer.
The FDA states that there is no absolute proof that cell phone
radiation has any adverse health effects. The data from 30 years’ worth of
studies show no connection between RF waves and health problems, and public
health data doesn’t suggest a link either. In fact, nervous system cancers in
the U.S. have decreased over the last 15 years.
Is Prolonged Cell Phone Use Safe?
You can keep using your phone like you always do without
worrying about radiation. The only scientifically proven effect of cell phone
radiation on the human body is tissue heating. Your hands or cheek might get a
little warm, but apart from that, your phone’s RF waves won’t do anything to
If you’re still worried about cell phone radiation effects on the human body, there are steps you can take and products you can purchase to reduce your exposure to RF radiation. Your phone could emit more RF waves if you’re in an enclosed metal space, so avoid using it in those areas. You could also prefer texting over talking on the phone to keep the radiation source away from your head. To be extra safe, the FCC limits the amount of radiation a phone can emit. While no study is perfect, all of the data points towards cell phone radiation being harmless
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