Cell Phone-Brain Cancer Debate Continues
Recently, researchers from the Orbero University in Sweden led by Professor Kjell Mild have suggested that young children may be at risk for brain cancer when using cell phones because of their thinner skulls and developing nervous systems. The study also suggests that 10 years is the minimum period needed by cancers to develop, which would warrant more research at this time when a large number of the population has been using cell phones for a long time.
The question of whether or not cell phones pose a health risk has been debated for more than a decade, and scientists still aren't sure how extreme the risks are, or if they exist at all.
Like televisions, computers, and all other electrical devices, cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation. At high enough levels, radiofrequency (RF) energy can heat living tissue to the point of causing biological damage.
Studies have shown that high doses of RF energy can cause DNA damage, cardiac effects, disruption of cellular communication and metabolism, impairment of immune function, and changes in brainwave activity and sleep patterns. Some people believe that radiation exposure may explain why people who make long cell phone calls sometimes complain of fatigue, headaches, and loss of concentration.
Part of the increasing concern over cell phone use may be due to a recent finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which has discovered a connection between childhood cancer and power lines. In addition to the Obrero University study, a handful of studies in the past few years have suggested that cell phone users are 40% to 400% more likely to develop cancer on the side of the brain where they hold their phone, next to their ears.
Yet some scientists are highly doubtful that there is cause for concern, citing another set of various studies that have found no correlation. From the physics standpoint, researchers explain that the idea of cell phones having biological effects is nearly impossible. A mere six-tenths of a watt of power emitted by cell phones seems theoretically unlikely to affect human health.
Due to the nature of science research, it will be nearly impossible to prove that cell phones are safe, as there are so many different types of studies that could potentially be performed.
Still, about 200,000 people in the US alone are diagnosed with brain cancer each year, and brain cancer is one of the leading causes of death in young people. Some people have taken advantage of people's insecurities, selling useless products such as "RF-proof" necklaces that claim to eliminate the radiation.
Currently, countries measure the amount of radiation produced by cell phones by testing a "specific absorption rate " (SAR), which is "a way of measuring the quantity of radiofrequency (RF) energy that is absorbed by the body." To pass FCC certification, a cell phone's maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6W/kg (watts per kilogram) in the US, and 2W/kg in Europe.
For those concerned about potential risks, scientists suggest using headsets and try to keep the antenna far away from the head since the main source of RF energy is from the antenna. Because RF energy decreases as distance increases between a person and a radiation source, keeping distance between the antenna and your body can help decrease your exposure to RF energy.