Cell phones have become a major part of our daily lives. We use them for just about everything from making phone calls to sending pictures and videos, to looking up information on the web. In 2019, the average US adult spent almost 4 hours a day on their mobile device.
Screen time aside, there are concerns regarding the safety of cell phones. One of the top concerns is the radiation that they emit. Cell phone radiation is being linked to several serious issues, but there are ways to reduce your exposure and keep yourself (and your family) safe.
What is Cell Phone Radiation?
Cell phones send and receive signals from nearby cell towers (or base stations). To do this, they use radiofrequency (RF) waves. The phones have to emit this energy, also called electromagnetic radiation, to work.
This particular form of electromagnetic radiation falls between FM radio waves and microwaves. The energy is a form of non-ionizing radiation or low-energy radiation that can’t remove an electron from a molecule or atom. The radiation is emitted continually, even when your phone isn’t in use. While high levels of RF waves can heat tissue, cell phones produce much less and aren’t enough to raise body temperatures.
How You’re Exposed
The radiofrequency waves emitted by your cell phone come from the antenna. The waves are the strongest at this point and lose energy rapidly as they travel.
When you talk on the phone, you generally hold it against the side of your head. Here, your phone is very close to your body, if not touching you. The closer your proximity to your phone (and its antenna) the greater your exposure. The tissues closest to the antenna absorb more energy than other areas of your body.
Potential Risks of Cell Phone Radiation
The ionizing radiation that’s produced by X-rays, gamma rays, and the sun is known to harm molecules within the body, increasing your risk for cancer. There are concerns that the radiofrequency radiation emitted by cell phones does the same.
Some studies show an increased risk of brain cancer in individuals who use their cell phones frequently. In 2011, the World Health Organization classified RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Some more recent studies show a link between the radiation and an increased risk of cancer in lab rats. A 2016 study found some of the strongest evidence of a link with at least two types of rare cancers in the brain and the heart.
Even with studies showing links between RF radiation and cancer in rats, many believe the information cannot be applied to humans. The FDA has stated that the level of evidence available doesn’t show any association between the radiation and adverse health effects.
How to Protect Against Radiation
While findings are mixed, many people are still concerned. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce your radiation exposure.
Keep your phone away from your body.
Avoid carrying your phone against your body or placing it directly against your head. When taking a call, use speakerphone or a headset.
Wait for the call to connect.
Your phone emits the most radiation when connecting a call. Wait for the call to connect before placing your phone near your ear.
Use the right case.
Phone cases are great for protecting your phone if you accidentally drop it. Did you know that some can even reduce radiation, too? Cases like alara use special technology to lower cell phone radiation exposure while still maintaining a strong signal.
Keep your phone on airplane mode.
Your phone emits radiation even when you’re not making a call. When not in use, turn it to airplane mode (or shut it off completely). If you do need to leave it on, again, keep it away from your body.
While some studies are showing an increased cancer risk due to the radiofrequency radiation emitted by cell phones, our phones are an important part of our daily lives. Taking the right protective measures can help to reduce your risk and keep you safe.