Electromagnetic Radiation: The Cell Phone Problem
Cell Phones – Technology | Exposures | Health Effects
From “The Cell Phone Problem” a Report from Environment & Human Health, Inc.
Whether it’s the increased use of cell phones by children, or the overall increase in cell phone use by adults, human exposure to electromagnetic radiation is happening in ways never dreamed of before. Very young children are using them, teenagers live on them—and some even sleep with them on their pillows, as cell phones are often used as alarm clocks.
What do these exposures consist of and what do they mean for human health?
Whether cell phone use affects the human nervous system and reproduction, causes DNA damage and behavioral changes, or creates addictive behavior, cell phones are now ubiquitous in our lives.
Cell phone technology has changed quickly over time and continues to develop, which means that human exposures also change over time. This report explores what we know about cell phone use, exposures, and human health.
- All cell phones emit a type of radiation called an electromagnetic field (EMF), composed of waves of electric and magnetic energy moving together through space. Different types of electromagnetic energy are categorized by their wavelengths and frequencies and comprise the electromagnetic “spectrum”
- Different radiation frequencies are used by different technologies.Radio waves and microwaves emitted by transmitting antennas are a form of electromagnetic energy collectively referred to as radiofrequency (RF) energy or radiation.
- The RF part of the electromagnetic spectrum consists of frequencies in the range of about 3 kilohertz (3 kHz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz). RF energy is used in telecommunications services, including radio and television broadcasting, mobile communication, GPS devices, radio communications for police and fire departments, and satellite communications. Non-communication sources of RF energy include microwave ovens, radar, and industrial uses.
- The complete electromagnetic spectrum consists of both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy to remove an electron from an atom or a molecule. Sources of non-ionizing radiation include microwaves, radio waves, cordless phones, wireless networks (wifi), power lines and MRIs.
- Ionizing radiation has high-frequency waves with enough energy toeject electrons from molecules. It can damage the structure of cells in the body (including DNA) and has well-documented effects on human health. Ionizing radiation is emitted by radon, uranium, and other naturally occurring radioactive elements and is used for X-rays, nuclear medicine, and CT (“cat”) scans.
- Decades of research demonstrate that even low doses of ionizing radiation can increase the risk of cancer. The thyroid gland and bone marrow are particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, especially in children. Leukemia, which arises in the bone marrow, is the most sensitive radiation-induced cancer and may appear as early as a few years after radiation exposure. Other cancers that can result from exposure to ionizing radiation, sometimes decadesafter exposure, include cancers of the lung, skin, thyroid, brain, breast, and stomach.While cell phones are not associated with ionizing radiation, their long-term risks are unknown.
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