Technology has made a huge impact on our society over the years. Numerous inventions have reformed how we work, live and interact with others but at what cost? Before cell phones came into existence many could testify that their social lives were more delightful. One might find it hysterical that a gadget which was supposed to foster communication between individuals from several part of the world only ended up putting more distance between people? Not only did it affect people’s communication but their norms and safety which brings us to the recent debate about the use of phones increasing one’s risk of acquiring cancer.
Are there health issues associated with this technology? As much as we would like to believe that cellphones could cause no radiological harm to the human body, the truth isn’t what one would expect.
There are several articles which argues that phones in no way causes cancer, but can we take our time to explore if they are completely certain? Majority of these articles try to explain using physics and Einstein’s theory which debunked the notion that the energy of a wave was proportional to its intensity hence, “the more intense the light(or cell phone wave)the more their energy content, and the more readily they might break a chemical bond”(Cramer, 2011, para.
6). Or they go on to blame the retrospective bias of case-control subjects. No one nor can any article firmly attest that there is no cause for alarm, this leads to the conclusion that the overuse of cell phone could indeed increase one’s risk of having cancer.
It’s extensively known that today’s smartphones have more computing power than all of NASA did when it started sending astronauts to the moon. Mobile phones were made to work faster than human speed and perform several functions over a short amount of time. They could even search for data from several parts of the world within seconds of typing up questions in a search bar. However, how they accomplish these prodigious tasks is all due to its power source, Lithium Ion. Lithium Ion can be very harmful to not just humans but the environment as well yet, it powers majority of our cell phones, tablets and even computers- we all have it on our hands! It is also useful to note that lithium battery failure and overheating could result in a process called “thermal runaway,” which is a reaction that occurs within the battery that causes its internal temperature and pressure to rise. According to a recent article by Tufts School of Engineering(n.d.)
Once one battery cell goes into thermal runaway, it produces enough heat to cause adjacent battery cells to also go into thermal runaway. This produces a fire that repeatedly flares up as each battery cell in turn ruptures and releases its contents. An enormous issue is that these fires can’t be treated like “normal” fires and require specific training, planning, storage, and extinguishing interventions. While lithium battery fires might not be “more” dangerous, they are very different and uniquely dangerous (p.4)
This, warning by an educational public safety University is enough to tell us that mobile phones might not be as safe as they might seem.
Incidents involving lithium battery fires are also everywhere especially during holiday seasons. The lithium batteries in hover boards were responsible for so many house fires that amazon had to quit selling them for a while. In phones, Angelou (2018) points out that “in some cases, batteries would release hot gases, which were enough to cause burns” (para. 2). Although this information is unknown to several individuals, the Department of Homeland security took it seriously and enforced a rule which placed a ban on device in airplane cabins. Instead passengers were required to store their smartphones and laptops in their luggage.
The surprising fact is that no one else seems concerned about this issue. Nevertheless, one thing a lot of people can attest to is having their phones overheat while using them for an amount of time. A number of high-profile incidents have raised concerns about the safety of Lithium-ion batteries like in 2017 when Samsung experienced significant complications as the batteries in the Galaxy Note 7 experienced severe overheating problems (Angelou, 2018, para. 6). This cost the company billions of dollars and was caused by irregularly sized Lithium-Ion batteries. There have also been several reported cases of phones explosions. This sadly ended up taking the lives of some of the affected individuals.
Smart phones have been gaining popularity since its invention throughout the nineties. In America, there are over 400 million cell phone users and 5.15 billion cell phone users worldwide (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, 2018). The arrival and widespread use of cell phones has piqued the interest of the health effects of radio frequencies in the human body. Various substances like radiation, asbestos, and tamoxifen in our environment have been identified as cancer-causing agent. However, none of these chemicals were actually acknowledged as carcinogens until numerous people contracted cancer after being exposed to them.
Cell phones are known to emit certain type of radiation even though their effects are still moderately known. When turned on, cell phones emit radiofrequency electromagnetic
radiation continually, even if they are not being actively used, because they are constantly communicating with cell towers. Radio frequencies are a form of electrical waves used to transmit signals in telecommunications services like radios, television, cellular telephones, microwaves and radars.
Radio frequencies are emitted from a transmitter and are received via an antenna which restricts them geographically to small zones called “Cells”. Each cell has a base station capable of sending and receiving radio waves. When a call starts, a signal leaves the phone heads to the closest base station. This station answers by allocating a specific channel to the unit. When this channel is established, regulated radio frequency signals are both received and transmitted. The head of the user is in the near field of use because the distance from the antenna to the head is a few centimeters. (Blettner & Berg, 2000). The amount of radio frequency a person receives is related to various factors and just not the location of the antenna. Some factors which can increase the level of radio frequency are the number of cells, the distance to the base station and the obstacles between the caller and the station. The number of cell zones varies according to the population of the area the user is situated at. Heavily populated zones have more cells which allows for more communication traffic.
Recently, several researches have been carried out to give a definite on if cell phones can break bonds and cause genetic damage which would cause a cancerous tumor to grow.
Although some individuals believe that radio waves do not cause such harm to the body due to electromagnetic radio waves being weak, exposure to any kind of radiation is never safe. Radio waves might not affect the human body immediately, but after an extended duration of time the effects are bound to reveal.
Cell phones can increase the risk of cancer due to the effects of radiation on brain cells, which is also hazardous when absorbed by the tissues in the body. It starts when the phone is held close to the head, this in turn increases the activity of brain cells on that side of the head. And causes people to have symptoms that leads to uncontrollable health disabilities. The tissues in the body that absorb radiation can also pose a threat to the body. This is because the radiation can enable the formation of tumors to take effect in the body especially if they are constantly exposed to the radiation energy for a long period of time. This is why people should limit their usages on their cell phones throughout the day and keep their phone as far away from their body as possible when making a call to reduce any risk of cancer from the radiation.
To further understand how cell phone radiation can impact our health, Researchers, had to work with organisms like mice and rats of both sexes and different weights. This $25 million experiment started about 10 years ago at the request of the United States Food and Drug Administration. National Toxicology Program (2018) dosed rats and mice of both sexes with RF radiation at either 1.5, 3 or 6 watts of radiation per kilogram of body weight, or W/kg for 7 days per week continuing throughout gestation and lactation for two years (p. 10). The exposures were reeled up steadily as the animals grew, so the absorbed doses per unit body weight remained constant over time. At the end of the study malignant schwannoma was detected in the male rats. This study provided the strongest prove that connected tumors in living organism to cell phone radio frequency radiation.
The scientist also reported higher rates of lymphoma as well as cancers affecting the prostate, skin, lung, liver and brain in the exposed rats. They state that the cancers rate increased as the doses got higher (P. 12). At the end the results of the study were eviewed by a panel of experts during a three-day meeting and they concluded there was ‘clear evidence’ linking radio frequency radiation with heart schwannomas and ‘some evidence’ linking it to gliomas of the brain which occur in humans.
Likewise, few epidemiology studies have stated that they observed higher rates of tumors inside the skull of people who use cell phones heavily for 10 years or more. Most of the cells they found are the benign Schwann cell tumors called acoustic neuromas, which affect nerve cells that connects the inner ear to structures inside the brain. Sometimes these growths of benign tumors can evolve to malignant cancer.
Some studies also enrolled individuals who already had tumors with suspected links to radio frequency radiation, like gliomas, meningioma, acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors. All the epidemiology studies, however, have troubling limitations hence most of them were ruled as inconclusive. The main issue was that enrolled subjects often do not report their cell phone use habits accurately on questionnaires which led to bias in the obtained results.
In conclusion cancer can be triggered by radiation produced by cell phones. Even if majority of the experiments which were carried out to prove this observation were ruled as inconclusive there is still a need to be cautious of our cell phones usage. Also, stricter laws and guidelines should be implemented in the cell phone industries in order to prevent future overheating incidents like that of Samsung’s which could have been avoided with more efficient safety checks. This would also ensure humans remain safe.
With technology advancing rapidly than our ability to study its possible health hazards. It is important for individuals to be aware of the risks that are associated with a cellphone.