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Are Cell Phones Dangerous?

Arun Prabhu
With over 5 billion cell phones used across the world, we need to take a closer look at the kind of dangers that owning a cell phone can possess. We are concerned, more than anything, on the fact that this wireless radiation might just be more harmful than we originally thought it to be.
On 31st May, 2011, The International Agency for Research on Cancer submitted a list of all possible carcinogenic materials; substances or exposures. They have concluded radiofrequency electromagnetic field as a possible cause of cancer in humans. These electromagnetic fields fall under Group 2B, the same group as DDT, chloroform, lead and welding fumes.
Our cell phones use the same radiofrequency fields to transmit information from one user to the other. The health hazards of this have been studied for quite a long time now and the IARC has concluded the carcinogenic potential of these radio waves.
The World Health Organization concluded cell phone radiation as "possibly carcinogenic to humans", while advising the cell phone users to talk through hands-free devices or texts. The basic aim is to reduce the time we keep the cell phone close to the ear.

Health Dangers

Well, let's find out how dangerous they actually are, shall we? Here are the most important reasons for avoiding the direct use of cell phones in the future.


The problem is, it's only been around a decade since cell phones have been in use on a global level, due to which we are still unacquainted about the long-term dangers of cell phone usage. A report in 2008 stated the use of cell phones 'as dangerous as smoking'. The main reason for this is not because these radiations are strong.
In fact, the cell phone radiations are found to be really weak and it would require a long time to be even sure that it can cause cancer. The problem is the enormous number of cell phones in use today. Not everyone is built exactly the same, which means the exposure to cell phone radiations affects everyone in varying levels.
The actual link between cell phone radiations and cancer has not yet been fully understood or even deduced. But as we progress through time, we should be able to firmly conclude whether cell phones are dangerous.
Another problem in this area is the radiations through a cell phone tower. They are much stronger and constant as compared to a singular cell phone. It has been found (through research at the University of Essex) that there is a minor health-lowering effect due to exposure to cell phone tower radiations on weaker, more sensitive people.
While there have been no short-term effect on the people working at or near the cell phone tower under observation, the ones prone to falling ill have reported a minor drop in their health standard. However, it still wasn't concluded that the weakened state was solely due to exposure to radiation.
To know how much radiation your cell phone can emit, you can check with the FCC for the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of your cell phone. The SAR corresponds to the amount of radiofrequency waves absorbed by the average human head.
You can access information related to your phone (provided it's not more than 3 years old) by using the phone's FCC ID, generally found on the cover of the phone.

Rise in Temperature

Dielectric heating is a way of electromagnetic heating, a principle used to heat food in microwaves. The microwaves cause a dipole moment between two polar molecules, thus heating them as they vibrate. It is the same effect that cell phone radiation causes to humans when we talk on the phone.
There's a whole list of things that are being linked (not conclusively) to cell phone usage and the dangers of microwave radiation. The principle of dielectric heating makes it possible to heat objects from inside out. This makes any heat produced inside the body harder to get rid of due to the fat layer underneath the skin.
The first body part that gets exposed to is the ear. Excessive cell phone usage has been blamed for heating the ear, consequently causing the blood flow in the ear to vary. This may cause a case of mild tinnitus or even cancer. The other part that gets harmed is the eye. Unlike other body parts, the eye has no way to maintain an optimum temperature.
Cell phone usage can be linked to causing the eye to heat up, which can form cataracts in the eye. Again, the effect has been found only in rabbits at a high exposure level for a long time. The same experiment was inconclusive for monkeys.

Other Problems

The other problems caused by cell phones are not as commonly discussed, but they may be just as dangerous.


Road accidents have been on the rise ever since people discovered they can talk or text on the phone as they drive or walk.
This has been a serious road safety issue and measures have already been taken in most states banning the use of cell phone while driving. There are no such rules, however, for pedestrians.


This has more to do with smartphones and technology addiction rather than cell phone radiation. But again, this has been on the rise for quite a long time and is proving to be a serious problem, including sleep disorders and concentration difficulties.
As far as health problems regarding cell phone radiation are concerned, it would be prudent to follow what the WHO says and use hands-free and texts to communicate. For all other problems, you just need to put your phone down for a minute and pay attention to the task at hand.