Mobile phone and your health


The rapid evolution of mobile phone technology has raised public concern about its possible association with adverse health effects. Given the huge number of mobile phone users at present days, even simple adverse health effects could have major implications. This article reviews the present knowledge concerning the health effects stemming from the use of cellular phones by emphasizing adverse biological effects, epidemiological issues, and indirect health effects.

According to a new study, electromagnetic radiation from cellular phones may affect bone strength. Men who wear their cell phone on the right side of their belts were found to have reduced bone mineral content and bone mineral density in the right hip. Researchers measured the bone strength at the left and right hip in two groups of healthy men, half of whom did not use cell phones and half of whom carried their cell phone in a belt pouch on the right side. Their hip bones were assessed using a test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Men who did not use cell phones had higher [bone mineral content] in the right femoral neck near the top of the thigh bone. The cell phone users also had reduced [bone mineral density] and [bone mineral content] at the right trochanter — an area at the outside top of the thigh bone, close to where the phone would be worn on the belt.

Epidemiologic evidence bearing on a possible causal relation between radio frequency field exposure from mobile phone use and tumor risk. In the last few years, epidemiologic evidence on mobile phone use and the risk of brain and other tumors of the head in adults has grown. Mobile phones communicate with base stations using radio frequency (RF) radiation. If RF radiation is high enough, it has a ‘thermal’ effect, which means it raises body temperature. There are concerns that the low levels of RF radiation emitted by mobile phones could cause health problems such as headaches or brain tumors. The handset only transmits power when it is turned on. The power (and hence the radio frequency exposure to a user) falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the handset.

A person using a mobile phone 30–40 cm away from their body – for example when text messaging, accessing the Internet, or using a “hands free” device – will therefore have a much lower exposure to radio frequency fields than someone holding the handset against their head. In addition to using “hands free” devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls.

Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power. The use of commercial devices for reducing radio frequency field exposure has not been shown to be effective. While research continues into whether or not mobile phone use causes health problems apart from cancer, no negative health implications have yet been found. Mobile phone use can also have other indirect health effects. For example:

  • Electronic equipment – it is possible for RF radiation to interfere with medical electronic equipment if the equipment is vulnerable to the field. Handsets should be turned off in hospital buildings.
  • Road accidents – studies show that using a mobile phone while driving greatly increases the risk of traffic accidents. Talking on a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal in all states.

It increase stress level of human .The high frequency of cell phone use can have negative effects on our stress levels. The constant ringing, vibrating alerts, and reminders can put a cell phone user on edge. In a study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, researchers examined if there is a direct link between the psychosocial aspects of cell phone use and mental health symptoms in young adults. The participants of the study included 20 to 24 year old who responded to a questionnaire, in addition to a one-year follow-up.

Researchers found high mobile phone use was associated with stress and sleep disturbances for women, whereas high mobile phone use was associated with sleep disturbances and symptoms of depression in men. Overall, excessive cell phone use can be a risk factor for mental health issues in young adults. It increases risk of chronic pain. Cell phones require constant use of your hands, especially when sending text messages and e-mails. Responding to messages at rapid speed can cause pain and inflammation of your joints. Back pain is also common with increased cell phone use, especially if you hold the phone between your neck and shoulders as you multitask. Long periods of cell phone use cause you to arch your neck and hold your body in a strange posture. This can lead to back pain. The incessant touching of your phone can harbor germs on your handset.

The greasy, oily residue you may see on your cell phone after a day’s use can contain more disease-prone germs than those found on a toilet seat. In a study conducted at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary University of London, researchers sampled 390 cell phones and hands to measure for levels of bacteria. The results of the study showed that 92 percent of the cell phones sampled had bacteria on them — 82 percent of hands had bacteria — and 16 percent of cell phones and hands had E. coli. Fecal matter can easily be transferred by cell phones from one person to another. Using a mobile device can cause problems in your vision later in life. Screens on mobile devices tend to be smaller than computer screens, which means you are more likely to squint and strain your eyes while reading messages. According to The Vision Council of America, more than 70 percent of Americans don’t know or are in denial that they are susceptible to digital eye strain. If you are concerned, you can reduce your exposure to RF radiation by:

  • Choosing a mobile phone model that has a low specific absorption rate (SAR), which refers to the amount of RF radiation absorbed by body tissues.
  • Using a landline phone if one is available.
  • Keeping your mobile phone calls short.
  • Using a hands-free kit.
  • Not carrying your mobile phone close to your body when it is switched on.
  • Being wary of claims that protective devices or ‘shields’ can reduce your exposure to RF radiation – there is no evidence to suggest these devices work. In fact, they can increase RF radiation, because the phone will automatically increase its RF output to combat the effects of the shield to get the best level of communication.

Zobia Shoaib