Cellular telephones are an essential part of life for most Americans. Whether you use yours to keep in touch with friends and family, manage your social media accounts, conduct business, or all of the above, it is rare to see anyone who does not have a cellular telephone for their personal and/or business use. Ongoing debates between scientists and researchers have simmered for years over whether this near-constant use of cell phones is harming our health. Proponents of such a theory claim that radiation emitted by these devices can heat and agitate nearby molecules, including those near our ears and faces, and that this, in turn, can lead to the development of cancer. Opponents point out that studies and research thus far have not established a direct link between cell phone radiation and cancer development in humans. However, a new U.S. study reported by NBC Dallas-Fort Worth may lend greater credence to those who claim cell phone usage is hazardous to your health. If the findings of this study are corroborated by further research, it may lead to a significant change in the way in which cell phones are marketed and used.
Cell Phone RF Radiation Exposure Explained
Like certain other electronic devices, cell phones emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation when they are turned on and in use. RF radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation, which itself comes in two varieties: ionized and non-ionized. Ionized radiation is characterized by a high frequency and short wavelength whereas non-ionized radiation is notable for its lower frequency and correspondingly-longer wavelength. The Sun’s cosmic rays and X-rays (like those from a machine in a hospital or dentist’s office) are two examples of ionizing electromagnetic radiation. The link between ionizing electromagnetic radiation and cancer development in humans is well-established. For this reason, medical practitioners must ensure patients are properly protected before exposing them to X-rays. Similarly, one’s risk of developing cancer increases significantly if he or she goes outside in the Sun for prolonged periods of time without wearing appropriate sunblock or sunscreen.
When it comes to non-ionized electromagnetic radiation (such as the RF radiation emitted from cell phones), however, the link between such radiation and cancer in humans is not quite as strong. In the past, there have been researchers and others who have claimed that RF radiation exposure can increase a person’s risk of cancer as well as those who claim just the opposite: that there is no evidence supporting the belief that RF radiation exposure leads to the development of cancer. Cell phones continuously emit RF radiation when they are powered on, even if they are not being used to place a phone call or send a text message (for example), since cell phones are constantly sending and receiving signals from nearby cell phone towers.
Non-ionized electromagnetic radiation, in general, can “heat” anything nearby, such as your ear when you hold the cell phone up to make a call or your face if you are texting and holding the cell phone close to your face. (Incidentally, it is this ability to “heat” objects that makes devices such as microwave ovens – which also emit non-ionized electromagnetic radiation – useful in certain contexts.) Current research and study have not been able to ascertain whether the “heating” that occurs when you utilize a cell phone is sufficient to cause cancerous growths in humans.
New Study Results Link Cancer Growth and RF Radiation Exposure in Rats
A new national study that was recently completed looked further at the link between RF radiation exposure by exposing lab rats to RF radiation. Instead of intermittently exposing rats to RF or non-ionized electromagnetic radiation, this study was unique in that it exposed the subject rats to RF radiation across their entire bodies for nine hours a day, seven days a week, for a period of two years. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that two to three percent of the rats had developed cancerous tumors. Researchers gave the lab rats such consistent exposure because they claimed this best mimicked the amount of exposure to RF radiation from cell phones that an average human experiences in his or her lifetime.
This study’s results, then, are some of the clearest results to date that definitively link exposure to RF radiation from sources like cell phones to the development of cancer in lab mice. Now that such a connection has been established through research, the next step is to investigate whether this increased incidence rate in rats is indicative of the increased risk humans face when they are exposed to RF radiation. Other agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have indicated their intent to conduct further research on the potential dangers of RF radiation exposure in humans because of this study’s findings.
Should You Ditch Your Cell Phone?
Despite the study’s ominous-sounding conclusion, most researchers are not urging people to get rid of their cell phones entirely. While the study’s conclusions suggest a noticeable and appreciable link between RF radiation emitted by cell phones and the development of cancer in lab rats, the study is not able to establish a similarly-strong link between RF radiation from cell phones and the development of cancer in humans. This does not necessarily mean that there is no link whatsoever; in fact, the study’s results do show a relationship between exposure to RF radiation and cancer genesis and growth. However, the study is limited in that researchers have not had an opportunity to conduct appropriately-sized studies examining the link between RF radiation and cancer development in humans. In other words, there may indeed be a causal link between RF radiation exposure and cancer development in humans, but it is too soon to say if this is true.
Nonetheless, those who have reviewed the results of the study say that some modifications in the way in which people utilize their cell phones is not inappropriate and can limit the amount of RF radiation to which they are exposed. Specifically, individuals are encouraged to use headphones – including those with a microphone as well – when making calls. This keeps the person from having to hold the cell phone close to his or her ear when talking or listening to media. In addition, because cell phones emit RF radiation whenever the phone is powered on (not just when being used to place a call or send a text), it is recommended that individuals who keep their cell phones on and close at hand while sleeping move their cell phones to at least an arms-distance away from them while they sleep. Finally, parents are recommended to limit the amount of time their children spend using cell phones so as to limit the amount of RF radiation to which their developing brains are exposed.
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