How often have you seen a newspaper headline claiming that mobile phones are dangerous? Chances are, pretty often. The media would like us to believe that our smart phones are dangerous to our health, but are they really? We're taking a look at whether or not mobiles are a health hazard, so if you want the real inside info, then keep reading.
Why Do We Think They're Dangerous?
Alright, let's deal with the big scary word first: radiation. The reason that so many people are willing to believe that mobiles are dangerous is because it's well known that mobile phones emit radiation. However, the word radiation can be a little misleading here. When you hear “radiation” you probably start thinking about nuclear bombs and Chernobyl and maybe even cancer, but not all radiation is created equal.
There are tons of different kinds of radiation, and in fact you're repeatedly exposed to radiation every day. Get on a plane, go out in the sun, have an X-ray and you'll be radiated. And whilst some kinds of radiation are dangerous, and being exposed to too much radiation is certainly dangerous (ever had a sunburn?) that doesn't mean that you need to avoid it altogether. Actually, you can't avoid radiation altogether, since it's all around you.
The radiation that's emitted by mobile phones is what is called “short wave electromagnetic radiation.” Electromagnetic radiation is not at all dangerous in low levels, and since it's short wave the radiation doesn't carry very far either. Once your phone is around thirty centimetres from your head, for example, you're no longer exposed to the very tiny amounts of radiation that it's emitting. Does that mean that your mobile is safe though? That's a complicated question…
What the Scientists Say
There are plenty of scientific studies done every year on how dangerous mobile phones might be. We're not going to bore you with all the details here, the important thing to know is that no major side effects from mobile use have ever been proven. Never. We promise. Scientists have found some side effects though.
For example, long term use of your mobile can result in tiredness and difficulty sleeping. But then again, so does long term TV watching or video game playing. Blood pressure tends to rise when a mobile is being used as well, though not to high levels (definitely not life threatening) and pressure goes down again when you stop using your phone.
What does this mean for you? Well, the kinds of serious or even fatal effects that are sometimes connected to mobile use in the media (you know, brain tumours etc.) aren't really connected to mobiles at all. So, your mobile is safe, right?
Not So Fast…
Okay, there are two points here. The first is that no, mobile phone use isn't completely safe. Mobiles play a part in many car accidents, for example. The dangers of texting, or even talking, when driving are well known. Some, however, would blame this danger more on the user than on the mobile phone. There are also reports of mobiles causing injury through exploding or even catching fire. These reports are pretty isolated though, and are generally a design fault in the phone itself or a user trying to take a phone apart and sticking a screwdriver where they shouldn't.
When it comes to your health, rather than mobile accidents, then you might want to think about being a little careful. No, mobile radiation isn't really a big deal, but that doesn't mean that you should expose yourself as much as you like. Sleeping with your phone under your pillow isn't the greatest idea, for example. Since mobile radiation is short wave, a phone on your nightstand won't effect you at all, whilst one under your pillow can.
Hands free sets are also a good plan if you're constantly on the phone. Not only will you not be exposed to radiation using your hands free, but you'll also be safer in the car too…
Additionally, your phone does not emit any radiation at all when it's turned off (so if you really want it under your pillow, switch it off first!). And the level of radiation emitted is much lower when you have good reception- so calling from populated areas is safer than calling from the middle of nowhere.
Oh, and for those worried about living close to cell phone towers or antennae, then you also have little to worry about. The towers themselves do not emit any radiation. Antennae do, but you will only be effected if you actually touch the antennae, so better play safe and keep your hands in your pockets!
Is My Phone a Health Risk?
As with any newer technology we can't be completely sure that there is no risk to using a cell phone. Long term risk evaluation is going to need a couple more decades before scientists can definitively say that mobiles are completely safe. But mobiles have been around for over thirty years at this point though, so chances are that if there was a serious risk we would probably already know about it.
On a basic level, your mobile is really no more of a risk than say, your microwave or your television set. When used correctly and safely, there's little evidence to suggest that anything is going to adversely effect your health. Sure, stick a screwdriver into your iPhone and you might get hurt, text and drive and you might have an accident, but essentially mobiles are pretty safe devices.
The final verdict? No, your mobile really isn't a health hazard at all, at least as far as we know, and you can safely ignore the media scare mongering. Use your mobile wisely, and you're unlikely to see any kind of side effect to using it at all. So go ahead and make that call!