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Health: The tentative truth on cell phones

Alecia Sexton, Special to The Quad

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It’s no secret that we are glued to our cell phones. Instagram, Facebook, keeping in touch with friends and family, having the ability to search the web for anything at any time… all of these things make us feel connected to each other and to the evolving world we live in.

It’s comforting to know that we have the ability to do so many things with a smartphone in our pocket. What we need to know, however, are the ramifications of this luxury. Everything in life has consequences, and I hate to break it to you, but most seemingly “too good to be true” things in life are in fact too good to be true.

For example, when my mom was 13, she used to smoke menthol cigarettes. When she started, the media boasted about their “crisp taste” and “calming qualities,” and at the time, cigarettes weren’t yet seen as being carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Scientific studies weren’t conclusive yet, mostly because there weren’t any large scale studies being conducted.

The lack of research led to millions of people, like my mom, continuing to gladly and eagerly take that “smoke break” at work. Being alive today, of course, we are now painstakingly aware that cigarettes and tobacco cause cancer.

It’s sad to think about all the people who suffered from disease, illness and even death as a result of cigarettes and the misleading information they were given during their youth.

Of course, some people would have smoked them anyway, as they do today. Others, like my mom, would have avoided them like the plague.

It’s cruel to think that so many were unaware of what they were doing to their body and eventually had to undergo the excruciating process of quitting the addiction. Even in my mom’s case, the only thing powerful enough to push her to quit was the fact that the second I was born, I was instantly hooked up to a breathing machine due to my inflamed lungs, and then every time I was exposed to tobacco thereafter, I’d be rushed to another machine. Bottom line: Ignorance of the impact of cigarettes on health was the enemy here.

I told you that story because after my few months of cell phone radiation research and its relationship to human health, I’m afraid we’re in the phase of “cell phone history” where there isn’t quite enough research to come to a solid conclusion. This is a scary thought considering we are all (myself included) practically attached to our phones.

I see girls at the gym throwing their phones in their bras and guys walking around campus all the time with them in their front pocket. These are extremely important parts of our bodies, and they’re also parts that are extremely susceptible to cancer. This doesn’t mean it’s a sure fact you’ll get a tumor from holding your phone here, but what it does mean is that we need to start gathering the facts that we do know about cell phones so we’re able to analyze situations more clearly.

The radiation that cell phones emit is called radio frequency. These waves allow calls to be made by transmitting signals from the internal antenna at the bottom of your phone to the cell phone tower and back again. One of the larger studies conducted concluded that, over long periods of time, these rays cause tumors in the brains of humans and heart tumors in laboratory mice.

Now it’s hard to have a black and white answer right now about how cell phones exactly affect our health, but what can be concluded is that between the hundreds of rays and signals our brains and nervous systems interpret every day, including but not limited to air-traffic control, WiFi, ham radios, fire brigade warning systems and public, private and police broadcasting systems, the last thing we should be is ignorant.

In conclusion, I’m going to relay a few easy precautionary measures we can take to decrease extra exposure. The first is obvious: Don’t carry your phone in your bra or pocket; instead, tuck it away in your backpack. Next, use headphones when making calls. Holding your phone to your ear exposes you to 100 percent of its radiation, while headphones don’t expose you to much at all.

Another tip is to try and use your phone only in areas where you have good reception. When your phone is only down to one bar, it actually has to work harder to connect to a tower, which both drains its battery and exposes you to more emissions.

And finally, when purchasing new phones, be sure to check the manual or manufacturer’s website for the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the phone. This value reflects the amount of radio frequency absorbed by the body while using the device. This value shouldn’t be more than 1.6 watts per kilogram, and ideally should be much less.

Although the whole truth about cell phones isn’t completely clear yet, I hope I was able to shed light on the dilemma.

Alecia Sexton is a third-year student majoring in health and physical education. She can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

One Response to “Health: The tentative truth on cell phones”

  1. Tamara Sneider on April 23rd, 2017 10:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing this information. It’s a shame that the risks of cell phone radiation are being hidden from us behind a corporate veil.

    Anyone interested in a convenient way to block radiation from all your devices should check out SafeSleeve. They make high quality and great looking products that are lab tested to block 99% of radiation.


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Health: The tentative truth on cell phones