Mobile phone radiation and health

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Man speaking on mobile phone.jpg

The effect of mobile phone radiation on human health is a subject of interest and study worldwide, as a result of the enormous increase in mobile phone usage throughout the world. As of 2015, there were 7.4 billion subscriptions worldwide, though the actual number of users is lower as many users own more than one mobile phone. [1] Mobile phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range (450–3800 MHz and 24-80GHz in 5G mobile). Other digital wireless systems, Such as data communication networks, produce similar radiation.

Mobile phone portable device to make telephone calls using a radio link

A mobile phone, cell phone, cellphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency link while the user is moving within a telephone service area. The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture, and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones, in North America. In addition to telephony, 2000s-era mobile phones support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications, business applications, video games, and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones which offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.

Electromagnetic radiation form of energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles, which exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space

In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Microwave form of electromagnetic radiation

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (1 m) and 300 GHz (1 mm). Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.

Contents

The World Health Organization states that "A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use." [2] In a 2018 statement, the FDA said that "the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of Radio-frequency energy exposure". [3]

World Health Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organisation, was an agency of the League of Nations.

Food and Drug Administration agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services

The Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the control and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), cosmetics, animal foods & feed and veterinary products. As of 2017, 3/4th of the FDA budget is paid by people who consume pharmaceutical products, due to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act.

Exposure

A cell phone is a wireless portable telephone that connects to the telephone network by radio waves exchanged with a local antenna and automated transceiver called a cellular base station (cell site or cell tower). The service area served by each provider is divided into small geographical areas called cells, and all the cell phones in a cell communicate with that cell's antenna. Both the cell phone and the cell tower have radio transmitters which communicate with each other. Since in a cellular network the same radio channels are reused every few cells, cellular networks use low power transmitters to avoid radio waves from one cell spilling over and interfering with a nearby cell using the same frequencies. Cell phones are limited to a EIRP radiated power output of 3 watts, and the network continuously adjusts the phone transmitter to the lowest power consistent with good signal quality, reducing it to as low as one milliwatt when near the cell tower. Cell phone tower channel transmitters usually have an EIRP power output of around 50 watts. Even when it is not being used, unless it is turned off, a cell phone periodically emits radio signals on its control channel, to keep contact with its cell tower and for functions like handing off the phone to another tower if the user crosses into another cell. When the user is making a call, the cell phone transmits a signal on a second channel which carries the user's voice. Existing 2G, 3G, and 4G networks use frequencies in the UHF or low microwave bands, 600 MHz to 3.5 GHz. Many household wireless devices such as Wifi networks, garage door openers, and baby monitors use other frequencies in this same frequency range.

Telephone telecommunications device

A telephone, or phone, is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic signals that are transmitted via cables and other communication channels to another telephone which reproduces the sound to the receiving user.

A telephone network is a telecommunications network used for telephone calls between two or more parties.

Radio wave type of electromagnetic radiation

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm, and at 30 Hz is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light. They are generated by electric charges undergoing acceleration, such as time varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.

Radio waves decrease rapidly in intensity by the inverse square of distance as they spread out from a transmitting antenna. So the cell phone transmitter, which is held close to the user's face when talking, is a much greater source of human exposure than the cell tower transmitter, which is typically at least hundreds of meters away from the public on a cell tower. A user can reduce his or her exposure by using a headset and keeping the cell phone itself further away from his body.

Headset (audio) combination of headphone and microphone

A headset combines a headphone with a microphone. Headsets are made with either a single-earpiece (mono) or a double-earpiece. Headsets provide the equivalent functionality of a telephone handset but with handsfree operation. They have many uses including in call centers and other telephone-intensive jobs and for anybody wishing to have both hands free during a telephone conversation.

Next generation 5G cellular networks, which began deploying in 2019, use higher frequencies in or near the millimeter wave band, 24 to 52 GHz. [4] [5] Millimeter waves are absorbed by atmospheric gases so 5G networks will use smaller cells than previous cellular networks, about the size of a city block. Instead of a cell tower, each cell will use an array of multiple small antennas mounted on existing buildings and utility poles. In general, millimeter waves penetrate less deeply into biological tissue than microwaves, and are mainly absorbed within the first centimeter of the body surface.

5G 5G ("5th Generation") – latest generation of cellular mobile communications

5G is the latest generation of cellular mobile communications. It succeeds the 4G, 3G and 2G (GSM) systems. 5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. The first phase of 5G specifications in Release-15 will be completed by April 2019 to accommodate the early commercial deployment. The second phase in Release-16 is due to be completed by April 2020 for submission to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as a candidate of IMT-2020 technology.

Effects studied

Blood–brain barrier

A 2010 review stated that "The balance of experimental evidence does not support an effect of 'non-thermal' radiofrequency fields" on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, but noted that research on low frequency effects and effects in humans was sparse. [6] A 2012 study of low-frequency radiation on humans found "no evidence for acute effects of short-term mobile phone radiation on cerebral blood flow". [7] [8]

Cancer

There is no strong or consistent evidence that mobile phone use increases the risk of getting brain cancer or other head tumors. The United States National Cancer Institute points out that "Radiofrequency energy, unlike ionizing radiation, does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Its only consistently observed biological effect in humans is tissue heating. In animal studies, it has not been found to cause cancer or to enhance the cancer-causing effects of known chemical carcinogens." The majority of human studies have failed to find a link between cell phone use and cancer. In 2011 a World Health Organization working group classified cell phone use as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". The CDC states that no scientific evidence definitively answers whether cell phone use causes cancer. [7] [9] [10]

In a 2018 statement, the FDA said that "the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of radiofrequency energy exposure". [3] [11]

An analysis of an "eagerly anticipated" study using rats and mice by the National Toxicology Program indicates that due to such issues as the inconsistent appearances of "signals for harm" within and across species and the increased chances of false positives due to the multiplicity of tests, the positive results seen are more likely due to random chance. The full results of the study were released in February 2018. [12]

Male fertility

A decline in male sperm quality has been observed over several decades. [13] [14] [15] Studies on the impact of mobile radiation on male fertility are conflicting, and the effects of the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by these devices on the reproductive systems are currently under active debate. [16] [17] [18] [19] A 2012 review concluded that "together, the results of these studies have shown that RF-EMR decreases sperm count and motility and increases oxidative stress". [20] [21] A 2017 study of 153 men that attended an academic fertility clinic in Boston, Massachusetts found that self-reported mobile phone use was not related to semen quality, and that carrying a mobile phone in the pants pocket was not related to semen quality. [22]

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

Some users of mobile phones and similar devices have reported feeling various non-specific symptoms during and after use. Studies have failed to link any of these symptoms to electromagnetic exposure. In addition, EHS is not a recognised medical diagnosis. [23]

Glucose metabolism

According to the National Cancer Institute, two small studies exploring whether and how cell phone radiation affects brain glucose metabolism showed inconsistent results. [7]

Base stations

Cellular Mobile and UHF Antenna Tower with multiple Antennas Cellular Mobile UHF Antenna Tower8.jpg
Cellular Mobile and UHF Antenna Tower with multiple Antennas

Experts consulted by France considered it was mandatory that the main antenna axis should not to be directly in front of a living place at a distance shorter than 100 metres. [24] This recommendation was modified in 2003 [25] to say that antennas located within a 100-metre radius of primary schools or childcare facilities should be better integrated into the cityscape and was not included in a 2005 expert report. [26] The Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale (fr) as of 2009, says that there is no demonstrated short-term effect of electromagnetic fields on health, but that there are open questions for long-term effects, and that it is easy to reduce exposure via technological improvements. [27]

Safety standards and licensing

In order to protect the population living around base stations and users of mobile handsets, governments and regulatory bodies adopt safety standards, which translate to limits on exposure levels below a certain value. There are many proposed national and international standards, but that of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is the most respected one, and has been adopted so far by more than 80 countries. For radio stations, ICNIRP proposes two safety levels: one for occupational exposure, another one for the general population. Currently there are efforts underway to harmonise the different standards in existence. [28]

Radio base licensing procedures have been established in the majority of urban spaces regulated either at municipal/county, provincial/state or national level. Mobile telephone service providers are, in many regions, required to obtain construction licenses, provide certification of antenna emission levels and assure compliance to ICNIRP standards and/or to other environmental legislation.

Many governmental bodies also require that competing telecommunication companies try to achieve sharing of towers so as to decrease environmental and cosmetic impact. This issue is an influential factor of rejection of installation of new antennas and towers in communities.

The safety standards in the US are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has based its standards primarily on those standards established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), specifically Subcommittee 4 of the "International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety".

Switzerland has set safety limits lower than the ICNIRP limits for certain "sensitive areas" (classrooms, for example). [29]

Lawsuits

In the US, a small number of personal injury lawsuits have been filed by individuals against cellphone manufacturers (including Motorola, [30] NEC, Siemens, and Nokia) on the basis of allegations of causation of brain cancer and death. In US federal courts, expert testimony relating to science must be first evaluated by a judge, in a Daubert hearing, to be relevant and valid before it is admissible as evidence. In a 2002 case against Motorola, the plaintiffs alleged that the use of wireless handheld telephones could cause brain cancer and that the use of Motorola phones caused one plaintiff's cancer. The judge ruled that no sufficiently reliable and relevant scientific evidence in support of either general or specific causation was proffered by the plaintiffs, accepted a motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiffs' experts, and denied a motion to exclude the testimony of the defendants' experts. [31]

Two separate cases in Italy, in 2009 [32] [33] and 2017, [34] [35] resulted in pensions being awarded to plaintiffs who had claimed their benign brain tumors were the result of prolonged mobile phone use in professional tasks, for 5–6 hours a day, which they ruled different from non-professional use.

Precautions

Precautionary principle

In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the precautionary principle could be voluntarily adopted in this case. [36] It follows the recommendations of the European Community for environmental risks.

According to the WHO, the "precautionary principle" is "a risk management policy applied in circumstances with a high degree of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research." Other less stringent recommended approaches are prudent avoidance principle and as low as reasonably practicable. Although all of these are problematic in application, due to the widespread use and economic importance of wireless telecommunication systems in modern civilization, there is an increased popularity of such measures in the general public, though also evidence that such approaches may increase concern. [37] They involve recommendations such as the minimization of cellphone usage, the limitation of use by at-risk population (such as children), the adoption of cellphones and microcells with as low as reasonably practicable levels of radiation, the wider use of hands-free and earphone technologies such as Bluetooth headsets, the adoption of maximal standards of exposure, RF field intensity and distance of base stations antennas from human habitations, and so forth.[ citation needed ] Overall, public information remains a challenge as various health consequences are evoked in the literature and by the media, putting populations under chronic exposure to potentially worrying information. [38]

Precautionary measures and health advisories

In May 2011, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer announced it was classifying electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and other sources as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" and advised the public to adopt safety measures to reduce exposure, like use of hands-free devices or texting. [39]

Some national radiation advisory authorities, including those of Austria, [40] France, [41] Germany, [42] and Sweden, [43] have recommended measures to minimize exposure to their citizens. Examples of the recommendations are:

The use of "hands-free" was not recommended by the British Consumers' Association in a statement in November 2000, as they believed that exposure was increased. [44] However, measurements for the (then) UK Department of Trade and Industry [45] and others for the French Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale  [ fr ] [46] showed substantial reductions. In 2005, Professor Lawrie Challis and others said clipping a ferrite bead onto hands-free kits stops the radio waves travelling up the wire and into the head. [47]

Several nations have advised moderate use of mobile phones for children. [48] A journal by Gandhi et al. in 2006 states that children receive higher levels of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). When 5- and 10-year olds are compared to adults, they receive about 153% higher SAR levels. Also, with the permittivity of the brain decreasing as one gets older and the higher relative volume of the exposed growing brain in children, radiation penetrates far beyond the mid-brain. [49]

Bogus products

Products have been advertised that claim to shield people from EM radiation from cell phones; in the US the Federal Trade Commission published a warning that "Scam artists follow the headlines to promote products that play off the news and prey on concerned people." [50]

According to the FTC, "there is no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from electromagnetic emissions. Products that block only the earpiece or another small portion of the phone are totally ineffective because the entire phone emits electromagnetic waves." Such shields "may interfere with the phone's signal, cause it to draw even more power to communicate with the base station, and possibly emit more radiation." [50] The FTC has enforced false advertising claims against companies that sell such products. [51]

See also

Related Research Articles

At sufficiently high flux levels, various bands of electromagnetic radiation have been found to cause deleterious health effects in people. Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into two types: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation, based on the capability of a single photon with more than 10 eV energy to ionize oxygen or break chemical bonds. Extreme ultraviolet and higher frequencies, such as X-rays or gamma rays are ionizing, and these pose their own special hazards: see radiation and radiation poisoning. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in the number of devices emitting non-ionizing radiation in all segments of society, which resulted in an elevation of health concerns by researchers and clinicians, and an associated interest in government regulation for safety purposes. In the United States, this has resulted in legislation such as the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. By far the most common health hazard of radiation is sunburn, which causes over one million new skin cancers annually in United States.

Base station

Base station is – according to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Radio Regulations (RR) – a "land station in the land mobile service."

Cell site cellular telephone site where antennae and electronic communications equipment are placed — typically on a radio mast, tower, or other raised structure — to create a cell (or adjacent cells) in a cellular network

A cell site, cell tower, or cellular base station is a cellular-enabled mobile device site where antennae and electronic communications equipment are placed — typically on a radio mast, tower, or other raised structure — to create a cell in a cellular network. The raised structure typically supports antennae and one or more sets of transmitter/receivers transceivers, digital signal processors, control electronics, a GPS receiver for timing, primary and backup electrical power sources, and sheltering.

Glioma a type of tumor that starts in the brain or spine

A glioma is a type of tumor that starts in the glial cells of the brain or the spine. Gliomas comprise about 30 percent of all brain tumors and central nervous system tumors, and 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors.

Specific absorption rate (SAR) is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by the human body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field. It can also refer to absorption of other forms of energy by tissue, including ultrasound. It is defined as the power absorbed per mass of tissue and has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg).

Wireless electronic devices and health

The World Health Organization (WHO) has researched electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and their alleged effects on health, concluding that such exposures within recommended limits do not produce any known adverse health effect.

Bioelectromagnetics, also known as bioelectromagnetism, is the study of the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological entities. Areas of study include electrical or electromagnetic fields produced by living cells, tissues or organisms, including bioluminescent bacteria; for example, the cell membrane potential and the electric currents that flow in nerves and muscles, as a result of action potentials. Others include animal navigation utilizing the geomagnetic field; the effects of man-made sources of electromagnetic fields like mobile phones; and developing new therapies to treat various conditions. The term can also refer to the ability of living cells, tissues, and organisms to produce electrical fields and the response of cells to electromagnetic fields.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a claimed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, to which negative symptoms are attributed. EHS has no scientific basis and is not a recognised medical diagnosis. Claims are characterized by a "variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields".

Radiobiology is a field of clinical and basic medical sciences that involves the study of the action of ionizing radiation on living things, especially health effects of radiation. Ionizing radiation is generally harmful and potentially lethal to living things but can have health benefits in radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer and thyrotoxicosis. Its most common impact is the induction of cancer with a latent period of years or decades after exposure. High doses can cause visually dramatic radiation burns, and/or rapid fatality through acute radiation syndrome. Controlled doses are used for medical imaging and radiotherapy.

The BioInitiative Report is a report on the relationship between the electromagnetic fields (EMF) associated with powerlines and wireless devices and health. It was self-published online, without peer review, on 31 August 2007, by a group "of 14 scientists, researchers, and public health policy professionals". The BioInitiative Report states that it is an examination of the controversial health risks of electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation. Some updated BioInitiative material was published in a journal in an issue guest-edited by one of the members of the group, and a 2012 version of the report was released on 7 January 2013. It has been heavily criticized by independent and governmental research groups for its lack of balance.

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an international commission specialized in non-ionizing radiation protection. The organization's activities include determining exposure limits for electromagnetic fields used by devices such as cellular phones.

Non-ionizing radiation electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules

Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. Ionizing radiation which has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than nonionizing radiation, has many uses but can be a health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures which in general are not required with nonionizing radiation.

Electromagnetic field densitometers measure the exposure to electromagnetic radiation in certain ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. This article concentrates on densitometers used in the telecommunication industry, which measure exposure to radio spectrum radiation. Other densitometers, like extremely low frequency densitometers which measure exposure to radiation from electric power lines, also exist. The major difference between a "Densitometer" and a "Dosimeter" is that a Dosimeter can measure the absorbed dose, which does not exist for RF Monitors. Monitors are also separated by "RF Monitors" that simply measure fields and "RF Personal Monitors" that are designed to function while mounted on the human body.

Up to 10% of invasive cancers are related to radiation exposure, including both ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Additionally, the vast majority of non-invasive cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers caused by non-ionizing ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet's position on the electromagnetic spectrum is on the boundary between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radio frequency radiation from mobile phones, electric power transmission, and other similar sources have been described as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, but the link remains unproven.

Mobile phone overuse

Mobile phone overuse is a dependence syndrome seen among mobile phone users. Some mobile phone users exhibit problematic behaviors related to substance use disorders. These behaviors can include preoccupation with mobile communication, excessive money or time spent on mobile phones, use of mobile phones in socially or physically inappropriate situations such as driving an automobile. Increased use can also lead to increased time on mobile communication, adverse effects on relationships, and anxiety if separated from a mobile phone or sufficient signal.

Henry Lai is a scientist, researcher and bioengineering Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington and Editor-in-chief of Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. Lai published research in 1995 that concluded that low-level microwave radiation caused DNA damage in rat brains.

Ronald B. Herberman was a physician, immunologist, oncologist, researcher, and professor of medicine and pathology who founded the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Care Center in 1984. He helped discover natural killer cells capable of killing cancer. He became well known outside the medical community in 2008 for his public warning about the potential health impacts of mobile telephones and recommending a reduction in their use.

Lennart Hardell, is a Swedish oncologist and professor at Örebro University Hospital in Örebro, Sweden. He is known for his research into what he says are environmental cancer-causing agents, such as Agent Orange, and has said that cell phones increase the risk of brain tumors.

The Interphone study was a set of international case-control studies conducted with the aim of determining whether mobile phone use increased the risk of certain tumors, namely, glioma, meningioma, and schwannoma. The study was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in thirteen different countries, at a cost of $24 million. About fifty scientists worked on the study, which was the largest case-control study conducted on the association between mobile phones and cancer as of 2014. The study's results, published in 2010, indicated that mobile phone use did not increase the risk of tumors among most cell phone users, with the possible exception of an increased risk among the 10% of users who used their cell phones the most.

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