Over the past few years several study groups have reported that cell phone radiation is not dangerous and that we don’t need to worry about it. In particular, we don’t need to worry about it causing cancer. Some of them, in fact, have reported that the debate is over, and that cell phones are completely safe. As a result, most of the research on the topic has virtually ceased in the US. At the same time, however, research has continued in other countries, and it has increasingly shown that we cannot ignore the dangers. First of all, as any scientist working on cancer will tell you, it’s almost impossible to prove beyond a doubt that something (in this case, cell phone radiation) does not cause cancer. One of the problems is that cancer takes 20 years or more to develop after it has been initiated. None of the studies that have been made have taken this into consideration; most are tests on animals, or statistical surveys. In many ways the present situation is similar to that for smoking in the 1950’s and 60’s. Everyone was sure it had little effect on our health, and there was no evidence that it caused cancer. But as the years went by, the evidence came, and soon there was no doubt.
The cancer-cell phone connection is particularly worrisome in light of the increase in brain tumor rates in the US over the past few years. They have increased by over 25 percent since 1975; by 2001, in fact, 185,000 Americans had some form of brain cancer, and it is estimated that this will increase to 500,000 by 2010 and to one-million by 2015. How many of these cases are due to cell phones? We do not know.
The radiation from cell phones is in the form of microwaves, the same waves that are used in microwaves ovens (and they’re also very close in frequency to radar waves). They are, of course, over a thousand times weaker that microwave-oven radiation, but microwaves are not used for cooking because they are extremely energetic (they are not); they are used because they penetrate tissue easily.
The three main health hazards to our bodies are the dangers to:
The functioning of our cells
The neurons and so on in our brain
Our “code of life” — in other words, the instructions for everything that goes on in our body — is contained in the sequence of base units in DNA. If any of these units are suddenly changed, or “mutated,” our genetic code is changed. And one of the major things that causes mutations is radiation. Microwaves cannot break the stronger bonds (such as valence bonds) in DNA, but the genetic code is held in place by relatively weak hydrogen bonds, which can easily be broken.
Furthermore, the dangers do not end with the DNA inside the cells. On the cell surface are “receptors” that allow some molecules to pass into the interior of the cell, and stop others, from entering. They play a very important role in the health of the cell in that they allow nutrients through, but stop such things as toxins, bacteria, and viruses. These receptors also play another important role: they control cell division and growth. Normally, cell division continues until something tells it to stop. One of the things that stops it is when a cell comes in contact with another cell (perhaps of a different type); receptors sense this cell and send a signal for the growth to stop. If the receptors become damaged, this signal will not be sent, and the growth may continue indefinitely, and may eventually lead to cancer.
Experiments have shown that microwaves can trigger these receptors, causing various types of biochemical reactions that make the cell membrane less permeable, We are still not sure what the overall effects are in such cases, but the fact that microwaves radiation (of the same intensity as in cell phones) can alter our cells is not good news.
With this it might seem that cells and the DNA within them are the weak spots for microwave radiation, but there is another equally worrisome area of the body. Cell phone users hold their phones to their ears, with the antenna only a few inches from their brain, and our brain is controlled (to some degree) by waves similar to microwaves. Most of the signals in the brain are electrochemical in nature, consisting partly of electrical currents and partly of chemical reactions. But there are also “brain waves’ within the brain. When you are awake your brain emits what are called beta waves of frequency 8 to 25 vibrations/second (also called Hertz). This is much lower than the frequency of the microwaves in a microwave oven, which are 850 MHz (million Hertz) to 1900 Mhz. But all cell phones also use low, pulsed frequencies, referred to as TDMA and DTX; they have frequencies of 8.34 HZ and 2 Hz respectively. And it is possible that they can interact with brain waves. Furthermore, when such reactions occur, both waves are changed.
Studies have also recently shown that the blood-brain barrier, which is a barrier within the brain that stops various chemicals and other harmful substances from entering the brain, is also affected by microwaves. Studies in Sweden, for example, have shown that when capillaries such as those in the brain are are radiated with microwaves, they allow certain chemicals through that normally don’t get through. Other studies have verified the result.
It’s easy to see from all this that the risk of cell phone radiation to adults is something we shouldn’t just shrug off, but as it turns out, the risk to children is much higher. One of the reasons is that their skulls are thinner, and radiation penetrates it much easier. In addition, the absorption of radiation is higher in a child’s skull because of a phenomenon called “resonance.” And finally, the nervous and immune systems of children are still forming and they are therefore more susceptible to the effects of radiation.
What can you do to minimize the danger? If you use a cell phone, keep the antenna as far from your head as possible, and limit your time on the device. Use conventional phones for very long conversations. Finally, do not use cell phones in a car; because of the shielding, the power has to be significantly increased for it to work.