Health risks of mobile phones

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Question

What are the health risks of mobile phones and their electromagnetic radiation?

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Answer

Rationale

Use of electricity causes extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) and wireless communication devices emit radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Average ELF-MF exposure is mainly determined by high voltage power lines and transformers at home or at the workplace, whereas RF-EMF exposure is mainly caused by devices operating close to the body (mainly mobile and cordless phones). Health effects of EMF are controversially discussed. The IARC classified ELF-MF and RF-EMF as possible carcinogenic. Most consistent epidemiological evidence was found for an association between ELF-MF and childhood leukaemia. If causal, 1 - 4 percent of all childhood leukaemia cases could be attributed to ELF-MF. Epidemiological research provided some indications for an association between ELF-MF and Alzheimer's diseases as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, although not entirely consistent. Regarding mobile phones and brain tumours, some studies observed an increased risk after heavy or long term use on the one hand. On the other hand, brain tumour incidence was not found to have increased in the last decade in Sweden, England or the US. Acute effects of RF-EMF on non-specific symptoms of ill health seem unlikely according to randomized and double blind provocation studies. However, epidemiological research on long term effects is still limited. Although from the current state of the scientific knowledge a large individual health risk from RF-EMF exposure is unlikely, even a small risk would have substantial public health relevance because of the widespread use of wireless communication technologies. [1]

For years, radiofrequency (RF) and microwave (MW) radiations have been applied in the modern world. The rapidly increasing use of cellular phones called recent attention to the possible health risks of RF/MW exposures. In 2011, a group of international experts organized by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon) concluded that RF/MW radiations should be listed as a possible carcinogen (group 2B) for humans. Three meta-analyses of case-control studies have concluded that using cell phones for more than ten years was associated with an increase in the overall risk of developing a brain tumor. The Interphone Study, the largest health-related case-control international study of use of cell phones and head and neck tumors, showed no statistically significant increases in brain cancers related to higher amounts of cell phone use, but excess risk in a small subgroup of more heavily exposed users associated with latency and laterality was reported. So far, the published studies do not show that mobile phones could for sure increase the risk of cancer. This conclusion is based on the lack of a solid biological mechanism, and the fact that brain cancer rates are not going up significantly. However, all of the studies so far have weaknesses, which make it impossible to entirely rule out a risk. Mobile phones are still a new technology and there is little evidence about effects of long-term use. For this reason, bioelectromagnetic experts advise application of a precautionary resources. It suggests that if people want to use a cell phone, they can choose to minimize their exposure by keeping calls short and preferably using hand-held sets. It also advises discouraging children from making non essential calls as well as also keeping their calls short. [2]

Wireless technologies are ubiquitous today and the mobile phones are one of the prodigious output of this technology. Although the familiarization and dependency of mobile phones is growing at an alarming pace, the biological effects due to the exposure of radiations have become a subject of intense debate. The present evidence on mobile phone radiation exposure is based on scientific research and public policy initiative to give an overview of what is known of biological effects that occur at radiofrequency (RF)/ electromagnetic fields (EMFs) exposure. The conflict in conclusions is mainly because of difficulty in controlling the affecting parameters. Biological effects are dependent not only on the distance and size of the object (with respect to the object) but also on the environmental parameters. Health endpoints reported to be associated with RF include childhood leukemia, brain tumors, genotoxic effects, neurological effects and neurodegenerative diseases, immune system deregulation, allergic and inflammatory responses, infertility and some cardiovascular effects. Most of the reports conclude a reasonable suspicion of mobile phone risk that exists based on clear evidence of bio-effects which with prolonged exposures may reasonably be presumed to result in health impacts. The present study summarizes the public issue based on mobile phone radiation exposure and their biological effects. This review concludes that the regular and long term use of microwave devices (mobile phone, microwave oven) at domestic level can have negative impact upon biological system especially on brain. It also suggests that increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) play an important role by enhancing the effect of microwave radiations which may cause neurodegenerative diseases. [3]



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Keywords

Electromagnetic fields, non-ionizing radiation, radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, RF-EMF, microwave electromagnetic fields, MW-EMF, mobile phones, mobile telecommunications technology, MTT.

References

  1. Röösli M. Health effects of electromagnetic fields (in German) Ther Umsch. 2013 Dec;70(12):733-8. doi:10.1024/0040-5930/a000472 [1]
  2. Stanislaw Szmigielski. Cancer risks related to low-level RF/MW exposures, including cell phones.Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine September 2013, Vol. 32, No. 3 , Pages 273-280 doi:10.3109/15368378.2012.701192 [2]
  3. Kesari KK, Siddiqui MH, Meena R, Verma HN, Kumar S. Cell phone radiation exposure on brain and associated biological systems. Indian J Exp Biol. 2013 Mar;51(3):187-200. [3]

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Health risks of mobile phones. Opasnet . [4]. Accessed 26 Sep 2017.