The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), the UK’s largest science and technology organisation, has conducted research on cellphones’ EM radiation on the brain cells of rats and showed loss of memory for short periods. Several users of mobile phones also reported short-term memory loss. The cognitive functions are heavily affected by longer exposure.
EM allergic reaction. A number of studies have investigated the effects of mobile phone radiation specifically during and after its use. The users reported several unspecific symptoms like burning and tingling sensations in the skin of the head and extremities, sleep disturbances, dizziness, fatigue, loss of mental attention, reaction times and memory retentiveness, headaches, heart palpitations, blood pressure and disturbances in digestive system.
Most users reported pain or ache on the same side as they held the phone and normally in the temporal region. When pain is located on one side of the head, users can invariably reproduce it on the other side by switching ears in an effort to obtain temporary relief.
Genotoxic effects. Cellphone RF radiation at both 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and SAR of 0.4-27.5W/kg showed a correlation between increasing SAR and decreased motility and vitality in sperm, increased oxidative stress, stimulating DNA base adduct formation and increased DNA fragmentation. A European study named REFLEX (Risk Evaluation of Potential Environmental Hazards from Low Energy Electromagnetic Field Exposure Using Sensitive in-vitro Methods) indicated some evidence of DNA damage of cells in in-vitro cultures, damage to chromosomes, boosted rate of cell division and alterations in the activity of certain genes.
Cancer. A multinational case-control study on adults, INTERPHONE, coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), investigated whether the RF fields emitted by cellphones increased the risk of cancer. The study focused on tumours arising in the tissues most exposed to RF fields from mobile phones: glioma and meningioma (the most common types of brain tumours), acoustic neurinoma and parotid gland tumours. It found no increased risk of glioma or meningioma but there were some indications of an increased risk of glioma for those who reported the highest 10 per cent of cumulative hours of cellphone use.
However, it has been suggested that EM fields associated with cellphones may play a role in speeding up the development of an existing cancer. Some studies reported lump in the neck or ear (lymphomas) also.
To date, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to EM fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating. The WHO has issued a precautionary principle 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. Some recommendations to minimise the possible health hazards are:
1. Keep the cellphone as far away from your body as possible. By moving the cellphone just 5 cm away from your head while talking on it, electromagnetic radiation that reaches to head is reduced by 75 per cent.
2. Turn your cellphone off at night because EM radiation emitted by the cellphone can disturb sleep quality.
3. Avoid carrying your cellphone in your pocket, on your belt or in your hand. If you do carry the cellphone in your pocket or hand bag, always position it such that the keypad faces towards you. This way the antenna faces away from you. Body tissue in the abdomen absorbs radiation more quickly than the head. The hip produces 80 per cent of the body’s red blood cells and is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation damage. Close proximity may also damage fertility.
4. Consider using your laptop computer to make calls or send an instant message.
5. Avoid using wired headsets. Headsets including the ear buds that come with most cellphones today, act as an antenna, channeling electromagnetic radiation directly to the ear canal. When you use regular ear buds or ear pieces, you get three times more EM radiation than if you held the cellphone against your ear. Also, you get it directly into your ear canal, and ultimately to your brain. So it is recommended not to listen to music on a cellphone using headsets.
6. Use air-tube headsets with ferrite beads. Air-tube headsets are believed to be safer because these don’t work as antenna and EM radiation can’t travel up the air tube like it does on a regular wired earphone. Further, ferrite beads suppress EM radiation and dissipate it as heat. So, it is recommended to use airtube headsets with a ferrite bead placed as close as possible to the cellphone.