What are you doing at this very moment? I know, the obvious answer is that you are reading a blog, but how are you going about it? While most households do have a desktop or laptop computer, we get a vast amount of our online access through our phones. We use our phones so often, for so many reasons, that it has basically become a mindless habit. One news report estimated that the average person checks their phone more than a hundred times per day. That is at least one hundred times that you have your phone in your hand, sometimes actually talking on it and others just bringing it closer to your face to read a text, tweet or your favorite blog. To access our phones so often, they must be close to us always. We are not leaving our phones on our desk or table. Instead, we are carrying them in our pockets and purses, so that we can quickly check and respond to every notification.
Recently, I have read what I consider to be some very poignant articles on the overuse of not just cell phones, but technology in general. When you think about the effects of being attached to your phone, you are likely considering the social and emotional impacts. What few of us ever think about is how cell phone usage might be affecting our physical health as well. Cell phones emit low levels of electromagnetic radiation, which you have probably heard are completely safe. The issue isn’t simply the risks associated with low level exposure, but also the amount of exposure that we have, which has increased exponentially in recent years.
Electromagnetic radiation comes in two forms, ionizing and non-ionizing, one of which has been proven to be associated with an increased risk of cancer, while the other has not. The ionizing form of electromagnetic radiation is the type that is used for x-rays and radiation therapy. We know that with each exposure to this type of radiation comes increased risks. On the other hand, is the non-ionizing form of radiation. This is the type that is emitted from your microwave and your cell phone. While ionizing radiation has been shown to initiate cell changes and mutations, the only scientifically proven effect of non-ionizing radiation is an increase in heat. This seems benign enough, however there are some interesting and compelling studies that suggest we might have more to worry about than just become a little overheated.
- An Israeli study of fertility in men showed that 47% of the men who carried their cell phones in their pockets had low sperm counts, compared to an overall general population average of only 11%. This study cited electromagnetic radiation as the cause.
- A study conducted by Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland states that just one hour of cell phone radiation exposure is enough to trigger negative cell changes, including causing the cells in the walls of the blood vessels to shrink, making the protective walls of the vessels thinner and potentially allowing blood and other substances to leak through the vein wall and into the brain matter.
- One of the largest controlled case studies of cell phone use related to tumor development was a collaborative effort by thirteen different countries. Of the many participants, those who spent the most amount of time with their cell phones near their head showed the greatest increase in tumor incidence.
- David Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health and Environment at the University at Albany says, “When you hold your laptop on your lap, what you're essentially doing is radiating your pelvis, so all the cancers that affect that area are of concern."
Even with these larger studies, the effects of increased exposure are unclear, and for each theory that states that there are in fact increased risks, you will hear twice as many that say the low-level exposure is perfectly safe. Of all the information available, one of the most concerning pieces that I read was about a small-scale study that looked specifically at cell activity after enough exposure to simulate a one hour cell phone call. The test group only looked at ten women, each of which were exposed to 900 megahertz of radiation. What they found was that on a cellular level there were two proteins in their skin cells either increased or decreased. Granted two out of the hundreds of proteins found in skin cells might seem insignificant. However, the fact remains that the radiation did cause changes, and these small changes could potentially lead to larger ones, especially when you stop to consider that this study only look at one hours’ worth of exposure. The typical person has 12-15 hours of exposure per day. If 15 hours a day seems excessive, think about how much time you spend with your phone in your hand, in your pocket, right next to you or even near your head while you are sleeping. The minutes turn into hours that quickly add up to over half of every day.
Once we ask the question of what are the potential risks of electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones, the next question to ask is what can we do about it. It is obvious that the solution will not come from an overall reduction in the amount cell phone usage. The truth is that using our phones for just about everything is so engrained in our lives, that cutting it out completely is an unrealistic expectation. Instead, what we need to do is learn how to protect ourselves, along with using our phones in moderation instead of excess. Here are just a few tips for protecting yourself and loved ones from the potential dangers of cell phone radiation.
- Give your phone some personal space. Rather than keeping your phone in your pocket, in an arm band, tucked into your clothing or perched next to your head, try keeping some distance instead. When looking at your phone, keep it several feet, or an arm’s length away. When you are not using it, keep it across the room or even in another room completely.
- When having conversations on your phone, consider using the hands-free option.
- Don’t keep your phone on all the time. Power off your phone for a few hours a day.
- Do not keep your phone near your pillow or a bedside nightstand while sleeping. Keep your phone across the room, even if you use it for your alarm. Getting up and walking across the room to shut it off will also prevent you from hitting snooze and oversleeping.
- If you have young people in your life that like to use a phone for playing games, turn it to airplane mode while they are handling it.
- Teach young people the importance of cell phone safety. Give them encouragement to use their phone minimally and responsibly. Have them use the speaker option, and avoid carrying their phone close to their bodies.
- Look for a carrying device that blocks the electromagnetic radiation. Some carrying cases block up to 99% of all potentially harmful rays I personally use Safe Sleeves for protection from my cell phone and laptop. To learn more, you can visit http://bit.ly/OZNat.
- Only use your phone when you have full coverage. The less cell coverage that you have, the harder your phone must work. The harder your phone works, the more radiation it is going to emit.
- Return to the good old days of a land line phone in your home, or facetime from your desktop. Better yet, put the phone down and go get some actual one-on-one time with your favorite people.
- Consider a technology fast. You might not realize how often you are using your phone until you separate yourself from it for a while. Commit to one week where you take a break from social media, news, and mindless internet wanderings. Let your contacts know that you will only be answering calls, messages and emails once a day, and then choose one hour out of the day to do so. Only accept calls from those closest to you and those that might be an emergency. Find other ways to fill your time, including more time with friends and loved ones, just relaxing, trying out some new hobbies or enjoying some old pastimes that have been neglected.
We live in a world where there are more people who have cell phones that there are people that have working plumbing. This says something about how significant our phones have become in our lives. While they bring pleasure, there can be consequences, and the most disconcerting part is that we don’t even know what all those consequences are yet. Protect yourself and your loved from the potential risks of exposure. Put down your phone and go out and experience the beauty of life through your eyes rather than through the screen of your phone.
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