By Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS
In the United States alone, there are over 328 million cell phone users, 6.8 billion worldwide, with a global population of 7 billion. Proportionately, per capita, the Philippines is not far behind when it comes to the use of cell phones. As a matter of fact, many of us Filipinos are cell phone addicts, and most evidently ahead and more knowledgeable (“experts”) in text-messaging compared to Americans or Europeans, and other Asians. Since its inception, the cell phone has become an indispensable gadget for all users for a variety of reasons, ranging from personal security, to business efficiency, to sporting a status symbol, to serving as an expeditious, inexpensive, convenient, and unobtrusive (even confidential) means of speedy communication, anytime, anywhere.
Of late, however, concerns have resurfaced and questions raised once again as to whether the use of cell phone is safe, whether the frequent use of cell phones (held against the ear ) lead to brain tumors. Is the issue a media panic-du-jour or a real serious concern? Let us review some available data as scientifically and objectively as we can.
Landline cordless phones and cell phones use a low level form of microwave radiation to send and receive their signals. When microwaves penetrates tissue, extreme heat is formed, as in the case of microwave oven heating or cooking. So, is the microwave radiation from cell phone use (pressed against our ear and face) harming our brain, and increasing our risk of developing brain tumors?
The Swedish National Institute for Working Life disputed in April 2006 the findings of two earlier reports that cell phones were safe and had no effect on brain tumor rate. The Swedish group found “that people with more than 2,000 hours of total talk time had 3.7 times the risk of developing brain cancer when compared with nonusers. (2,000 hours is about an hour of talk time every Monday through Friday for 10 years). The study also found a 2 times increase for tumors specifically on the side of the head where the cell phone was generally used.”
The mobile phone antenna is the main source of radiofrequency (RF). Experts believe that no matter how near the cell phone is (even smack against the face), the six-tenth of a watt (typically) of RF power emitted is too low and could not be harmful to health. They also say the “type of energy emitted is non-ionizing, meaning it doesn’t cause damage to chemical bonds or DNA”. They added that the “RF energy from a cell phone falls off quickly as distance increases between the user and the antenna…” and that “hundreds of millions of people have been using cell phones and cordless phones for years…..If there were a problem, we would have seen it by now”.
A scientific fact: Some individuals using cell phones developed brain cancer, and people who have not used mobile phones at all have been victims of brain cancer, too. The annual incidence of brain cancer in the USA is about six new cases per 100,000 people, so among the millions of Americans who own mobile phones about 6,000 plus cases of brain cancer would be expected per year, even if they had not used mobile phones at all.
The Environmental Health and Safety Office “has seen no credible evidence to date that cell phones cause cancer or brain tumors….It is illogical to believe that evidence of unusual brain tumors is covered up when there are hundred’s of millions of people using cell phones worldwide.”
Pending the results of the hundreds of researches simultaneously ongoing around the world on this particular issue, it behooves all of us mobile phone users to exercise caution, like using landline phones when possible, limiting mobile phone use, and if possible, using text messaging instead, and using Bluetooth earpiece, hands-free headset or speakerphone to avoid cell phone contact with our face. Growing children, who are more sensitive to RF than adults, should minimize mobile phone use, be educated about this issue, and duly instructed.
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