You already know that the cellphone-that essential of your life-affects your sperm count, your heart and may up your risk of developing cancer.
Says Dr Girish Kumar, professor of electrical engineering at Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, “All mobile phones radiate. Their signals go not only to the tower but also to your body. The maximum radiation happens towards the brain.” Cellphones give off radiation even when you’re not using them. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) agree, but they maintain that cellphones don’t pose a threat. Research by Dr Vini Gautam Khurana, PhD, staff specialist neurosurgeon, The Canberra Hospital and associate professor, neurosurgery, Australia National University Medical School, suggests that more than an hour of continuous usage, increases your risk of developing a malignant brain tumour by two to four times.
In fact, one study shows that people who used cellphones for 10 years or more, were 39 per cent more likely to develop a glioma (a malignant tumour) on the side of their head where they held their handset. So just how would you figure out which cellphones give off the most radiation? One way to find out is to check the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of the phone. This is the rate of radiation exposure from radio frequency (RF) and microwaves in watts per kilogram of tissue. Though research has not provided conclusive evidence of health hazards due to electromagnetic radiations emitted from mobile base stations or mobile handsets, there are some studies that suggest that this concern may not be entirely misplaced. Adds Dr Kumar, “In India, we face an additional problem in the sheer numbers of mobile phones. The atmosphere has become polluted by electromagnetic radiation. This is worse than passive smoking as you cannot see or smell it.”
Cellphone use increases the risk of acoustic neuroma-a tumour of the nerves that are used by the body to balance and hear-in people who have been using cellphones for 10 years or longer. The risk increases by 30 per cent when the phone is used on both sides of the head, and 240 per cent when it’s habitually used on one side.
Besides cancer, studies have also shown that cellphones can pose other medical threats. An observational study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in 2006 found that cellphone usage has adverse effects on semen quality. Dr Sudhakar Krishnamurti, andrologist, microsurgeon and Director of Andromeda Andrology Center, Hyderabad says, “Use of cellphones decreases the semen quality in men by decreasing the sperm count, motility, viability and normal morphology.” Studies indicate that motility and viability dropped by around 5 per cent for each hour of daily phone usage, while morphology dropped by around 10 per cent for each hour of daily usage. “Radiation might be damaging the DNA of the cells in the testes. Even carrying a handset in a belt or trouser pocket can affect male fertility,” says Dr Krishnamurti. In fact, regular mobile phone use can reduce a man’s sperm count by up to 30 per cent, a study shows.
Cellphones can also affect your heart. Dr Anil Saxena, associate director, cardiac pacing and electrophysiology at Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre says, “Cellphones can interfere with certain devices like pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators (ICDs), which are small batterypowered electrical impulse generators.”
While the US Federal Communications Commission and Canada have set the SAR level at less than 1.6W/kg (watts per kilogram), the EU has set the level at 2W/kg. India currently does not mandate that handset makers declare the SAR level. Dr Kumar feels that the SAR levels set by the US and EU are not conducive to the Indian environment. “The SAR levels should be much lower,” he says. But TV Ramachandran, director general of COAI disagrees. He says, “Extensive radio frequency research has been undertaken by researchers at organisations like the WHO, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and FDA in the USA. They have consistently concluded that compliance with the existing science-based ICNIRP standards is sufficient to protect public health. The international standards are more than adequate to protect Indian users.”
What to Do???
1. Keep switching ears while talking.
2. Hold the phone at least eight inches from your head, and use the speaker phone as far as possible.
3. Keep it away from your pants pocket or slip it into your bag.
4. Don’t sleep close the phone.
5. Use the landline.