Many people have read about the possible health risks associated with cell phones. A common cause for concern is the amount of radiation a cell phone emits, and that this radiation is occurring so close to a person's head. But if cell phones are so dangerous, why are people so attached to them? Here is an in-depth look at the health risks of cell phones and whether they should be considered a dangerous device.
Radiation from Cell Phones
Exposure to radiation has always been associated with some form of cancer, from brain cancer to thyroid cancer. The type of radiation that cell phones emit is non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation in the form of radiofrequency energy and low-level microwave radiation. According to the American Cancer Society, non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to directly damage DNA. Common devices that emit non-ionizing radiation, aside from cell phones, include:
- Computer screens
- Power lines
- TV and radio broadcast transmitters
Many of these devices are common, household items. Like cell phones, they all emit low-energy radiation that has yet to be proven dangerous due to direct exposure. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is not enough evidence to link cell phones and excessive cell phone usage to any health risks.
Interference with Medical Devices
Air travelers always hear the captain's announcement over the intercom to switch off any electronic devices, especially cell phones, during take-off and landing, due to the interference they may cause with flight equipment. The same type of cell phone interference applies to medical devices like pacemakers. According to the FDA, cell phones can cause an electromagnetic interference (EMI) that can affect pacemakers by:
- Causing the pacemaker to deliver irregular pulses.
- Disrupting the pacemaker's ability to follow the heart's own rhythm and delivering pulses at a fixed rate.
- Preventing the pacemaker from providing stimulating pulses to regulate the heart's rhythm.
While these are valid health concerns regarding the use of cell phones around pacemakers and other medical devices, research has shown that cell phones do not pose a significant risk to any type of malfunction. However, the FDA has provided helpful tips some pacemaker wearers may want to follow as a precaution to any malfunction that can be caused by a cell phone:
- Use the cell phone with the ear that's on the opposite side of the body from where the pacemaker is implanted for added distance between the two devices.
- If the cell phone is on, do not place it anywhere near the pacemaker implant, like in a jacket or shirt pocket.
Dangers of Cell Phones While Driving
Cell phones might not pose a serious threat for the radiation they emit, but they should still be considered dangerous under certain circumstances, like when a person is operating a moving vehicle. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between traffic accidents and using a cell phone while driving. Here are just a few reasons why driving while using a cell phone without a hands-free device can be dangerous:
- Driving with only one hand on the steering wheel.
- Slower reaction leading to an accident or collision.
- Causes the driver to take his/her eye of the road, even if it's only for a brief moment.
Texting while driving poses an even higher probability of getting into an auto accident. Drivers who are texting behind the wheel are even more distracted and are frequently taking their eyes off of the road. While people need not worry so much about the dangers of radiation from a cell phone, they should consider the possible dangers of driving while texting or talking on a cell phone.
Headsets and other hands-free devices are great accessories that help prevent the dangers associated with cell phones. They help to create more distance between the cell phone and a person's head or pacemaker. Hands-free devices also allow drivers to focus more on the road and use both hands behind the wheel.
The Bottom Line
While the possible health risks caused by cell phones are still being researched, there is no evidence that proves cell phones are a health hazard. However, cell phones can still be considered dangerous when they are being used while driving or performing any other function that requires a person's undivided attention. All cell phone users should practice safe cell phone use and invest in a hands-free device.