In this day and age, most people treat their mobile phones a little like a limb – they’re attached to it at all times. That’s great and all, but it does make the idea of that mobile phone you spend so much time with emitting harmful radiation a little more unsettling.
Nobody likes the thought of holding a device in their pocket that could be harming their health. That’s probably why there have been so many headlines in recent years that prey on these insecurities and claim that our mobile phones could be killing us.
But is this all just scaremongering? Or is their really any substance to the tenuous studies these claims are based on? Let’s find out by diving into the topic a little deeper.
Types of Radiation that Mobile Phones Emit
The first thing to note is that there are many different scientifically-recognized types of radiation out there; some of them harmful, others harmless.
The two types of radiation relevant to any discussion about mobile phones are:
- Non-ionizing Electromagnetic radiation (EMR), also known as Radio Frequency (RF)
- Extremely Low-Frequency radiation (ELF)
EMR radiation is given off by things like your mobile phones Bluetooth, Wifi, and 3/4G ELF radiation is produced by the hardware itself. Both of these are forms of electromagnetic radiation in the ‘microwave range’. Mobile phones can emit radiation even when turned off.
Most research on mobile phone radiation revolves around EMR or RF. This is because EMR has been highlighted as the type of radiation that poses the biggest potential risk to human health. I’ll get to how substantial that risk actually is later.
First, let’s talk about what happens to that radiation emitted by your mobile phones.
How Mobile Radiation Affects the User
The EMR/RF and ELF radiation that is emitted from your mobile phone is absorbed into the surrounding matter. That means that, when you’re close to your mobile phone, some of it is absorbed into you.
Exactly which part of your body the radiation will be absorbed by depends on where your phone is being held. Obviously, if it’s in your pocket, it goes into your leg-region. If you’re holding your phone to your head, that radiation goes into your head, which is precisely why so much attention has been given to researching whether mobile phone use can be linked to things like brain tumors.
How much of it is absorbed into your body tissue will depend on a number of factors. These factors include:
- The strength of the radiation emitted from your particular model of phone
- How long you use the phone for
- The strength of the mobile phone signal
- How far you are from cell towers
As well as other factors.
It’s true, then, that smartphones do emit small amounts of radiation, and that some of that radiation is absorbed into the body. However, nothing we’ve talked about so far makes any mention of whether or not this radiation is harmful or cause for concern.
To help answer that more important question, let’s take a look at the research.
Existing Mobile Phone Radiation Research
The current body of existing mobile phone radiation research is extensive and, as with many large bodies of research, there have been conflicting results.
Some studies have found that EMF radiation can be harmful to human health. These studies have found that it can impact brain activity and cause negative health effects such as insomnia and infertility.
However, a larger number of research studies have disputed these theories and found that mobile phone radiation has negligible health effects.
The official stance of the World Health Organization based on a large number of studies already performed is that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use” thus far.
However, as no conclusion can be definitively made on whether health effects will come apparent in the future, the WHO also recommended the adoption of the ‘precautionary principle’ regarding safe mobile phone use in order to minimize radiation exposure.
As such, the FDA has reported that current mobile phone safety limits regarding acceptable radiation emissions have deliberately been set 50 times lower than the levels at which radio-frequency radiation effects have been observed. This is a precautionary measure to limit exposure.
Precautions You Can Take to Minimize Mobile Radiation Exposure
So where does that all leave us? Well, it seems that you don’t need to be too worried about mobile radiation, but it is probably better to be safe than sorry. Therefore, it might be worthing taking some precautionary principles to limit your exposure. Here are some precautions you can take:
- Use a hands-free device in order to keep your mobile phone away from your head whenever possible
- Don’t sleep with your phone under your pillow.
- Don’t keep it on your person when you’re not using it.
- Use a mobile phone that emits less radiation. You can find information about how much radiation each model of phones emits online. Generally speaking, Chinese mobile brands such as Xiaomi tend to emit higher levels of radiation.
- Upgrade to next-gen 5G networks which use millimeter wave frequencies. Radiation of this frequency can’t penetrate biological tissue as deeply as microwave radiation, which makes it safer.
That about covers all you need to know about mobile phone radiation. To sum up, you probably don’t need to worry about it, but there’s no harm in taking precautions. Follow the advice above, and you’ll minimize the risk associated with mobile phone use to as low as could be reasonably expected.