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Are Cell Phones Dangerous? Exploring the Argumentative Landscape

Table of contents, the health concerns, distraction and safety risks, the countering perspective, balancing the benefits and risks, works cited.

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Health Research 4 U

Safe To Play

Can Cell Phones Harm Our Health?

You’ve probably heard news stories claiming that “cell phones are dangerous” and others claiming that “cell phones have been proven safe.” It’s hard to know what to believe-especially when we’ve grown so dependent upon these convenient communication devices.

Should We Be Worried?


There have been concerns, from both scientists and the media, that cell phone usage is linked to tumor development. The extensive use of cell phones is a relatively recent phenomenon, and since cancers usually take at least 10-20 years to develop, it will be years before research is likely to conclude whether cell phones cause cancer or not.  In addition, the long-term risks of cell phone use may be much higher for children than adults.

International organizations have been researching this issue. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), brought together scientists, including those with financial ties to cell phone companies, to review all relevant data on radiation from wireless handheld devices such as cell phones. This type of radiation is known as Radio Frequency-Electromagnetic Radiation (RF-EMR), also referred to as microwave radiation.  The IARC concluded that the evidence suggests this radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” and that there wasn’t enough research evidence to conclude that cell phones are dangerous or that they are safe. [1]

This resulted in the IARC creating the Interphone Project, an international effort (that did not include the United States) to investigate the risk of tumors from cell phones. After the 10-year project was finished in February 2012, scientists found that due to biases present in the study, no strong conclusions could be made. [2]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, called for caution in cell phone use because of “the unresolved cancer question” in 2014. However, the CDC removed this statement from their website soon after. [3] Critics assume it was removed because of political pressure from cell phone companies. Currently, the CDC says that more research is needed on this topic since “there is no scientific evidence that provides a definite answer.” [4]

What does Research Tell Us about Cell Phones, Tumors, and Other Health Issues?

In 2007 and 2012, scientists published two different reviews of cell phones and brain tumors, and concluded that studies of individuals using cell phones for more than 10 years “ give a consistent pattern of an increased risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma ,” with the risk being highest for a tumor on the same side of the head that the phone is used. [5,6] Gliomas are the most common cancerous brain tumor, and most gliomas are malignant (and usually fatal). Acoustic neuromas are benign tumors of the acoustic nerve that can cause deafness. These two reviews analyzed the results of 18 studies and 2 studies, respectively. However, a study published in 2013 found that while long-term cell phone use was associated with acoustic neuromas, it did not predict gliomas. [7] In contrast, a study of 1,339 cell phone users, published in 2014, found that the heaviest cell phone users had an increased chance of developing gliomas.  These heaviest users, who had a total of over 900 hours of cell phone usage, were found to have spent an average of 54 minutes on the phone per day. [8]

Animal studies contribute to these concerns. A 2015 study in Germany also identified a connection between cell phone radiation and tumor growth in mice. Researchers found that in comparison to a known cancer-causing agent, weak cell phone signals were more likely to promote tumor growth. Although this study was carried out in mice, it implies that cell phone radiation may negatively affect human health more than previously thought and that limits for cell phone radiation need to be lower. [9]

In May 2016, the National Toxicology Program released preliminary results from a two-year study on the impact of cell phone radiation on rats. They found that, for rats exposed to moderate to high levels of cell phone radiation, brain cancer and heart tumors called schwannomas were more likely. Even though only 4% of male rats exposed to radiation developed these tumors, they are so rare that the scientists concluded that cell phone radiation was the cause. This study is relevant to humans because humans can develop similar types of tumors. [10]

Although the results of studies on the effects of cell phones on the human brain are inconsistent, perhaps because cell phone use has increased over time and is rarely measured objectively, most research shows a worrisome link between cell phone use and brain tumors.

Scientists in countries around the world have published their own results on other health problems that appear to be a result of increasing cell phone usage. the following health problems connected to cell phone radiation:

  • salivary gland tumors [11,12]
  • dizziness and migraines [13]
  • less sleep and poor sleep quality [14]
  • changes in production of specific proteins in human cells [15]
  • decreased sperm count and quality [16,17,18]
  • skin irritation, especially on the face (this is a condition known as electrohypersensitivity) [19,20]
  • behavioral problems and increased chance of cancer tumor development in children. You can read more about this here .

Meanwhile, cell phone companies continue to insist that the evidence shows that their cell phones are safe. Cell phone companies tend to draw conclusions based on the studies they funded themselves, which have always found cell phones are safe. In addition, many of those studies were conducted years ago, when cell phone usage was much lower for the average person than it is today.

Controversies on Cell Phone Research Results

Underlying the controversy about cell phone radiation is the belief by most physicists that cell phone radiation could not possibly cause cancer.  Although epidemiological research seems to suggest otherwise, other factors make it difficult to measure the impact of cell phone use because cancer takes a very long time to develop, cell phone technology and frequency of usage has changed dramatically, and any link between cancer and cell phones could possibly be caused by unknown exposures or traits. However, the National Toxicology Program study found for the first time that cell phone radiation could, in fact, damage DNA. [21] Additionally, there is potential for biases and errors in the collection of data in these studies, which could result in inaccurate conclusions. For example, many researchers questioned the Interphone study because they thought that risk was underestimated. Research is needed to determine the true effect of cell phones on the development of different cancers.

Different Types of Studies: How can Researchers Get to the Bottom of This?

There is a consensus among researchers that retrospective studies present problems and that prospective studies are needed. Retrospective studies are ones that look back in time to study or measure risk, such as whether past cell phone use makes a person more likely to develop cancer or other health problems. But people may not remember their past behaviors accurately and researchers have no way to verify the information.  Unless they use phone records, retrospective studies are also subject to “recall bias,” which means people with a disease might remember the past differently than people without a disease. In the case of cell phones, people with brain tumors may exaggerate their past cell phone use in an attempt to find an explanation for the inexplicable.  An analysis published in 2015 shows that information used for many retrospective studies may not be reliable because numerous brain tumor cases are not reported to the Swedish Cancer Register, the database that has commonly been used to try to disprove any connection between cell phones and tumors. [22]

Prospective studies are ones that follow people over time and monitor the health problems that arise in the different groups during the study period.  A prospective study of cell phone users would have to compare the health of infrequent users (controls) to heavy users (cases) but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people who never use cell phones. In addition, any study started now would take at least 10 years to have useful information about the development of cancer; by that time, millions of people would have been harmed if cell phone radiation is dangerous.

Wireless technologies are proliferating daily, and different countries have different limits on radiation from wireless devices, which is why more and better designed research is urgently needed to determine safe levels of exposure.  And yet, as noted above, it is increasingly difficult to design and conduct studies that will answer key questions anytime soon.

Precautions You Can Take

Scientists recognize that most people are not going to stop using cell phones. Since many studies suggest that there may be risks, experts recommend that cell phone users take some precautions:

  • Limit the number of calls you make.
  • Limit the length of your calls.
  • Use hands-free devices (wired cell phone headsets or wireless ones like Bluetooth).
  • If you are not using a hands-free device, put the cell on “speaker phone” or hold the phone away from your ear.
  • When speaking on your cell phone, alternate sides.
  • Avoid carrying your phone in your pocket, on your belt, or anywhere close to your body since cell phones emit radiation even when they are not in use
  • Limit your cell phone use in rural areas or in any place where reception is poor. More radiation is emitted when you are farther from a cell phone tower.
  • Text message instead of talking (never while driving!).
  • Check out how much radiation your phone emits by looking at its SAR (specific absorption rate), which is a measure of the amount of radiation absorbed by your body. When buying a new phone, try to select one with a lower SAR. A list of cell phones with the lowest SARs can be found here . But remember, these SARs are based on a six foot tall, 200 pound man with an 11 pound head, and the levels are higher for smaller people.

The Bottom Line

Although not enough time has passed for research to agree on the exact impact of cell phones on brain tumors and other health risks, the evidence so far suggests that we should be cautious. While hands-free driving laws are resulting in greater use of ear pieces in cars, more and more people are opting not to pay for land lines and are relying exclusively on their cell phone. As a result, some adults and children are holding cell phones to their ears for hours each day.

Should we be concerned? Remember that most published studies evaluated relatively infrequent cell phone usage and that research is inadequate to draw conclusions regarding safety. The health impact of the long-term and frequent use of cell phones that is typical today could be substantially worse.  And, if there is a cancer risk, we won’t see the effects of cell phone use on cancer rates for another 10-20 years.  That is why it is important that researchers who do not have financial ties to cell phone companies continue long-term studies with more appropriate measures of high, medium, and low cell phone usage.  In the meantime, you can play it safe and limit your cell phone use.

Safety Tips for Cellphone Use

All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.

  • World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2011) IARC classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. (Press release, Retrieved from http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf )
  • Cardis E, Deltour I, Vrijheid M, Combalot E, Moissonnier M, Tardy H, et al (2010 May 17). Brain tumor risk in relation to mobile phone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-study. International Journal of Epidemiology , 39(1): 675-694.
  • Microwave News (2014). CDC Calls for Caution on Cell Phones, Then Gets Cold Feet. Retrieved from: http://www.microwavenews.com/news-center/cdc-endorses-precaution 
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Frequently Asked Questions about Cell Phones and Your Health. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/cell_phones._FAQ.html 
  • Hardell L, Carlsberg M, Soderqvist F, Hansson Mild K, Morgan LL (2007). Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use 10 years. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 64(9):626-632.
  • Hardell L, Carlberg M, Hansson Mild K. Use of mobile phones and cordless phones is associated with increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma. Pathophysiology 2013;20:85–110.
  • Benson, V, Pirie, K, Schüz, J, Reeves, G, Beral, V, Green, J (2013 May 8). Mobile phone use and risk of brain neoplasms and other cancers: prospective study. Int. J. Epidemiol. (2013) 42 (3): 792-802. doi:10.1093/ije/dyt072
  • Courau, G, Bouvier, G, Lebailly, P, Fabbro-Peray, P, Gruber, A, Leffondre, K, Guillamo, J, Loiseau, H, Mathoulin-Pélissier, S, Salamon, R, Baldi, I (9 May 2014). Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study. Occup Environ Med , 71(7): 514-522. doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-101754
  • Lerchl, A., Klose, M., Grote, K., et al. (2015). Tumor promotion by exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications , 459(4), Pages 585-590. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006291X15003988
  • “Report of Partial Findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley SD rats (Whole Body Exposures).” National Toxicology Program 2016. http://biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2016/05/26/055699.full.pdf
  • Sadetzki S, CHetrit A, Jarus-Hakak A, et al. (2008) Cellular phone use and risk of benign and malignant parotid gland tumors-A nationwide case-control study. American Journal of Epidemiology 167: 457-467.
  • Evan, Dan. Israeli study sees link between oral cancer, cell phones. July 17, 2009. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1100570.html
  • Schuz J, Waldemar G, Olsen JH, & Johansen C. (2009 Feb. 5). Risks for Central Nervous System Diseases among Mobile Phone Subscribers: A Danish Retrospective Cohort Study . PLoS ONE, 4(2): e4389 1-5. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2632742/pdf/pone.0004389.pdf
  • Arnetz BB et al (2007) The Effects of 884 MHz GSM Wireless Communication Signals on Self-reported Symptom and Sleep (EEG)- An Experimental Provocation Study PIERS Online 3(7): 1148-1150.
  • Karinen A, Heinavaar S, Nylund R, & Leszczynski D (2008 Feb. 11). Mobile phone radiation might alter protein expression in human skin. BMC Genomics , 9(77). Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/9/77
  • Agarwal A, Deepinder F, Sharma RK, Ranga G, & Li J (2007). Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinic: an observational study. Retrieved from http://www.clevelandclinic.org/reproductiveresearchcenter/docs/agradoc239.pdf
  • Fejes I, Zavaczki Z, Szollosi J, Koloszar S, Daru J, Kovacs L, et a; (2005 Sept-Oct). Is there a relationship between cell phone use and semen quality? Arch Androl , 51(5): 385-393. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16087567
  • De Iuliis GN, Newey RJ, King BV, Aitken RJ (2009) Mobile Phone Radiation Induces Reactive Oxygen Species Production and DNA Damage in Human Spermatozoa In Vitro . PLoS One 4(7):e6446.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006446. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0006446 (Accessed August 17, 2009).
  • Yakymenko, I., Tsybulin, O., Sidorik, E., et al. (2015). Oxidative mechanisms of biological activity of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation, Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine . Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/15368378.2015.1043557  
  • Johansson, O. (2006). Electrohypersensitivity: State-of-the-art of a functional impairment. Electromagn. Biol. Med. 25:245–258.
  • “Report of Partial Findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley SD rats (Whole Body Exposures).” National Toxicology Program 2016. http://biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2016/05/26/055699.full.pdf 
  • Hardell L, Carlberg M. Increasing Rates of Brain Tumours in the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Causes of Death Register. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health . 2015; 12(4):3793-3813. Retrieved from: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/4/3793

Is Using Cell Phone Dangerous? Essay

Overtime, our lives have been tremendously been transformed with the mobile phone technology. We are able to attend to issues at our work place and even at our homes without the need of us appearing there physically.

Nowadays, instead of writing long letters to your friends, you can use the mobile Short Message Service (SMS) to chat with them for a while. However, this technology has come with its own setbacks such as the risk of exposure to carcinogens, cell phone dependency and mobile phone crimes. In fact, the use of cell phones exposes us to more danger than good.

Although these gadgets are portable and convenient to use, studies that have been conducted by medical experts show that they emit radiofrequency radiations that are “categorized into ionized radiations and non ionized radiations” (Oberto 316). The ionized radiations have shown to increase the risk of the user suffering from cancer.

Research has further shown that “the side of the brain that is exposed to the ionizing radiations from the cell phone metabolizes more glucose than other parts that are not exposed to it” (Larjavaara 35). These effects largely depend on how frequently one uses it, how close the user is with the antenna of the gadget and the distance between the network center and the user. Actually, the use of a cell phone is hazardous to human health.

On the other hand, to alleviate some of the above effects, radiologists have recommended the use of wireless headphones that allow the user to receive calls at some distance from the gadget. Using them for emergencies especially when you cannot access a landline phone also reduces one’s exposure to them.

However, despite one taking these measures and the attractive features (camera and games) of these mobile phones, they have shown to have greater effect on children than in grown-ups. This is because young children are still growing and their cells are rapidly multiplying. As a result, the ionizing radiations emitted from the phones predispose these cells to cancer. These facts make mobile usage more dangerous to children who can succumb to body malformations.

Besides, the use of mobile phone has enabled us to supplement our brains memory capacity with their storage memory capacity. Hence, we can be able to save important passwords and other important information in them without necessarily memorizing them.

This has been encouraged with the changing times when we have a lot of information in soft copies and less in hard copies. To secure such information, the computers allow us to come up with passwords and other safety features that could easily remembered by saving them in these phones.

As result, the mobile technology has taken a turn to crime where thieves steal these phones from their owners and then easily gain access to important information regarding their credit cards or automatic teller machines (ATMs). This has seen many innocent people lose a lot of money to these non suspecting criminals. Indeed mobile phone technology has brought more harm than good.

In addition, the technology has also come up with the mobile money transfer where the users are able to transfer money to other people conveniently. This service has impacted developing economies greatly as people from rural areas can receive money from urban areas without necessarily gaining access to physical bank halls. However, there are many times when the person sending the cash misses one or two digits of the user and ends up sending the money to a wrong number.

This wrong receiver may rush to a nearby service provider and get the cash and as a result, the sender ends up being conned and his/her efforts to get help from the network provider may prove fruitless. The service provided by these gadgets is of essence to the society, but its maneuver by non suspecting criminals is exposing the users to more losses than expected.

Moreover, “the concept of time and space” has changed overtime by the use of the mobile phones (Fortunati 513). Instead of people meeting physically as they do most of the times, now they talk over the phone to solve any pending matters. Hence, issues to do with time such as being punctual at meetings is now solved.

Although this service has improved communication, many people have adopted a culture of lying to their friends whereby if they are asked where they are, they state a place either far or near the person asking depending on the circumstances. This kind of mobile phone lies has made their use dangerous to our associations in society.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that nowadays when a cell phone user is bored, he/she resorts to this gadget. As a result, the person develops “cell phone dependence” (Leung 359).

This behavior has substituted the visiting of friends when we are bored or grieved by different circumstances. Many quickly get to social networks like Facebook and Twitter where they interact with thousands of friends that they meet online. The way people used to meet sometimes back no longer seems to work in this busy generation that is always embracing the changing times.

When one gets annoyed with his/her online friend in the social network, he/she removes the friend unlike in the physical relationships where if one get upset with his buddy, he just walks away or even fights. However, psychologists would tell you that expression of hunger on the face is important than in writing either an SMS (Short Message Service) or equally an email via the mobile phone.

Physical expression has a strong touch where one part is able to show his feelings about a particular situation and the other responds in return. This adds value to the spoken word. Hence, the turndown of our lives with this mobile phone service is socially drawing us back.

Last but not least, the cell phone usage has impacted greatly on students. Tully says that “the use of cell phones has had a negative effect on grammar” especially among the Short Message Service users (444).

This is because, the more you get into doing something the more it becomes a habit. Consequently, when students do their homework, they end up using the same jargons that they have been used to on their mobile phone. In addition, since they are able to gain access to the internet via these gadgets, many students get tempted to cheat in examinations as they can easily search for the answers online.

This kind of cheating is a crime since in the first place they are practicing plagiarism and many of them end up getting degrees they don’t deserve. Also, for the advanced phones, the students can use them to watch movies and other pornographic materials that they can access online. This draws their attention away from the classroom and as a fact, the use cell phones encourages bad morals that never existed in the ancient times.

In conclusion, despite the many services that we get from mobile phones, their use comes with many effects. They predispose the users to radiofrequency radiations that are cancerous to their body tissues. These carcinogens are especially dangerous to young children whose cells are rapidly dividing thus exposing them to malformation. These gadgets have also changed our lives backwards as they have encouraged hacking of passwords and theft of credit card information exposing the users to unprecedented losses.

It’s also worth noting that they have greatly impacted on relationships. In addition, they have encouraged negative morals in our schools where students watch movies in class as their instructors teach and cheat in exams by searching for answers from the mobile phone internet. Indeed, cell phones are small gadgets that are convenient to carry and easy to use but their usage comes with many setbacks that override their benefits.

Works Cited

Fortunati, Leopoldina. The Mobile Phone: Towards New Categories and Social Relations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.

Larjavaara, Schuz. Gliomas in Relation to Mobile Phone Use: Case to Case Analysis. New York: Harper-Collins, 2006. Print.

Leung, Louis. Leisure Boredom, Sensation Seeking, Self Esteem and Addiction: Symptoms and Patterns of Cell Phone Use. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Oberto, Rolfo. Carcinogenicity: Radiation Research. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

Tully, Claus. Growing Up in Technological Worlds: How Modern Technologies Shape the Everyday Lives of Young People. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.

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Are Cell Phones Safe? The Verdict is Still Out

While some studies have suggested that frequent use of cell phones causes increased risk of brain and mouth cancers, others have found no such links. But since cell phones are relatively new and brain cancers grow slowly, many experts are now recommending taking steps to reduce exposure.

By Bruce Stutz • August 2, 2010

Does your cell phone increase your risk of brain cancer? Does it affect your skin or your sperm viability? Is it safe for pregnant women or children? Should you keep it in your bag, on your belt, in your pants or shirt pocket? Should you use a hands-free headset? Are present cell phone safety standards strict enough? You don’t know? You’re not alone. With some 4 to 5 billion cell phones now in use worldwide and hundreds of studies seeking evidence of their health effects published in peer-reviewed journals over the last 10 years, there’s precious little scientific certainty over whether cell phones pose any danger to those using them. For nearly every study that reports an effect, another, just as carefully conducted, finds none. All of which leaves journalists, consumer advocates, regulatory agencies, politicians, industry spokespersons, and cell phone users able to choose and interpret the results they prefer, or ignore the ones they don’t.

Are Cell Phones Safe? Too Early to Tell

Do you, for instance, cite the studies that report adverse effects on sperm viability and motility, due to exposure to cell phone radiation or the studies that showed no — or mixed — results?

Do you cite the 2001 study that found increased incidence of uveal melanoma (a cancer of the eye) among frequent cell phone users, or the 2009 study by the same authors that, in reassessing their data, found no increase?

Do you cite the Israeli study that found an association between salivary gland cancer and heavy use of cell phones or the Swedish study that found none?

Do you parse the data and report only those results that have found effects — no matter how small — without citing studies that found no effects? In its much-cited review of cell phone studies, the Environmental Working Group has done just that, reporting, for instance, that “a study from the University of California, Los Angeles, found a correlation between prenatal exposure to cell phone radiation and behavioral problems in children.” But the group left out the study’s very next sentence acknowledging that the association may be “noncausal and may be due to unmeasured confounding.”

The effects of cell phones have proven difficult to assess because they are relatively new, the way and the amount they’re used continues to evolve, and the problems that cell phones might cause are hard to detect. Brain cancers, for instance, are very rare cancers. They affect only some 18 out of every 100,000 people. But the fact that there’s been no recent increase in the numbers may be meaningless with regard to cell phone use since brain cancers are very slow-growing.

The question is whether safety standards are sufficient to protect against long-term exposure.

Cell phones produce “non-ionizing” radiation, which, unlike X- or gamma rays, doesn’t damage DNA by stripping away electrons from molecules in cell tissue. Radiofrequency energy does, however, produce heat and, at high enough levels, can damage cell tissue. This, in the late 1990s, prompted the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) in Europe to set limits on cell phones’ Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) — the measure of the amount of radiofrequency energy a cell phone user absorbs — at, respectively, 1.6 and 2.0 watts per kilogram. The question remains, however, whether these standards are sufficient to protect against long-term exposures and whether the buildup of heat in cell tissues is more damaging where there’s less blood flow to dissipate it, such as the outer ear, brain, skin, or testes.

The exposure standard has been the subject of Congressional hearings. Consumer groups have warned that children may be more susceptible to radiofrequency heating effects than adults. U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced a bill for a federal research program on the effects of cell phone radiation that also calls for a label warning users about potential links between long-term use and cancer.

Last month, San Francisco passed a “Cell Phone Right-to-Know” law that requires manufacturers to post in stores each cell phone’s Specific Absorption Rate. In response, CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents the wireless communications industry, filed suit July 23 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to block enforcement of the new law. It cites the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) statement that “the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”

So far, the National Cancer Institute stands by the FDA. And neither the FCC nor the ICNIRP has recommended any changes in their present standards until there’s clear scientific evidence to demonstrate they need changing.

That kind of clarity may be a long way off.

Take, for example, the findings released in May of INTERPHONE, the largest and longest study ever conducted on whether — and by how much — cell phone use increases the odds of developing brain cancer. Carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer — at a cost of some $25 million and nearly 10 years in the making — the study involved roughly two dozen scientists and research teams from around the world and some 10,000 patients and cell phone users from 13 countries. The study’s epic scope, however, only made its meager conclusions seem all the more unsatisfying.

“Overall, no increase in risk of glioma [a cancer of the cells that protects the brain’s neurons] or meningioma [tumors that develop in the tissue that surrounds the brain] was observed with use of mobile phones,” the study concluded. “The possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation.”

‘After 10 years of research, we do not have an answer whether mobile phone radiation causes brain cancer,’ says one expert.

And yet even these modest claims proved contentious. The study scientists themselves recognized problems in the methodology: While they had good data on the participants’ tumor and cancer histories, they had very suspect data on their cell phone usage. Participants’ recall of how often and how much they talked on their cell phones, when checked against their actual cell phone records, in some cases proved very unreliable. The matching of patients with control subjects also turned out to be problematic. Should controls include only those who never used a cell phone and exclude those who’d used one only infrequently? While the distinction may seem insignificant, such selection biases can wreak statistical havoc. The analysis using the first group, for instance, resulted in the somewhat astonishing finding that regular users of cell phones had a reduced risk of developing glioma.

No one was surprised, therefore, that divisions appeared over interpreting the study’s results. These delayed its release for four years. The raw data, in fact, showed that “long-term heavy use” — that is, talking on a cell phone for 30 minutes a day for 10 years — increased the odds of developing glioma by 40 percent. The question was whether this result was subject to the same selection bias as that which strangely showed a reduced risk among regular users. The final decision was that the findings with regard to the “effects of long-term heavy use” were, while worth “further investigation,” too unreliable to conclude they represented a clear and irrefutable increased risk.

While the risk of any individual developing glioma would still be small, a 40 percent increase could still mean some thousands more new cases in the U.S. each year. And gliomas account for nearly half of all childhood tumors.

The question for the INTERPHONE scientists was whether this finding was real or the result of flawed data?

As Finnish researcher Dariusz Leszczynski of Helsinki’s STUK-Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, put it, the study’s combination of reliable and flawed information resulted in a “scientifically unreliable and non-informative result.”

“What it all means,” Leszczynski concludes, “is that after 10 years of research and millions of Euros used for it we are still in the starting point [his emphasis] and do not have the answer whether, or whether not, mobile phone radiation could cause brain cancer.”

Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, acknowledges that most of the study’s participants, even the heaviest users, were not frequent mobile phone users by today’s standards. The criteria for a “regular” user was someone who made from one call a week to 25 calls a day, but no one in the study talked for more than half an hour a day. On the other hand, the study doesn’t take into account that people now often text rather than talk, and many more use hands-free headsets.

Ten years of use may not be a legitimate time frame to establish any causal links to such slow-growing cancers. And if there is a risk, does it continue to increase beyond 10 years of usage, and by how much? This would especially be a concern for those who began using cell phones when they were children, as is now frequently the case.

Nearly everyone seems to agree that it’s worth reducing your exposure as best you can.

New epidemiological studies now underway might prove more elucidating. They include COSMOS, a United Kingdom study that will follow for 20 to 30 years some 350,000 cell phone users from the UK, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and The Netherlands, and that will use actual cell phone records for their database. Another study, MOBI-KIDS, is a European Union project in 13 countries that over five years will compare the cell phone usage of some 2000 young people, ages 10 to 24, with brain tumors to the same number of healthy controls.

Are there alternatives to epidemiological studies?

Studying animals exposed to cell phone radiation has proven difficult, especially when it comes to controlling doses of radiation which, in the case of cell phones, are small; the response of animal cells at low doses may not reflect the response of human cells.

Recent in vitro studies — that is, studies on cultured cell tissue — have focused on whether radiofrequency radiation might interfere with the DNA repair process and cause damaged DNA to accumulate. So far, some studies have found damage while others have not. With so much uncertainty as to what exactly causes the disruption of cell processes, it’s difficult to compare one study with another. The same uncertainty has been true regarding the few studies on sperm — of concern because many men tend to keep their cell phones in their front pants pockets.

Leszczynski and others point out that present SAR standards don’t necessarily take into account how cell phones are actually used. While our brain may be exposed to the allowable amount of radiofrequency radiation, our bodies and our skin may be getting more than the phone’s advertised dose of radiofrequency radiation. A hands-free device can reduce exposure to the head, but if you still keep your phone in your shirt pocket, your body’s still being exposed.

In the meantime, nearly everyone seems to agree that it’s worth putting the precautionary principle into play; that is, reduce your exposure as best you can. The radiofrequency radiation falls off quickly the farther your cell phone is from your body. Look for a cell phone with a low SAR. Don’t keep your cell phone in your pocket. Use a hands-free device. Text rather than talk. And while the cancer risks are unknown, the risks from using your cell phone while driving are pretty clear.

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Science News Explores

Are cell phones safe.

Be smart about using a cell phone

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By Stephen Ornes

October 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm

About 4 billion people use cell phones, but are they safe? Keep listening—scientists around the world are exploring this question right now. In the meantime, governments are suggesting that people try to limit exposure to radiation from the devices. “Better safe than sorry,” says Siegal Sadetzki , a physician in Israel who studies the health risks of cell phones.

Cell phone users can cut down on radiation exposure by only using the phone when the signal is strong. Another way to reduce exposure is to keep some distance between the phone and the ear.

The phones work by changing the sound of your voice into a radio wave, which it then sends out through an antenna. The phone uses the antenna to receive radio waves, which it then changes into sound waves that a user can hear. These radio waves are a form of radiation, which may be absorbed by tissues in a user’s head, if the phone is close enough.

Most of the scientists who are studying the health effects of cell phones are working in countries other than the United States, but that may change. The United States Senate has recently begun to investigate American research — which may affect 270 million users in the U.S.

Right now, evidence from scientific studies around the world is not strong enough to show a link between cell phone use and disease.

“The currently available scientific evidence about the effects of radiation emitted by mobile phones is contradictory,” says Dariusz Leszczynski, a scientist at Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, in Helsinki. “There are both studies showing effects and some studies showing no effect.”

If scientists were able to show a link, then cell phones would be sold with a warning label. Scientists like Leszczynski, however, think it’s unwise to think of cell phones as 100 percent safe. Instead, he and his organization recommend that children not use cell phones because the radiation can reach further into their brains than it does into the heads of adults. They also recommend texting rather than talking—to keep the phone away from the head.

In France, the health ministry has been making similar suggestions to keep children off the cell phone. In Israeli, the government recommends that people use speakers or other hands-free devices to keep the phone away from the head. The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization in the United States, recommends that people buy low-radiation phones.

Some scientific studies do suggest a link between health problems and cell phone use. Last year, Sadetzki and her group found that heavy cell phone users had a 50 to 60 percent increased risk of a certain type of tumor. Sadetzi says that one reason studies may now be showing risk is that widespread use of cell phones didn’t begin until about 15 years ago. And it may take decades for disease to develop.

She says cell phones are here to stay, but “the question that needs to be answered is not whether we should use cell phones, but how.”

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Why are cell phones dangerous?

why cell phones are dangerous essay

The use of mobile phones has intensified in the last few decades. In fact, cell phones have become a necessity for many people all across the world in general and in the UAE in particular. According to Waqas, “Conducted by dmg events Middle East, the study has revealed that around 53 percent of UAE residents spend Dhs10,000 annually on technology, while about 15 percent splurge Dhs15,000 a year. However, these advancements come with an equal measure of disadvantages. People have become inattentive and less social, which has led to various accidents caused by distracted drivers. Moreover, electromagnetic waves emitted by cell phones also have various side effects. As cell phones have been becoming an important part of modern life, it is essential to discuss their risks.

why cell phones are dangerous essay

Mobile phones are being widely used and wherever people go, they see others sticking their heads into their mobile phones and not realizing what is happening around them. However, nowadays interactions have changed a lot as compared to the traditional ways. First of all, the introduction of the internet has made people more involved in virtual relationships as opposed to the physical ones. Consequently, people end up becoming less social since they are glued to their cell phones most of the time. They become so attached to their mobile phones that they cannot live without them. This gives rise to feelings of frustration, anger, and worry when they are unable to use their phones. Secondly, people are less willing to hold face-to-face conversations; therefore, conflicts cannot be resolved. Voegeli postulates that cell phone use creates anti-social tendencies in people, contributes to rising impatience, and leads to incorrect grammar and spellings, which consequently affect face-to-face communications. People are currently likely to lose patience quickly because they are used to finding any informative they need instantly through their various gadgets. Therefore, when they have to wait longer for something than a few seconds, they get impatient and anxious. This way, people have lost the ability to wait for anything. In this respect, smart phones have had an especially adverse impact on children who get exposed to the technologies at very early ages. They become so enwrapped in technology since early childhood that they lack socialization skills needed for communication with other people. The matter is that they can communicate effectively only through some technological device, which may negatively impact their social life as adults.

The inability of people to stop using their phones even while driving is extremely dangerous. Various tragic accidents have reportedly been caused by the use of mobile phones while driving. Thus, accident rates have increased with the rise of the cell phone use. The UAE, in particular, is plagued by accidents caused by the mobile phone use. Statistics from the traffic department has shown a rise in traffic-related violations in the last three years from 35,734 in 2013 to 46,463 in 2014. In most cases, people tend to use social media or send text messages while driving. The allure of connecting to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram to learn about global updates on a real-time basis disorients drivers, leading to accidents. It has been even declared that using a mobile phone while driving can be more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. The main reason of that is distraction that mobile phones cause. Nonetheless, in this particular case mobile phones are merely a distractor, while drivers who choose to use the phones while driving are to blame for the increasing accident rate. People have become so inpatient and accustomed to getting whatever they want instantly that they cannot wait for the duration of the drive from one place to another without checking on updates in the social media, news, messages, and calls.

Moreover, the use of cell phones has been found to cause health risks. Research shows that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones has many side effects. According to George, despite the authorities disagreeing with the claim that cell phones are the cause of brain tumors, a senior doctor in the UAE has reportedly treated several patients suffering from the effects of electromagnetic radiation. It is believed that prolonged cell phone use causes one-sided headaches and hearing issues, as reported by Dr. Suresh Menon, the Medical Director at Dubais Lifeline Hospital. Moreover, the use of mobile phones can lead to memory loss, headache, cancer, and fatigue. Other diseases like uveal melanoma, acoustic neuroma, and leukemia are also attributed to the use of cell phones. Although researchers have not revealed the exact mechanism of how cell phones impact human health and there is no evidence to support a hypothesis about potential lethal consequences of exposure to the radio frequency energy emitted by cell phones, there is empirical evidence that excessive use of these gadgets really affects people. Therefore, it is highly recommended to limit the use of cell phones only to instances when it is truly necessary to do that.

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Nonetheless, it is undeniable that cell phones have not only shortcomings, but also a wide range of benefits and advantages. Hence, there is no doubt that mobile phones make it possible to interact with people across the globe. Gozalova argues that people prefer using mobile phones as it makes life easier, saves time, and makes the society more effective. However, they adversely affect how people relate among themselves, leading to a socially withdrawn society, which increases conflicts. Westenberg states that smartphones impair human ability to engage in face-to-face conversations. The main reason of this negative impact is the fact that people prefer engaging in digital communication with messaging becoming a quite popular mode of communication. Nevertheless, it is up to people to find a balance between real-life and online communication and not to excessively rely on only one mode. Besides, cell phones allow maintaining social connections with a lot of people from different corners of the world, thereby expanding the network of connections and contributing to socialization of people.

Cell phones may also be effectively used for educational reasons. Owning a mobile phone can be compared to having all the information in the world at the tip of ones fingers. Teachers greatly benefit from this because they can use the internet to research students questions and give clear answers. Surfing encourages students to be independent as they have unlimited access to information. However, cell phones sometimes foster laziness as students tend to copy material directly from the internet. Such information may be grammatically incorrect, which affects language and increases spelling mistakes. Cranfield School of Management has found that six out of ten students copy information directly from websites without reading it clearly. At the same time, it is again the problem of the lack of a proper educational culture. Cell phones may be an effective and efficient educational tool, but students need to be taught and instructed on how to use it to their benefit instead of allowing students to decide that on their own.

why cell phones are dangerous essay

Another undeniable benefit of using cell phones is their ability to assist in emergency situations. According to Vats, cell phones are of great use in time of such emergencies like having ones car broken in the middle of the road or being late for an important appointment. Besides, in case one feels sick or sees a person in a dire need of medical help, cell phones became highly useful for calling ambulance or other emergency services needed. Without modern technologies, millions of people worldwide would be unable to access necessary emergency services, which could contribute to the rise in the rate of deaths caused by diseases, fires, accidents, crimes, and other extreme circumstances. Similarly, emergency services employees can coordinate their actions and find out more about needs with a view to being better prepared to provide assistance. Nonetheless, some of the accidents are caused by cell phones as evident from their role in car accidents. Moreover, cell phones and other technologies have made people more inattentive and careless, which also is a cause of many accidents.

Withal, the use of cell phones has increased greatly all over the world and this goes beyond personal interests. However, such use has both benefits and shortcomings for users and other people around them. The increased use of cell phones has had various dangerous effects like decreased social interactions, an increase in accidents, and various health issues. It is essential to create awareness of the dangers of the cell phones use in order to make people able avoid most of them and prevent adverse outcomes of the excessive extended use. This will help in saving lives by encouraging people to use their cell phones judiciously and smartly. Besides, it is reasonable to encourage people to use cell phones only when necessary.

why cell phones are dangerous essay

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why cell phones are dangerous essay

Home — Essay Samples — Information Science and Technology — Cell Phones — Assessment of the Dangers of Mobile Phones


Assessment of The Dangers of Mobile Phones

  • Categories: Cell Phones

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Words: 509 |

Published: Feb 12, 2019

Words: 509 | Page: 1 | 3 min read

Hook Examples for Cell Phone Essay

  • The Modern Epidemic: In an era where cell phones have become an extension of our very being, are we losing more than just our attention spans? Join us as we unravel the multifaceted dangers lurking beneath the surface of these ubiquitous devices.
  • Driving Blind: Imagine hurtling down the highway at 60 miles per hour with your eyes closed. Sounds absurd, right? Yet, every time we pick up our cell phones behind the wheel, we’re essentially doing just that. Let’s delve into the alarming statistics and consequences of distracted driving.
  • The Lost Art of Conversation: Cell phones have reshaped the way we connect, but have we sacrificed genuine human interaction in the process? Explore how these devices have transformed our social behavior, and whether the price is too high.
  • The Hidden Cost of Convenience: We live in a world of instant gratification, where our phones provide a constant stream of entertainment and distraction. But what toll is this taking on our mental faculties, especially in our youngest generation? Uncover the link between cell phone usage and attention deficit disorders.
  • Families Unplugged: The dinner table used to be a sanctuary for family bonding and conversation. Now, it’s often a battleground of screens and notifications. Explore the impact of cell phones on family life and the vanishing traditions of quality time.

Works Cited

  • Brady, S. S. (2013). The Impact of Mobile Devices on Human Behavior. International Journal of Applied Science and Technology, 3(3), 1-6.
  • Hedman, L., Olofsson, A., & Östlund, B. (2016). Drivers’ use of mobile phones: A Shame and Guilt perspective. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 40, 52-61.
  • Horrey, W. J., & Wickens, C. D. (2006). Examining the impact of cell phone conversations on driving using meta-analytic techniques. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 48(1), 196-205.
  • Khezeli, M., Farhadi, P., Ehrampoush, M. H., & Kazemnejad, E. (2016). Cell phone use and drivers’ distraction: a systematic review. Journal of Injury and Violence Research, 8(2), 165-175.
  • Liu, Y., Zhu, Y., & Chen, H. (2019). How does smartphone use affect our health? Evidence from China. Health Economics, 28(2), 155-169.
  • Nenkov, G. Y., & Scott, M. L. (2014). ” It’s All About Me”: Narcissistic Consumers and Their Relationships with Brands. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(2), 505-526.
  • Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2017). A Large-Scale Test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis: Quantifying the Relations Between Digital-Screen Use and the Mental Well-Being of Adolescents. Psychological Science, 28(2), 204-215.
  • Rosen, L. D., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 948-958.
  • Vorderer, P., Klimmt, C., & Ritterfeld, U. (2004). Enjoyment: At the Heart of Media Entertainment. Communication Theory, 14(4), 388-408.
  • Wei, R. (2015). Finding meaning in social media use: An investigation of the uses and gratifications perspective. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 59(1), 17-33.

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why cell phones are dangerous essay

Cell Phones and Cancer Risk

Why has there been concern that cell phones may cause cancer.

There are two main reasons why people are concerned that cell (or mobile) phones might have the potential to cause certain types of cancer or other health problems: Cell phones emit radiation (in the form of radiofrequency radiation , or radio waves ), and cell phone use is widespread. Even a small increase in cancer risk from cell phones would be of concern given how many people use them.

Brain and central nervous system cancers have been of particular concern because hand-held phones are used close to the head and because ionizing radiation—a higher energy form of radiation than what cell phones emit—has been found to cause some brain cancers. Many different kinds of studies have been carried out to try to investigate whether cell phone use is dangerous to human health.

However, the evidence to date suggests that cell phone use does not cause brain or other kinds of cancer in humans.

Is the radiation from cell phones harmful?

Cell phones emit radiation in the radiofrequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum . Second-, third-, and fourth-generation cell phones (2G, 3G, 4G) emit radiofrequency in the frequency range of 0.7–2.7 GHz. Fifth-generation (5G) cell phones are anticipated to use the frequency spectrum up to 80 GHz. 

These frequencies all fall in the nonionizing range of the spectrum, which is low frequency and low energy. The energy is too low to damage DNA. By contrast, ionizing radiation , which includes x-rays , radon , and cosmic rays, is high frequency and high energy. Energy from ionizing radiation can damage DNA. DNA damage can cause changes to genes that may increase the risk of cancer.

The NCI fact sheet Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer lists sources of radiofrequency radiation . More information about ionizing radiation can be found on the Radiation page.

The human body does absorb energy from devices that emit radiofrequency radiation. The only consistently recognized biological effect of radiofrequency radiation absorption in humans that the general public might encounter is heating to the area of the body where a cell phone is held (e.g., the ear and head). However, that heating is not sufficient to measurably increase core body temperature. There are no other clearly established dangerous health effects on the human body from radiofrequency radiation.

Has the incidence of brain and central nervous system cancers changed during the time cell phone use increased?

No. Investigators have studied whether the incidence of brain or other central nervous system cancers (that is, the number of new cases of these cancers diagnosed each year) has changed during the time that cell phone use increased dramatically. These studies found:

  • stable incidence rates for adult gliomas in the United States ( 1 ), Nordic countries ( 2 ) and Australia ( 3 ) during the past several decades
  • stable incidence rates for pediatric brain tumors in the United States during 1993–2013 ( 4 )
  • stable incidence rates for acoustic neuroma ( 5 ), which are nonmalignant tumors , and meningioma ( 6 ), which are usually nonmalignant, among US adults since 2009 

In addition, studies using cancer incidence data have tested different scenarios (simulations) determining whether the incidence trends are in line with various levels of risk as reported in studies of cell phone use and brain tumors between 1979 and 2008 ( 7 , 8 ). These simulations showed that many risk changes reported in case-control studies  were not consistent with incidence data, implying that biases  and errors in the study may have distorted the findings.

Because these studies examine cancer incidence trends over time in populations rather than comparing risk in people who do and don’t use cell phones, their ability to observe potential small differences in risk among heavy users or susceptible populations is limited. Observational/epidemiologic studies—including case–control and cohort studies  (described below)—are designed to measure individual exposure to cell phone radiation and ascertain specific health outcomes.

How is radiofrequency radiation exposure measured in studies of groups of people?

Epidemiologic  studies use information from several sources, including questionnaires and data from cell phone service providers, to estimate radiofrequency radiation exposure in groups of people. Direct measurements are not yet possible outside of a laboratory setting. Estimates from studies reported to date take into account the following:

  • How regularly study participants use cell phones (the number of calls per week or month)
  • The age and the year when study participants first used a cell phone and the age and the year of last use (allows calculation of the duration of use and time since the start of use)
  • The average number of cell phone calls per day, week, or month (frequency)
  • The average length of a typical cell phone call
  • The total hours of lifetime use, calculated from the length of typical call times, the frequency of use, and the duration of use

What has research shown about the link between cell phone use and cancer risk?

Researchers have carried out several types of population studies to investigate the possibility of a relationship between cell phone use and the risk of tumors, both malignant (cancerous) and nonmalignant (not cancer). Epidemiologic  studies (also called observational studies ) are research studies in which investigators observe groups of individuals (populations) and collect information about them but do not try to change anything about the groups. 

Two main types of epidemiologic studies— cohort studies  and case-control studies —have been used to examine associations between cell phone use and cancer risk. In a case–control study, cell phone use is compared between people who have tumors and people who don’t. In a cohort study, a large group of people who do not have cancer at the beginning of the study is followed over time and tumor development in people who did and didn’t use cell phones is compared. Cohort studies are limited by the fact that they may only be able to look at cell phone subscribers, who are not necessarily the cell phone users.

The tumors that have been investigated in epidemiologic studies include malignant brain tumors, such as gliomas , as well as nonmalignant tumors, such as acoustic neuroma (tumors in the cells of the nerve responsible for hearing that are also known as vestibular schwannomas), meningiomas (usually nonmalignant tumors in the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord ), parotid gland tumors (tumors in the salivary glands ), skin cancer, and thyroid gland tumors.

Three large epidemiologic studies have examined the possible association between cell phone use and cancer: Interphone, a case–control study; the Danish Study, a cohort study; and the Million Women Study, another cohort study. These studies have been critically evaluated in reviews reported in 2015 ( 9 ) and in 2019 ( 10 ). The findings of these studies are mixed, but overall, they do not show an association between cell phone use and cancer ( 11 – 22 ).   

Interphone Case–Control Study

How the study was done: This is the largest case–control study of cell phone use and the risk of head and neck tumors. It was conducted by a consortium of researchers from 13 countries. The data came from questionnaires that were completed by study participants in Europe, Israel, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

What the study showed: Most published analyses from this study have shown no increases overall in brain or other central nervous system cancers (glioma and meningioma) related to higher amounts of cell phone use. One analysis showed a statistically significant , although small, increase in the risk of glioma among study participants who spent the most total time on cell phone calls. However, for a variety of reasons the researchers considered this finding inconclusive ( 11 – 13 ).

An analysis of data from all 13 countries reported a statistically significant association between intracranial distribution of tumors within the brain and self-reported location of the phone ( 14 ). However, the authors of this study noted that it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about cause and effect based on their findings.

An analysis of data from five Northern European countries showed an increased risk of acoustic neuroma in those who had used a cell phone for 10 or more years ( 15 ). 

In subsequent analyses of Interphone data, investigators investigated whether tumors were more likely to form in areas of the brain with the highest exposure. One analysis showed no relationship between tumor location and level of radiation ( 16 ). However, another found evidence that glioma and, to a lesser extent, meningioma were more likely to develop where exposure was highest ( 17 ).

Danish Cohort Study

How the study was done: This cohort study linked billing information from more than 358,000 cell phone subscribers with brain tumor incidence data from the Danish Cancer Registry.

What the study showed: No association was observed between cell phone use and the incidence of glioma, meningioma, or acoustic neuroma, even among people who had been cell phone subscribers for 13 or more years ( 18 – 20 ).

Million Women Cohort Study

How the study was done: This prospective cohort study conducted in the United Kingdom used data obtained from questionnaires that were completed by study participants.

What the study showed: Self-reported cell phone use was not associated with an increased risk of glioma, meningioma, or non-central nervous system tumors. Although the original published findings reported an association with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma ( 21 ), it was not observed with additional years of follow-up of the cohort ( 22) .

Other Epidemiologic Studies

In addition to these three large studies, other, smaller epidemiologic studies have looked for associations between cell phone use and individual cancers in both adults and children. These include:

  • Two NCI-sponsored case–control studies, each conducted in multiple US academic medical centers or hospitals between 1994 and 1998 that used data from questionnaires ( 23 ) or computer-assisted personal interviews ( 24 ). Neither study showed a relationship between cell phone use and the risk of glioma, meningioma, or acoustic neuroma in adults.
  • The CERENAT study, another case–control study conducted in multiple areas in France from 2004 to 2006 using data collected in face-to-face interviews using standardized questionnaires ( 25 ). This study found no association for either gliomas or meningiomas when comparing adults who were regular cell phone users with non-users. However, the heaviest users had significantly increased risks of both gliomas and meningiomas.
  • A pooled analysis of two case–control studies conducted in Sweden that reported statistically significant trends of increasing brain cancer risk for the total amount of cell phone use and the years of use among people who began using cell phones before age 20 ( 26 ).
  • Another case–control study in Sweden, part of the Interphone pooled studies, did not find an increased risk of brain cancer among long-term cell phone users between the ages of 20 and 69 ( 27 ).
  • The CEFALO study, an international case–control study of children diagnosed with brain cancer between ages 7 and 19, found no relationship between their cell phone use and risk for brain cancer ( 28 ).
  • The MOBI-Kids study, a large international case–control study of young people ages 10 to 24 years diagnosed with brain tumors, found no evidence of an association between wireless phone use and the risk of brain tumors ( 29 ). 
  • A population-based case–control study conducted in Connecticut found no association between cell phone use and the risk of thyroid cancer ( 30 ).

What are the findings from studies of the human body?

Researchers have carried out several kinds of studies to investigate possible effects of cell phone use on the human body. In 2011, two small studies were published that examined brain glucose metabolism in people after they had used cell phones. The results were inconsistent. One study showed increased glucose metabolism in the region of the brain close to the antenna compared with tissues on the opposite side of the brain ( 31 ); the other study ( 32 ) found reduced glucose metabolism on the side of the brain where the phone was used.

The authors of these studies noted that the results were preliminary and that possible health outcomes from changes in glucose metabolism in humans were unknown. Such inconsistent findings are not uncommon in experimental studies of the physiological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in people ( 11 ). Some factors that can contribute to inconsistencies across such studies include assumptions used to estimate doses, failure to consider temperature effects, and investigators not being blinded to exposure status.

Another study investigated blood flow in the brain of people exposed to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones and found no evidence of an effect on blood flow in the brain ( 33 ).

What are the findings from experiments in laboratory animals?

Early studies involving laboratory animals showed no evidence that radiofrequency radiation increased cancer risk or enhanced the cancer-causing effects of known chemical carcinogens ( 34 – 37 ).

Because of inconsistent findings from epidemiologic studies in humans and the lack of clear data from previous experimental studies in animals, in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nominated radiofrequency radiation exposure associated with cell phone exposures for study in animal models by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP). NTP is an interagency program that coordinates toxicology research and testing across the US Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH.

The NTP studied radiofrequency radiation (2G and 3G frequencies) in rats and mice ( 38 , 39 ). This large project was conducted in highly specialized labs. The rodents experienced whole-body exposures of 3, 6, or 9 watts per kilogram of body weight for 5 or 7 days per week for 18 hours per day in cycles of 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. A research overview of the rodent studies , with links to the peer-review summary, is available on the NTP website. The primary outcomes observed were a small number of cancers of Schwann cells  in the heart and non-cancerous changes ( hyperplasia ) in the same tissues for male rats, but not female rats, nor in mice overall.

These experimental findings raise new questions because cancers in the heart are extremely rare in humans. Schwann cells of the heart in rodents are similar to the kind of cells in humans that give rise to acoustic neuromas (also known as vestibular schwannomas), which some studies have suggested are increased in people who reported the heaviest use of cell phones. The NTP plans to continue to study radiofrequency exposure in animal models to provide insights into the biological changes that might explain the outcomes observed in their study.

Another animal study, in which rats were exposed 7 days per week for 19 hours per day to radiofrequency radiation at 0.001, 0.03, and 0.1 watts per kilogram of body weight was reported by investigators at the Italian Ramazzini Institute ( 40 ). Among the rats with the highest exposure levels, the researchers noted an increase in heart schwannomas in male rats and nonmalignant Schwann cell growth in the heart in male and female rats. However, key details necessary for interpretation of the results were missing: exposure methods, other standard operating procedures, and nutritional/feeding aspects. The gaps in the report from the study raise questions that have not been resolved.

ICNIRP (an independent nonprofit organization that provides scientific advice and guidance on the health and environmental effects of nonionizing radiation) critically evaluated both studies. It concluded that both followed good laboratory practice, including using more animals than earlier research and exposing the animals to radiofrequency radiation throughout their lifetimes. However, it also identified what it considered major weaknesses in how the studies were conducted and statistically analyzed and concluded that these limitations prevent drawing conclusions about the ability of radiofrequency exposures to cause cancer ( 41 ).

Why are the findings from different studies of cell phone use and cancer risk inconsistent?

A few studies have shown some evidence of statistical association of cell phone use and brain tumor risks in humans, but most studies have found no association. Reasons for these discrepancies include the following:

  • Recall bias , which can occur when data about prior habits and exposures are collected from study participants using questionnaires administered after diagnosis of a disease in some of the participants. Study participants who have brain tumors, for example, may remember their cell phone use differently from individuals without brain tumors.
  • Inaccurate reporting , which can happen when people say that something has happened more often or less often than it actually did. For example, people may not remember how much they used cell phones in a given time period.
  • Morbidity and mortality among study participants who have brain cancer. Gliomas are particularly difficult to study because of their high death rate and the short survival of people who develop these tumors. Patients who survive initial treatment are often impaired, which may affect their responses to questions.
  • Participation bias , which can happen when people who are diagnosed with brain tumors are more likely than healthy people (known as controls) to enroll in a research study.
  • Changing technology. Older studies evaluated radiofrequency radiation exposure from analog cell phones. Today, cell phones use digital technology, which operates at a different frequency and a lower power level than analog phones, and cellular technology continues to change ( 42 ). 
  • Exposure assessment limitations. Different studies measure exposure differently, which makes it difficult to compare the results of different studies ( 43 ). Investigations of sources and levels of exposure, particularly in children, are ongoing ( 44 ).
  • Insufficient follow-up of highly exposed populations. It may take a very long time to develop symptoms after exposure to radiofrequency radiation, and current studies may not yet have followed participants long enough.
  • Inadequate statistical power and methods to detect very small risks or risks that affect small subgroups of people specifically 
  • Chance as an explanation of apparent effects may not have been considered.

What are other possible health effects from cell phone use?

The most consistent health risk associated with cell phone use is distracted driving and vehicle accidents ( 45 , 46 ). Several other potential health effects have been reported with cell phone use. Neurologic effects are of particular concern in young persons. However, studies of memory, learning, and cognitive function have generally produced inconsistent results ( 47 – 50 ).

What have expert organizations said about the cancer risk from cell phone use?

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) , a component of the World Health Organization, appointed an expert working group to review all available evidence on the use of cell phones. The working group classified cell phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence from human studies, limited evidence from studies of radiofrequency radiation and cancer in rodents, and inconsistent evidence from mechanistic studies ( 11 ).

The working group indicated that, although the human studies were susceptible to bias, the findings could not be dismissed as reflecting bias alone, and that a causal interpretation could not be excluded. The working group noted that any interpretation of the evidence should also consider that the observed associations could reflect chance, bias, or confounding variables rather than an underlying causal effect. In addition, the working group stated that the investigation of brain cancer risk associated with cell phone use poses complex research challenges.

The American Cancer Society’s cell phones page states “It is not clear at this time that RF (radiofrequency) waves from cell phones cause dangerous health effects in people, but studies now being done should give a clearer picture of the possible health effects in the future.” 

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) states that the weight of the current scientific evidence has not conclusively linked cell phone use with any adverse health problems, but more research is needed.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that studies reporting biological changes associated with radiofrequency radiation have failed to be replicated and that the majority of human epidemiologic studies have failed to show a relationship between exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones and health problems. FDA, which originally nominated this exposure for review by the NTP in 1999, issued a statement on the draft NTP reports released in February 2018, saying “based on this current information, we believe the current safety limits for cell phones are acceptable for protecting the public health.” FDA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) share responsibility for regulating cell phone technologies.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that no scientific evidence definitively answers whether cell phone use causes cancer.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concludes that currently no scientific evidence establishes a definite link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.

In 2015, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks concluded that, overall, the epidemiologic studies on cell phone radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation exposure do not show an increased risk of brain tumors or of other cancers of the head and neck region ( 9 ). The committee also stated that epidemiologic studies do not indicate increased risk for other malignant diseases, including childhood cancer ( 9 ).

What studies of cell phone health effects are under way?

A large prospective cohort study of cell phone use and its possible long-term health effects was launched in Europe in March 2010. This study, known as Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (or COSMOS ), has enrolled approximately 290,000 cell phone users aged 18 years or older to date and will follow them for 20 to 30 years ( 51 , 52 ).

Participants in COSMOS completed a questionnaire about their health, lifestyle, and current and past cell phone use when they joined the study. This information will be supplemented with information from health records and cell phone records. Research updates are posted to the COSMOS website .

The challenge of this ambitious study is to continue following the participants for a range of health effects over many decades. Researchers will need to determine whether participants who leave the study are somehow different from those who remain throughout the follow-up period.

Although recall bias is minimized in studies such as COSMOS that link participants to their cell phone records, such studies face other problems. For example, it is impossible to know who is using the listed cell phone or whether that individual also places calls using other cell phones. To a lesser extent, it is not clear whether multiple users of a single phone, for example family members who may share a device, will be represented on a single phone company account. Additionally, for many long-term cohort studies, participation tends to decline over time.

Has radiofrequency radiation from cell phone use been associated with cancer risk in children?

There are theoretical considerations as to why the potential health effects of cell phone use should be investigated separately in children. Their nervous systems are still developing and, therefore, more vulnerable to factors that may cause cancer. Their heads are smaller than those of adults and consequently have a greater proportional exposure to radiation emitted by cell phones. And, children have the potential of accumulating more years of cell phone exposure than adults.

Thus far, the data from studies of children with cancer do not suggest that children are at increased risk of developing cancer from cell phone use. The first published analysis came from a large case–control study called CEFALO, which was conducted in Europe. The study included 352 children who were diagnosed with brain tumors between 2004 and 2008 at the ages of 7 to 19 years. They were matched by age, sex, and geographical region with 646 young people randomly selected from population registries. Researchers did not find an association between cell phone use and brain tumor risk by amount of use or by the location of the tumor ( 28 ).

The largest case–control study among children, a 14-country study known as MOBI-Kids , included 899 young people ages 10 to 24 years who were diagnosed with brain tumors between 2010 and 2015. They were matched by sex, age, and region with 1,910 young people who were undergoing surgery for appendicitis. Researchers found no evidence of an association between wireless phone use and brain tumors in young people ( 29 ).

Which US federal agencies have a role in evaluating the effects of or regulating cell phones?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), conducts research on cell phone use and the risks of cancer and other diseases.

FDA and FCC share regulatory responsibilities for cell phones. FDA is responsible for testing and evaluating electronic product radiation and providing information for the public about the radiofrequency energy emitted by cell phones. FCC sets limits on the emissions of radiofrequency energy by cell phones and similar wireless products.

Where can I find more information about radiofrequency radiation from my cell phone?

The dose of the energy that people absorb from any source of radiation is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight ( 53 ). The SAR decreases very quickly as the distance to the exposure source increases. For cell phone users who hold their phones next to their head during voice calls, the highest exposure is to the brain, acoustic nerve, salivary gland, and thyroid.

The FCC provides information about the SAR of cell phones produced and marketed within the previous 1 to 2 years. Consumers can access this information using the phone’s FCC ID number, which is usually located on the case of the phone, and the FCC’s ID search form . SARs for older phones can be found by checking the phone settings or by contacting the manufacturer.

What can cell phone users do to reduce their exposure to radiofrequency radiation?

FDA has suggested some steps that concerned cell phone users can take to reduce their exposure to radiofrequency radiation ( 54 ):

  • Reserve the use of cell phones for shorter conversations or for times when a landline phone is not available.
  • Use a device with hands-free technology, such as wired headsets, which place more distance between the phone and the head of the user.

Use of wired or wireless headsets reduces the amount of radiofrequency radiation exposure to the head because the phone is not placed against the head ( 55 ). Exposures decline dramatically when cell phones are used hands-free.

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Bans may help protect classroom focus, but districts need to stay mindful of students’ sense of connection, experts say

Students around the world are being separated from their phones.

In 2020, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 77 percent of U.S. schools had moved to prohibit cellphones for nonacademic purposes. In September 2018, French lawmakers outlawed cellphone use for schoolchildren under the age of 15. In China, phones were banned country-wide for schoolchildren last year.

Supporters of these initiatives have cited links between smartphone use and bullying and social isolation and the need to keep students focused on schoolwork.

77% Of U.S. schools moved to ban cellphones for nonacademic purposes as of 2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

But some Harvard experts say instructors and administrators should consider learning how to teach with tech instead of against it, in part because so many students are still coping with academic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic. At home, many young people were free to choose how and when to use their phones during learning hours. Now, they face a school environment seeking to take away their main source of connection.

“Returning back to in-person, I think it was hard to break the habit,” said Victor Pereira, a lecturer on education and co-chair of the Teaching and Teaching Leadership Program at the Graduate School of Education.

Through their students, he and others with experience both in the classroom and in clinical settings have seen interactions with technology blossom into important social connections that defy a one-size-fits-all mindset. “Schools have been coming back, trying to figure out, how do we readjust our expectations?” Pereira added.

It’s a hard question, especially in the face of research suggesting that the mere presence of a smartphone can undercut learning .

Michael Rich , an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that phones and school don’t mix: Students can’t meaningfully absorb information while also texting, scrolling, or watching YouTube videos.

“The human brain is incapable of thinking more than one thing at a time,” he said. “And so what we think of as multitasking is actually rapid-switch-tasking. And the problem with that is that switch-tasking may cover a lot of ground in terms of different subjects, but it doesn’t go deeply into any of them.”

Pereira’s approach is to step back — and to ask whether a student who can’t resist the phone is a signal that the teacher needs to work harder on making a connection. “Two things I try to share with my new teachers are, one, why is that student on the phone? What’s triggering getting on your cell phone versus jumping into our class discussion, or whatever it may be? And then that leads to the second part, which is essentially classroom management.

“Design better learning activities, design learning activities where you consider how all of your students might want to engage and what their interests are,” he said. He added that allowing phones to be accessible can enrich lessons and provide opportunities to use technology for school-related purposes.

Mesfin Awoke Bekalu, a research scientist in the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Chan School, argues that more flexible classroom policies can create opportunities for teaching tech-literacy and self-regulation.

“There is a huge, growing body of literature showing that social media platforms are particularly helpful for people who need resources or who need support of some kind, beyond their proximate environment,” he said. A study he co-authored by Rachel McCloud and Vish Viswanath for the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness shows that this is especially true for marginalized groups such as students of color and LGBTQ students. But the findings do not support a free-rein policy, Bekalu stressed.

In the end, Rich, who noted the particular challenges faced by his patients with attention-deficit disorders and other neurological conditions, favors a classroom-by-classroom strategy. “It can be managed in a very local way,” he said, adding: “It’s important for parents, teachers, and the kids to remember what they are doing at any point in time and focus on that. It’s really only in mono-tasking that we do very well at things.”

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