When it comes to cell phone radiation, I always have to think about the film ‘Thank you for smoking” with Aaron Eckhart about a tobacco lobyist who’s very good at words, and never seems to loose an argument. One of my favorite parts of that film, are the last couple of seconds, where he meets three representatives of the mobile phone industry, and tells them to practice these words in front of the mirror:

“Allthough we’re constantly exploring the subject, currently there is no direct evidence that links cell phone usage to brain cancer”.

That film came out 10 years ago and I knew when I heard those words, they would turn out to be prophetical. Now I’m not saying that phone usage is or will be causing brain cancer. It could be causing all kind of other stuff that isn’t supposed to happen. Think about it, the three places where we keep or use our mobile phone are in the direct vicinity of those organs we care most about:

  • Close to our brain, when talking
  • Close to our reproductive organs, in our pants
  • Close to our heart and lungs, in our jacket

The thing is, we don’t know YET what the consequences are of cell phone radiation, and this uncertainty is all the mobile phone industry needs to thrive, and so they will do everything in their power to keep this uncertainty going as long as possible. Just like the tobacco industry did with cigarettes. Just like the oil companies are doing with global warming.

Some studies about cell phone radiation and the brain

The WHO classifies the radiation from cell phones as a “possible carcinogen” because of increased brain cancer risk from heavy and long-term use. Although there are no studies linking short term usage to brain tumors, research is increasingly showing us that it alters brain activity in ways we haven’t yet fully understood.

Our brain cells communicate with each other through electrical impulses, which can be read using EEG measurements. A recent study by research scientists from Netherlands posted that the brain detects the radiation from a dialing cell phone that is placed on the ear. The scientists exposed healthy human females to a 3G cell phone for about 15 minutes and measured their EEG activity. An increase in the cortical reactivity was detected soon after the radiation peaks, which is usually produced during the normal process of dialing.

This is not the first study to record EEG changes due to acute exposure to mobile phone radiation. Another 2015 study conducted in France showed that the EEG pattern in the brain (alpha band) is affected by radiation from GSM mobile phones; a study conducted by scientists in Italy demonstrated cortical excitability induced by exposure to GSM cell phones for 45 minutes; an Australian study showed altered EEG activity due to RF radiation similar to the ones found in GSM phones. Another Australian study conducted in the year 2011 showed the effects of acute 3G exposure on our cognitive functions. A 2010 study published in the United States found that the pulsed radiations from ordinary cell phone use can trigger evoked potentials in the brain which can be detected using an EEG.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) imaging is another useful tool for studying the effect of mobile phone radiations on the human brain. They were deployed in a 2011 study conducted in the United States which demonstrated that cell phone use for 50 minutes changed the glucose metabolism in regions of the brain that were closer to the antenna of the phone. An early study conducted in Finland also demonstrated how cell phone radiation could induce a change in the cerebral blood flow.

All the evidence points to the fact the brain is extremely sensitive to cell phone radiation. The changes observed in the brain activity cannot just be explained by a heating effect due to the temperature rise that accompanies energy absorption. However, scientists have not been able to discover an underlying and unifying biological mechanism to explain all of the observed effects. They are also in the dark when it comes to the health consequences that can arise from repeated simulations. We are still a long way from understanding the exact mechanism as well as the long-term effects of cell phone radiation on human beings. The currently established safety standard does not factor in non-thermal effects, like the ones described in the studies mentioned above. As a consequence, there are no established safe levels when it comes to radiation exposure from mobile phones.

And not knowing is in no way a synonym for no danger. The best thing we can do right now is to take a more proactive stance to lower our exposure to cell phone radiation.

1. Avoid carrying the phone against your body or head at all times.
2. Maintain at least a distance of 10 mm between yourself and your phone.
3. If you need to make a call, use a wired headset or the speakerphone. Or even better, a landline.
4. Keep conversations short and sweet (10-15 minutes max)
5. Switch the sides of your head regularly during a call to reduce the exposure to radiation to just one side of the head.
6. Avoid using your mobile phone when there’s a weak signal or when moving at high speed, like in a train or car. In such cases, cell phones increase their power of transmission so that they can connect to a nearby cell tower. Not only does your battery drain faster, you also end up getting more cell phone radiation as a result.
7. For the same reasons as mentioned above, keep your mobile phone away from your body when dialing a number.
8. Never let a child use or even play with your mobile phone. A baby’s skull has between 1 and 2 mm thickness, while that of an adult varies between 5 and 8 mm. It’s only at early adolescence that their skull thickness is comparable to ours.
9. Pregnant women should not put their cell phone against their belly, as to avoid exposing the fetus to radiation.

Have you come across an interesting study on cell phone radiation and its effects on our brain or other organs? Don’t hesitate to share in the comment section below.