Can radiation from mobiles cause cancer?

Given that the nervous systems of children are still developing, they are more vulnerable to factors causing cancer because kids nowadays, use mobiles extensively
Last Updated 29 January 2019, 00:30 IST

Technology can be both a boon and a bane — and in the case of palm-sized gadgets that every other person owns today, it certainly seems to have become the latter.

With the number of people owning a mobile phone around the world expected to increase to about 67% by end of 2019, there will evidently be a further increase in the amount of time they spend on this device.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), mobile phones give out radio-frequency electromagnetic fields which could possibly be carcinogenic in nature. This non-ionising radiation can be absorbed by the tissues nearest to where the phone is held.

A potential area of concern is the increasing usage of mobile phones among children. Given that their nervous systems are still developing, they are more vulnerable to factors causing
cancer. Their smaller heads also make them more vulnerable to greater proportional exposure of the radio-frequency radiation emitted. The fact that they are still growing means the more the usage, the greater the exposure over time.

The radiation that is absorbed into one’s head while using a mobile phone is calculated by a unit known as the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) – higher the SAR, greater the radiation absorption. Estimates indicate that the SAR value in India is 1.6 watt per kg in one gram of
tissue. However, a low SAR does not assure good health.

Although there is no conclusive scientific evidence about an increased risk of cancer due to cell phones, it is advisable to take certain precautions and limit the exposure.

» The electromagnetic field becomes weaker with distance and thus phones should be held away from the body to the extent possible.

» Avoid pressing the phone handset against your head and keep it as far away
from the brain as possible: for example, use a wired headset.

» Another point to consider is limiting the length of calls. Try to use text messages instead or the phone on speaker mode.

» The transmission power of a phone increases when the radio signal is weak and therefore, it is better to find a strong signal and avoid movement.

» Avoid using a mobile phone while wearing metal-framed glasses or when your hair is wet. This is because both metal and water are good conductors of radio waves.

» Allow the call to connect before putting the handset on your ear – a mobile phone first makes the communication at higher power and then reduces power to an adequate level. More power is radiated while a call is connecting. When a mobile phone is on, it automatically transmits at high power every 1 to 2 minutes to check (poll) the network.

» Check the SAR value of the mobile phone while you purchase one. This can be searched on internet, if the model number and the make is known. Dial *#07# to know the SAR value.

» Make sure to close additional transmissions in the phone like WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS or Data connections when not needed to lower exposure to radiation. Additional connections dramatically increase device radiation emissions.

India has adopted one of the most stringent electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure norms in the world. EMF exposure limit (Base Station Emissions) is lowered to 1/10th of the existing
ICNIRP exposure level effective from September 1, 2012.

On a personal level, individuals must adopt these precautions to ensure better health.

(Published 29 January 2019, 00:25 IST)

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