This question is still being argued by some of the greatest scientists. It is under this scrutiny due to the lack of substantial evidence to support either side. Mobiles have not been in use for long enough for anyone to be able to ascertain the long term effects of cell phones.
Is there a risk?
The main worry surrounding mobile phones is that the non-ionising radiation that they emit may be damaging some of the tissues in the human body.
Indirect ways that mobile phone may put a person a risk such as driving accidents in which a driver has been on the phone whilst driving and has been distracted from the road. Another way that mobiles may put a person at risk is when people (especially women, young people and the elderly) are mugged for their mobile phones. Young people owning a mobile phone also run the risk of people ill-treatment their number with abusive texts. Even those who do not own mobile phones may suffer from it, as “happy slapping” has become popular among the younger generations. These risks, however, pale in comparison to the possible risks that mobile phones may be inflicting upon our bodies whenever we make a phone call.
What is radiation?
Radiation is energy that is transmitted in the form of waves, physically through particles (such as Infra red) or through rays (like visible light).
The radiation I am referring to in this report is a kind that travels through rays. Mobile phones use radio waves to communicate with mobile phone masts during calls and in occasional short bursts to keep in contact with the masts.
The reason I mentioned earlier that the phones give out radio waves which, as you can see in the diagram on the page before, is a kind of non-ionising radiation. I would like to highlight the fact that it is ionising radiation (which phones have not, to my knowledge, been recorded to release) that modifies cells, whilst the non-ionising radiation that mobile phones release has only ever been documented to produce a mild warming effect. The radio waves it gives out are not unlike the ones emitted by your television.
All things considered, no one is sure if there is a real risk. One website (mobileshop.org) said: “If you do the maths, it works out that using a mobile phone is probably putting about the same power into your head as a TV transmitter a few miles away. It is hard to prove a negative, but there is no good evidence to suggest that either source of radio signal is a risk to health.” (This website was, however, a phone website, so it is very probable that it is biased. They are attempting to convince the reader that there is no risk, if they said that there WAS a risk then it is unlikely that they would sell any products. They do, however, have numbers that support this quote.) The website says that mobile phones use similar radio frequencies to televisions.
Mobileshop.org also tells us that the maximum power used by a mobile phone is around 2 watts, but that this is only for short amounts of time, like when you make a call. They say that the maximum average power is around 0.25 watts. A microwave oven uses about 10 watts, and a television transmitter uses a phenomenal 2 million watts. A microwave oven may be giving out that 10 watts for one or two minutes as you cook your food, and you are shielded from this radiation by the metal grid you will see on the glass screen. This radiation is at a frequency that will allow it to heat water, fats, and oils quickly. Television transmitters are on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are producing large amounts of radiation, which the government appreciates is, or at least may be, a significant risk. They have made it a legal requirement for companies to ask for planning permission for any masts that are below 15 metres tall. If they didn’t think it was a risk, then why would they be trying to stop people getting within 15 metres of these masts?
The ALARA principle
Putting these laws into place to protect people from getting this exposure is implementing what is called the ALARA principle. ALARA stands for As Low As is Reasonably Achievable. ALARA means, in this instance, that the government are trying to minimise the risk to the general public from damage by the masts just in case there is a risk. In other words, it is more or less the “better safe than sorry” principle.
The ALARA principle is implemented in use in many places, such as hospitals. People who will be exposed to x-rays a lot (such as people who work in a hospitals x-ray department or in a veterinary surgery) are legally required to wear badges that monitor radiation dosage in the working day. This prevents them from absorbing large amounts of ionising radiation without being detected. They may also go behind lead screens to prevent the x-rays from hitting them when a patient is x-rayed.
How do we use ALARA to minimise the potential risks from mobile phones?
This does not necessarily mean that you may not use mobile phones at all. It simply means that you should limit your exposure to the radiation. There are several ways that you can reduce the possible risk posed by the harmful radiation emitted by the phones. These methods include:
* Keeping the phone away from your head whilst in a call-using a hands free kit, Bluetooth device or even by using the loud speaker.
* Limiting call time
* Using land lines for long calls, as we are sure that they do not emit any harmful radiation.
* Using text messaging instead of calls. Although radiation would still be inflicted upon your hands it is preferable to it being absorbed by your brain.
Who is most at risk?
Most experts agree that it is children and young adults that are the most at risk to any possible long term side effects that the phone’s emissions may cause. This is largely due to the fact that their bodies (and their immune systems) are still developing, and that their skulls are much thinner, and therefore offer less protection from the rays.
Unfortunately more and more children and (most specifically) teenagers own phones and so more and more of them are at risk of long term damage. Worryingly, phones have become a status symbol and a fashion accessory among young people, and so they are carrying them around all of the time. I guarantee that if you walk into any collage, university or secondary school classroom at least five or six phones could be dug out of school bags.
The age at which young people are acquiring phones is becoming lower and lower as phone prices get lower and average family income becomes higher. People can now afford a mobile phone for every family member…According to the table above; this includes over 1 in 10 seven year olds too.
In conclusion to this essay I would like you to decide if you think that you would carry on using your mobile phones, knowing that you are increasing your risk every time you press the green call button that one day you will get cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or severe memory loss. Is it really worth the risk?