A caveat for mobile phone users…

Critics have always denigrated mobile phones. Despite all their blitzkrieg, the Cell-phone industry survived, multiplying profits by the day. Today the industry is at the tipping point of its fame. India, a late entrant to catch the cell phone buzz, today clocks 250 million-odd subscribers with 8 million joining the bandwagon every month. At this rate of growth coupled with rock-bottom tariffs, an average Indian would talk about ten to twelve hours a week by a rule of thumb. The proliferation is such that you’re a problem to others if you don’t own a cell phone, today! I personally know people who spend a minimum of two hours on the phone every day. But is all the long-calling, good for you? Not exactly! Read on to find out why…

Image Courtesy: http://www.designofsignage.com/

The most attributed health hazard with cell phones, probably would be the radiations emitted by them. This radiation is essentially a low frequency radiation emanated when the cell phone interacts with its BTS(Base Transmitting Station). High frequency radiations in UV-rays, gamma rays et al, actually cause cancer when applied in high doses. But the effect of the low-frequency radiation remains vague till date. This radiation is not strong enough to disrupt brain cells and thus induce brain cancer; but repeated use of cell phones for over ten years can double the risk! Not to mention a quadrupled chance to procure ear-cancer. Experts now stake a claim for another accrued radiation risk. Long term exposure could possibly stress cells, releasing DNA-damaging free radicals and stress proteins that could migrate though brain cells and cause large scale degenration. Haven’t you felt that quick headache, fatigue or even lack of sleep after fifteen minutes into your mobile? You’re not alone!

And there’s enough evidence to ensconce many of these facts. A thirteen-country WHO committee, ‘Interphone‘ discovered a crucial link between excessive cellular phone usage and various Brain Tumors at regions near the ear. Prolonged usage in one ear could cause ear damage and deafness, proves a research by Dr. Naresh Panda of PostGraduate Institute of Education and Research, Chandigarh. The cellular-radiation activates the brain’s stress system, reduces sleep and causes headaches; says an article from the SleepZine(an online sleep magazine). A Fertility & Sterility Magazine study shows how cell phones affect male sterility. The adverse effect on Pregnant Women and children is more accepted in the world community these days; depicted by the recent DoT notification to avoid cellphone ads with Pregnant women and children.

Image Courtesy: http://www.thetechherald.com/

The perpetual cynic would lash back even at all the hard and fast data with home-grown cynicism. Say what you may, but this IS a serious issue. Let me elaborate a true incident. I know a buddy of dad’s who used to talk about 3-4 hours on his mobile even eight years back. He was a self-made man who ran a construction company, doing jobs for MNCs. As his clientรจle and responsibilities increased, his proximity with the mobile phone took a giant leap. Soon he started complaining of routine headaches. Dismissing them as part-of-the-job pressures, he lived with the mind-numbing pain for a couple of years. Until he called the spade a spade and visited a neurosurgeon only to confirm that it was brain tumor. After a couple of harrowing operations, the poor man breathed his last in late-2004. The doctors at NIMHANS, where he was treated did find a positive relationship between his tumor and mobile phone usage. Ever since his case has been quoted in various health magazines as a direct impact of excessive cellphone usage.

I have a cousin who works in the telecom industry and has to sit through hours of radiation. I’d like to quote him directly:

“As part of my work, I have to test the connectivity between two devices. We use large Base Station transmitters to test the link. The radiation is roughly of the standard GSM frequency. Often after hours of testing, my colleagues and I feel extremely saturated, with mind-numbing head-aches. Often, we’d have to shut down our systems, rest awhile and start again. The same problem has been reported amongst our co-workers in London. It’s been two years since I landed this job and I’m working in this environment. I must admit that I’ve problems with memory every since… I used to have a sharp memory at college and had all facts and figures in my fingertips. But these days, it’s tough to remember even mundane things. God alone knows if I’ve contracted Alchimers or not!”

That should sum things up!

The issue has been on the backburner for long, thanks to the Cell Phone operators lobby, who’ve pushed aside all possible health problems citing lack of proof. They are not entirely wrong. It takes 30 to 40 years to conclusively prove the harmful effects of mobile phones, if any.Nevertheless, it gained national importance when the Department of Telecommunications found that the radiation levels of certain BTS’s in Delhi were way above global benchmarks forcing them to start preventive action. Read this Economic times article to know more…

All said, prevention is certainly better than cure. We cannot wait forty years and evaluate the results! It might be too late, by then… But there’s no harm in imposing certain minor restriction on mobile-usage, just to be on the safer side. So here are some effective tips to minimize the risk:

  • Try to use landlines rather than mobiles.
  • DO NOT talk 1-2 minutes in a mobile phone at a stretch. If the situation demands long minutes, DON’T stick your phone to one ear and switch it to the other ear.
  • Buy a wireless/wired headset and try to use it more often.
  • Use SMS. It’s cheap and sans radiation.
  • Check out the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) value of your phone if you’re buying a new one. SAR is a measurement standard for radiation exposure. Most branded phones have low SAR values of less than 1 W/kg. The US imposes a restriction of 2.0 SAR while EU delimits SAR at 1.6 W/kg. The lower SAR, the better.
  • Avoid sleeping with your phone! Alright, you might miss a few midnight-calls from your girlfriend/boyfriend, but health comes first. Ask your bf/gf to cut down, not just on night-calls but phone calls altogether. If you people are m
    iles apart and desperately want to talk, use Y! Messenger or Skype. These VoIP services are virtually free, mind you!
  • Try to live as far off from a mobile phone tower. A distance of more than 5.0 km is ideal.
  • If the signal is weak at your area, switch to an operator that provides more coverage or avoid using mobile phones when at home. Low signal means more radiation!
  • And lastly, NEVER allow kids less than eight years of age and pregnant women to use mobile phones.

[Update: Dr Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said his warning to thousands of members of staff was based on early, unpublished data, about the possible risk of brain cancer, in a press release on the 24th July. To quote him:

“I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use.”

The University of Pittsburgh cancer center also acknowledged serious issues with children who frequent mobile phones.
Source: Media]

The last ink drop:
I know I’d said ‘good bye’ in the previous post, but well… when I saw this article in the India Today, I couldn’t resist writing about it. Anyways, pray for me, dear readers. I’ll be back with a bang on the 14th. Promise! Hope you liked this post.:-)

Categorized as Technology

By hari

A twenty-something support engineer, web developer, blogger and journalist who makes the web a better place for a living, at Automattic. Immensely passionate about WordPress! Also loves books, music, movies, and drinking hot cups of coffee on rainy evenings. Dreams of writing a book, someday.


  1. Nice research, but WHY SHOULD I CARE is the question you should have addressed rather than putting up all the medical facts of the matter!

    I’d say ask some 10 ppl to read this and then check if they DO change their mobile talking style! Then post a review on that!

    Try it and then see if THAT’s EFFECTIVE

  2. err….


    I agree with ur suggestions…It’s the right’est’ no?

    now that there’s a chance on extra tax for GSM to build a CDMA network very strong in India, I have nothing to say either…

    neways bro…be back on 14th…ciao

  3. @ Abhi:
    Erm… yeah! You’ve addressed a moot point there. But I think you should care because all these medical facts are for real; and so are the risks! I dunno about 10 people but learning about the risks at least made me cut down on my cellphone usage… ๐Ÿ™‚

    @ continualtimeshift:
    Heh. That’s one cool way to write a non-committal comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. hey nice info.. yea it came in the papers too somewat recently.. many scientists working on wireless and mobile technology try as much as poss o avoid mobiles.. does this mean they know something we dont? yea it probably means they know hoe damaging it is..

    i dint know mob usage was enough to onset pain immediately!.. but yea i knew long term exposure is really bad..

    well wat to do.. hmm thanx for the pointers too.. but then all these are possible if ure in a room or at ur home or in front of a comp terminal.. otherwise for truly ‘mobile’ usage, a mobile is the only one of its kind :-)..

  5. @ hari vishnu:
    Seriously… Actually, I wrote this post after a rather LONG chat with my cousin (the guy in question). The testimony is a real thing! Ask anyone working with wireless systems, even in your university. The dangers are real, and they’re here to stay!

    You have a point there, but there’s no harm trying, is there? ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hari–Stop scaring me!!! I use my cell phone a lot.
    If i get a tumour because of that I hope the death is as quick and as painless as sending an SMS. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Well, the post is in reality the best on this worthy topic. I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your coming updates. Saying thanks will not just be enough, for the great lucidity in your writing. I will right away grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Genuine work and much success in your business enterprise!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.