New Cell Phone Radiation Study: Should We Be Concerned?

cell phone radiation health risk

Smartphones have become such an integral part of not only our lives, but the lives of our children. We have become addicted to texting, chatting, and playing games on phones, increasing our exposure to radiation that’s harming our health. (And now, these phones are setting cars on fire.)

Cell phone radiation has been an ongoing topic for many years, and there have been multiple studies that have shown the impact it has on our health. According to the national institute of Cancer, there are three main reasons why phones have the potential to cause health problems, one of which is cancer:

  • Cell phones antennas release non-ionizing radiation, which are absorbed by the tissues nearest to the antenna.
  • The number of cell phone users has significantly increased at a fast rate. Currently, there are 224.4 million users in the U.S., (a 59.2 million increase since 2008). Globally, the amount of cell phone users has reached 4.61 billion (in 2008 the number was only 139.3 million).
  • Cell phone usage has also drastically increased, however technology hasn’t made much improvements in lower power outputs than earlier models.

Back in 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that radio-frequency radiation from cell phones may be cancerous, based on a few studies that discovered links to tumors in the brain and inner ear. This was controversial due to the fact that human studies have been irregular.

person thinking

(Image: iStock)

The strongest evidence that links cell phone radiation to cancer came from case-control experiments, which could have huge restrictions. Such studies compare the exposures of people who already have a disease to people without disease. However, those with brain tumors don’t necessarily remember the length of time they used their phones. If they accuse their phone use for causing cancer, there’s the possibility for them to exaggerate the amount of time they used their phones for. Consequently, the results can become quite bias.

This is why there was a more recent study done at the National Toxicology Program. This experiment showed an increase in tumors among rats exposed to a similar radio-frequency radiation that you would get from cell phones. (Note, there was also a control group of rats that were unexposed.) Rats are more ideal to study because they cannot speak nor can they remember the duration of radiation exposure, so researches don’t have to worry about recollection bias.

cell phone radiation study

Do we have to worry? We do, but there are a few things we have to think about before we start throwing out our phones.

  • Rats and humans don’t have identical physiologies, but biological discoveries in rats are related to health in humans.
  • The study showed that female rats did not develop tumors, only males did. Why is this so?
  • The rats who were not exposed to radiation had a shorter lifespan that those who were. Why did this happen?
  • The tumors that the rats developed were gliomas and schwannomas, which are rare among humans, so it can be a bit tricky when comparing those tumors to ones that are more common in humans.

Nonetheless, it’s important to take precautions by reducing your own exposure (and that of your children) by limiting the amount of time you and your family spends on devices. And don’t think you’re safer by having a cell phone case, according to this study, phone cases significantly increase the risk of radiation exposure.

(This article first appeared on EWG, Rethinking Cancer.)