Mobile Phone Health Scare: The Whole Story
There is no doubt that mobile phones have become an integral part of today’s society, with their abilities to surf the web, email, hold complete music libraries and much more. However these devices that we carry around with us all day and night may cause more harm than we would have imagined.
The cancer research department of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released a report that stated mobile phone users may have a higher risk of brain cancer and should begin using hands-free devices and texting to reduce exposure to the radio frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by the devices.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that an excessive amount of mobile phone usage could lead to Glioma, which is a malignant form of brain cancer.
The experts “reached this classification based on a review of the human evidence coming from epidemiological studies that showed there were increased incidences of Glioma” said Jonathan Samet, president of the work group.
The report found that children might be at most of a risk at developing the form of cancer, because they will have a much longer exposure to mobile phone technology.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, in 2008 there were approximately 21.26 million mobile phones registered in Australia. A growth of 7.6% from the previous year was said to have been brought on by a significant increase in 3G mobile phone customers.
All mobile phone manufacturers must now comply with the international regulations set forth by the WHO, by giving an exact measurement of the maximum specific absorption rate (SAR) of each mobile phone they produce.
SAR is a unit of measurement for the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone. It is determined at the highest certified power level in laboratory conditions. However, the actual SAR level of the phone while operating can be well below this value.
Apple has released an ‘Important Product Information Guide’ for its iPhone 4 line, which states that they only follow the regulations set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States.
It includes precautionary suggestions on how to properly use one’s iPhone 4, by including statements such as “When on a call using the built-in audio receiver in iPhone, hold iPhone with the dock connector pointed down toward your shoulder to increase separation from the antenna.”
The report also states “the SAR limit applicable to iPhone set by the FCC is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg), 1.6 W/kg by Industry Canada, and 2.0 W/ kg by the Council of the European Union.”
Below is a table outlining some of Australia’s most popular phones at the moment:
|Manufacturer/Model Number||FCC SAR Rating (1.6W/kg)||EU SAR Rating (2.0 W/kg)|
|Apple iPhone 4 (16GB)||1.05 W/kg||1.17 W/kg|
|Samsung Galaxy S II||0.96 W/kg||0.338 W/kg|
|Sony Ericsson Xperia Play||0.300 W/kg||0.360 W/kg|
|BlackBerry Touch 9800||0.91 W/kg||0.86 W/kg|
|Google Nexus S||0.75 W/kg||1.25 W/kg|
Michael Milligan, the secretary-general of the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, has explained that although it is possible for customers to compare phones, it’s not a complete picture of which phone is healthier than another.
There are currently 5.3 billion mobile phones registered worldwide and this number, along with the average time spent using mobiles, has been rising.
Professor Bruce Armstrong from the University of Sydney went on to explain the findings of the WHO’s report, “Really, what it’s saying is there is an observed association between using mobile phones and a higher risk of brain cancer.”
“A very important observation, really, just based on the technology, is that the 3G phones in fact give a much lower dose to the brain than the previous generations.”
Many people already have some form of hands-free mobile device, including car kits, simple headphones and/or wireless headsets. Experts suggested more people begin to use these products, if they are worried about their health and the apparent risk of cancer.
Dr Charles Teo, founder of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, who has in the past spoken out publicly about the dangers of mobile phone use, said that, although no new evidence had been published, the IARC's conclusions drew on the “known medical literature” and could not be ignored.
“There is an increasing body of evidence that there is an association between brain tumours and mobile phones,” said Dr Teo.
However Australian Health and Bioengineering experts have recently come out and rebuked Dr Teo’s views on the link between mobile phones and cancer.
Professor Rodney Croft an executive director of the Australian Centre for Radio Frequency Bioeffects Research (ACRBR) has warned of “gimmicks” becoming prevalent in the Australian market because of the findings of the report by the WHO.
Croft said that Two’s views “do not appear to be consistent with the current state of science”.
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