Cell phones emit radiation-technically known as low-level radio-frequency (RF) radiation-which is close to the frequency of microwaves. Although it's not the same type of radiation found at nuclear power plants, it can disrupt normal cell activity. You wouldn't stick your head in a microwave oven, but millions of people place their RF transmitters right next to their brain, often for hours at a time.
Is there a danger? The research linking cell phone use to brain cancer has been conflicting, but in 2011 the World Health Organization declared cell phone radiation to be a potential carcinogen. While the final word is still out on cancer risk, studies have shown changes in brain activity and brain glucose levels after someone holds a cell phone against their ear.
In fact, several studies have found that excessive cell phone use may disrupt sleep, cause headaches, and result in depression. The same may also be true of tablets that emit RF radiation. Furthermore, the younger you are, the greater the likely effect on the brain and other tissues, so children are especially at risk.
"We are bioelectric creatures," says Shannon Kennedy, PhD, chief executive officer of Pong Research, based in Leesburg, Va. After all, our hearts and brains run on electrical impulses. "When people use cell phones, they're bringing in an outside source of electrical signals. In today's world, people are being bombarded with electrical fields," says Kennedy.
So with cell phones now such a big part of most people's lives, how you do minimize any potential risk from the radiation they emit? Here are 12 tips for using your phone safely.
1.Buy a phone that emits less radiation. The average signal strength varies among various cell phone models, and you can find a list of how phones rank at reviews.cnet.com. With new phone models being introduced monthly, however, you may want to Google "cell phone radiation" for the latest results.
2.Keep your calls short and infrequent. Limiting your talking time isn't as difficult as it sounds. Today's cell phones are basically pocket-sized computers that make telephone calls. You can simply text or email instead of calling. Just don't rest your phone on your groin-some evidence suggests that cell phones could affect fertility.
3.Use your earbuds. Most cell phones now come with earbuds and a microphone-and they're not just useful for listening to your music. Quality earbuds that feature a built-in microphone can actually improve the audio quality of your phone conversations, sometimes achieving almost studio-like clarity. If you're expecting to be on the phone for more than a minute or two, use your ear buds.
4.Forget about Bluetooth.Bluetooth devices emit far less radiation than a cell phone does, but they still emit RF signals-and people tend to wear these ear pieces for much, much longer periods of time.
5.Use the speaker.Another option is to tap your phone's speaker button. This lets you keep the phone at a distance. The strength of your phone's RF signal drops off rapidly, becoming almost inconsequential after just a few inches or so.
6.Watch out for weak signals. Cell phone screens indicate both the life of the battery and the strength of the signal from the nearest tower. And while most of us keep an eye on that battery light, it's also worth paying attention to the signal strength. When the tower's signal is weak, your phone will automatically emit more RF radiation to communicate with the tower. It's better to wait until you have a stronger signal to make your call.
7.Don't keep your phone in your pocket. If cell phone signals affect the brain, they likely affect other tissues as well, so try to keep your phone in an outer coat pocket or purse. If you must keep your phone in a pants or shirt pocket, make sure the antenna (typically on the back of the phone) faces away from your body.
8.Use a holster and belt clip.Holsters and belt clips keep your cell phone away from soft tissues, and your pelvic bone serves as an effective barrier to RF radiation. Just be sure you position the phone to your side, away from your groin. Again, make sure the antenna, typically on the back of a phone, faces away from you.
9.Don't sleep with the phone near your head. In other words, don't put the phone underneath your pillow or on your night stand, where you'll be exposed to RF for eight hours each night. Instead, leave your phone at least five feet away.
10.Use a protective phone case. Pong Research has developed unique, patented technology that significantly reduces a phone user's exposure to RF radiation. Each sleek case contains rectangular copper loops and a printed circuit board that redirects RF signals away from the phone and may boost performance in the process. The company (pongresearch.com) makes these cases for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry.
11.Take your antioxidants. Some vitamins, such as C and E, are known to protect against cell damage from various radiation sources. So if you're not already taking supplements, now might be a good time to start.
12.Give yourself a break.You don't have to be talking and texting all the time. Give yourself an occasional break and turn your phone off. And of course, walk and drive safely, obey all traffic laws, turn off your phone in theaters, and don't use your phone simply because you're bored. Read a book or magazine instead.