|Year : 2017 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 70-72
Mobile communication: Boon or bane? Possible dangers of mobile phone usage
Jitendra Kumar Meena, Mahendra Singh Rathore
Department of Community Medicine, Geetanjali Medical College and Hospital, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
|Date of Web Publication||31-Mar-2017|
Jitendra Kumar Meena
Geetanjali Medical College and Hospital, Udaipur, Rajasthan
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
The ever-increasing use of radio devices (mobile phones) has led to widespread concerns among consumers, operators, and governmental authorities regarding environmental and health risks of their use. Various studies have demonstrated the relationship of radiowave exposure with biological effects in the body ranging from molecular to organ scale damage. However, most of them considerably failed to establish a causal association primarily owing to potential biases and errors in their conduct and analysis. Mobile usage also has both social and environmental impacts which have prompted the public health agencies to enforce certain regulations which however remain controversial due to lack of credible research evidence. In such scenario, it is recommended that mobile exposure should be minimized, especially among vulnerable populations. In addition, unbiased high-quality research is needed so as to bring more clarity to the subject and guide governmental policy and regulations.
Keywords: Cellphone, cancer, environmental, health dangers, mobile, radiofrequency
|How to cite this article:|
Meena JK, Rathore MS. Mobile communication: Boon or bane? Possible dangers of mobile phone usage. J Clin Prev Cardiol 2017;6:70-2
| Introduction|| |
Today, quintessentially every living being is exposed to electromagnetic waves, particularly radio waves. The exposure is constant and round the clock (chronic) and affects all the age groups and strata of the human population. The ubiquitous use of radio devices (mobile phones) has led to widespread awareness and debate among consumers, mobile operators, national associations, and governmental authorities regarding physical risks of their use. Mobile radio waves (radio frequency [RF]) are low-intensity electromagnetic waves which are emitted from the antennas on signal base stations and also the mobile handsets in variable intensities. Physiologists have demonstrated various effects of such exposure on human beings with a continuing series of experiments. The rate at which RF emitted from mobile phones is absorbed by the human body is measured as specific absorption rate (SAR) with its maximum limit being 1.6–2 W/kg averaged for 1 g tissue. It has been demonstrated that chronic exposures above the recommended SAR levels may have both thermal and nonthermal effects on the body, especially in the “near field” of the radiation.
Despite tremendous research, the controversy regarding health implications of mobile phone usage is still persisting and it is a major challenge for the policymakers. Major areas of concern are the likely increase in the incidence of various cancers, adverse pregnancy outcomes, ocular pathologies, and subjective disorders such as a headache, sleep disturbance, and neurobehavioral dysfunctions. Although in principle, precautionary strategy is advocated by most public health agencies, this article attempts to independently review the possible dangers of excessive mobile phone usage and proposes fact-based recommendations for its use.
| Literature Review|| |
Although scientific literature is limited and often contradicts disease association with RF exposures, it is prudent to consider the possibility of any such dangers. In the wake of such confusion, it is wiser to practice caution by minimizing RF exposure to vulnerable groups: Children and pregnant mothers. Risk attribution through past studies has been inconclusive, but developing tissues are usually considered to be prone to biological changes due to unnatural exposures, be it RF.
| Physical Dangers|| |
Various studies have accounted the dose–response relationship of radio wave exposure with biological effects in the body. The most established effect is heating of cells and tissues from continued RF exposure which might have certain benign or adverse biologic effects. In simple terms, higher frequency and call duration along with persistent use of mobile phones in work and leisure are significantly associated with disease pathogenesis. Inhabitants living close to a mobile phone base stations have been studied and found to be at an increased risk for developing neuro-psycho-behavioral problems (a headache, memory changes, dizziness, tremors, depressive symptoms, sleep disturbances, and poor performance).
The sensitivity to thermal effects from RF exposure varies for different tissues and cells. The central nervous system, testis, and lens of the eye are found to be particularly sensitive to heat-induced damage. Due to near-field effects and chronic screen use, various ocular pathologies occur among the users, for example, premature cataract, blurred vision, sore eyes, dry eye, and itching. As we squint to read these miniature mobile screens, our facial, neck, and shoulder muscles tighten, eyes become fatigued, and vision can be blurred or strained. This series of symptoms has been described as computer vision syndrome.
Not only ocular but also ear and throat-related problems are frequent among the chronic users. Most of the biological effects occur in the ear pinna, internal ear, and local head surface leading to ear (earache, tinnitus, burning sensation, hearing loss, and acoustic neuroma) and throat (throat ache, vocal nodules, neckache, upper respiratory infection, and even local neoplasms) side effects. A particularly significant public concern appears to be that RF exposure might be associated with the occurrence of rare malignant diseases such as brain cancers and leukemia. However, available literature argues that induction of such tumors takes decades of tumorigenic exposures in susceptible populations and therefore cannot be decisively associated without time-bound follow-up. Adverse effects of RF exposure on nascent and rapidly multiplying cells have been researched with conclusive, however, indefinitive results for the causation of spontaneous abortion and infertility.
Studies have shown a higher likelihood of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as aches, tingling, and numbness of hand, wrist, forearm, arm, and neck, owing to the prolonged use of mobile phones. Activities such as sustained gripping and repetitive movements have all been identified as risk factors for MSDs in handheld devices. Radio frequency exposures can also interfere with implanted medical devices, such as cardiac pacemakers, with an indirect effect on the body.
Additionallyy, the lithium ion batteries commonly used in the mobile phones also pose health and environmental hazards. Lithium-powered cellular phones are susceptible to overheating and destruction from inadequate heat dissipation during thermal runaway. This process can even be initiated by local short-circuiting from direct contact with a low-resistance conductor such as keys or coins.
It has been established that phone conversations by drivers of moving vehicles increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents. A survey by National Institute for Research on Transport and Safety on the effects of phone usage while driving suggested proneness to accidents due to factors such as increased reaction time, inattention to traffic signals, reduced vehicular speed, trajectory deviation, and gaze fixation. Misleading marketing of hands-free devices claiming to avert such dangers has led to their increased use, but reviews suggest that talking on the phone, regardless of phone type, has similar negative impacts on driver's performance, especially in detecting and identifying vital events.
| Social Dangers|| |
What started out as a means of telecommunication has become a symbol of status and a new-age addiction. The mobile phone has invaded our daily lives by profoundly altering our social interactions, affecting our social bonds. Cell phones act like impulse pacifiers and provide false being of satisfaction leading to their constant abuse causing new age cellphone addiction. The cell and text addiction feed the misplaced sense of self importance, making the young sychophantic susceptible to nongainful unintelligent chatter. This meaningless chatter is time-consuming and can displace activities of greater personal value. Major social impacts of mobile usage are class symbolism, unavailability, loneliness, fickle relationships, public nuisance, selfie addiction, cyberbullying, compulsive disorders, nomophobia, inattention, approximeeting, etc.
| Environmental Dangers|| |
Increasing mobile phone usage is straining recyclable capacities which inconsequently lead to inadequate disposal of untreated waste in the environment by the producer, consumer, and recycler. This grave challenge has been reviewed in a study where waste plastic housing units of mobile phones (of different models and brands) were collected. The analysis revealed presence of elements like lead, cadmium, nickel, and silver, suggesting immediate danger from such plastic waste if not appropriately treated/managed. The large quantities of such waste and poor waste management practices in developing nations, such as open burning, are deeply concerning due to adverse implications such as toxicity to humans and the ecology.
| Conclusion|| |
The rapid increase in mobile phone usage has generated concerns about the possible health risks from this technology. The controversy surrounding the current scientific literature and the uncontrollable character of the risks linked to the low-intensity, electromagnetic waves instill much fear and and debate. Also it shifts the focus from other issues such as those related to socio-behavioral hazards and those emanating due to mobile phone usage while driving. Currently, there is insufficient evidence and lack of consistent data in favor of a causal relationship between low-intensity RF radiation and short-term adverse biological effects. However, a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences recommends that this issue needs to be further studied, especially in light of the increasing usage of mobile phones by children. The excessive use of mobile technology presents not only biological risk but also challenges to the human social and environmental health on a wider scale.
The ever-increasing number of subscribers demands proliferation of relay antennas and the need to enforce regulations. However, in the absence of conclusive literature, such regulations remain unscientific and inadequate. Some of the measures adopted are not only unfounded but also dangerous: The restriction on the number of antennas, for example, leads to increasing the transmission power of mobile phones. The majority of concerns regarding biological effects of mobile usage concentrate on the likelihood of cancers. Literature review indicates that the current evidence for a causal association between cancer and exposure to mobile radiation is weak and unconvincing. In addition, economic concerns loom large due to suspected dangers of mobile technology and possible restrictions which may be implemented by governments. Market-based approaches to overcome these obstacles may not be sufficient to reach all segments of the population and may leave those already experiencing health and economic disparities even more disadvantaged.
The mobile phone is an excellent communication device and its dangers are usually evident only if it is used for a prolonged time. In the absence of credible evidence and to minimize public exposure by “prudent avoidance,” controlled use of mobile technology is advisable. Usage must especially be restricted for young children and pregnant women and alternative use of hands-free earsets or Bluetooth devices is recommended. However, care should be taken that these devices are not used while driving or in public places. Minimal use should be practiced by keeping frequency and duration of calls short. Limiting exposure to a mobile phone before and during sleep has been proven to improve its duration and quality. Mobile usage etiquettes and instructions should be widely practiced in public places, aircraft, and gas/petrol outlets. In the events of glaring media attention to frequent explosions and fire caused due to mobile phones, it is highly recommended that safe cell phone battery practices including avoiding overcharging and direct skin exposure to minimize thermal injury risk should be adopted. Like the other technological advancements, mobile systems are rapidly advancing. Therefore, it is highly anticipated that high-quality research, media, and the internet serve as the platform for updating public knowledge to allay concerns in a responsible manner.
The authors acknowledge the help received from the scholars whose articles are cited and included in references of this manuscript.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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