Technology Radiation: Is It Harmful To Be Near Your Phone

Are phones our silent foes? Latest research says our smartphones may have a bigger effect than we think. Explore the impact of phone radiation and tips to reduce the exposure.

By URLife Team
06 Oct 2023

Today  it's hard to imagine life without our smartphones. These pocket-sized marvels have seamlessly woven themselves into the fabric of our daily existence, becoming an integral part of our lives. They are no longer just devices; they are companions, organisers, entertainers, and a gateway to the vast world of information at our fingertips.


Currently, the number of smartphone users worldwide is approximately 6.4 billion, and is forecast to exceed 7.7 billion by 2028. In many parts of the world, these handheld devices have become extensions of our minds and bodies, always within arm's reach. The smartphone's omnipresence is undeniable, but this constant companionship raises questions about the effects of their radiation on our well-being. Do these devices possess hidden risks? Can the radiation emitted by our smartphones be harmful to our health?


The widespread use of smartphones means that a significant portion of the global population is exposed to their radiation regularly. Many individuals, including children and teenagers, use smartphones for hours each day. According to Joel Moskowitz, the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley, the Internet of Things (IoT) will require expanding today’s 4G technology with 5G technology, thus “massively increasing” the general population’s exposure to radiation. Prolonged and continuous exposure to phone radiation raises concerns about cumulative effects over time, especially as people are now starting to use smartphones at a much younger age. Providing accurate information about phone radiation empowers consumers to make informed decisions about their device usage.


Let's take a look at the impact of radiation emitted by smartphones, its potential health implications, and the measures individuals can take to make informed choices about their phone usage.


Sources of Phone Radiation

The science behind phone radiation involves understanding the electromagnetic spectrum, the specific frequencies used in wireless communication, and the measurement of radiation levels. Phone radiation emanates from various sources associated with mobile phones and wireless communication technologies.


Here are the primary sources of phone radiation:

1. Cellular signals

When you make or receive calls, your phone connects to the nearest cellular tower using radiofrequency (RF) signals. These signals transmit data to and from your device, resulting in exposure to RF radiation.


2. Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi technology enables wireless internet access. Wi-Fi routers emit RF radiation to establish a connection with your phone or other devices, allowing data transfer and internet access.


3. Bluetooth

Bluetooth technology enables wireless communication between devices, such as headphones, speakers, and smartwatches. While Bluetooth radiation is generally low-power, it still contributes to overall exposure.


4. GPS (Global Positioning System)

GPS is widely used for location-based services and navigation. Your phone communicates with satellites to determine your precise location, which involves the transmission and reception of radio signals.


5. Near-field communication (NFC)

NFC allows short-range wireless communication between devices, often used for contactless payments and data transfer. It emits RF radiation during data exchange.


6. Mobile data transmission

When you use mobile data for internet access or apps, your phone communicates with cellular towers, transmitting and receiving data wirelessly, leading to exposure to RF radiation.


7. Infrared radiation (IR)

Some older phones and devices use IR for data transfer and remote control functions. Although less common today, IR radiation is still a source of electromagnetic radiation.


8. Wireless charging

Wireless charging technology, while convenient, involves the use of electromagnetic fields to transfer energy from the charging pad to your phone, emitting low levels of radiation.


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Is radiation from smartphones harmful?

The majority of studies and expert assessments have not provided conclusive evidence that the RF radiation emitted by smartphones is harmful to human health when used within established safety guidelines. RF radiation is considered non-ionizing, meaning it lacks the energy to ionise atoms or molecules, which is characteristic of ionising radiation that can harm cells and DNA.


Cell phones emit radiation within the radiofrequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Second-, third-, and fourth-generation cell phones, often referred to as 2G, 3G, and 4G, emit radiofrequency radiation within a frequency range of 0.7 to 2.7 GHz (gigahertz). However, with the presence of fifth-generation (5G) cell phones, there is an anticipation of utilising a broader frequency spectrum, potentially extending up to 80 GHz. Recently, the French regulatory authorities have banned the usage of Apple’s iPhone 12 as The National Frequency Agency conducted tests on 141 cell phones, including the iPhone 12. The findings revealed that when the iPhone 12 is held in a hand or carried in a pocket, it registers an electromagnetic energy absorption level of 5.74 watts per kilogram. This measurement exceeds the European Union's standard of 4 watts per kilogram. However, it's important to note that the phone passed a separate test for radiation levels when stored in a jacket or bag.


According to the agency, during phone calls, the device transmits data only approximately half of the time, specifically when the user is speaking. Additionally, it's noteworthy that phone calls seldom extend beyond six minutes in duration. The agency also reported that for activities such as mobile internet browsing or video usage, the phone "seldomly transmits more than 10% of the time."


The potential health concerns associated with phone radiation, specifically radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted by mobile phones, have been a subject of scientific research and debate. 

1. Radiation may cause cancer

In 2016, preliminary results from a two-year research study by the U.S. The National Toxicology Program issued in BioRxiv involved subjecting rats to the same radiofrequency radiation emitted by cell phones and comparing their health outcomes with a control group that was not exposed to such radiation. Notably, some of the rats exposed to this radiation developed cancerous tumours, suggesting a possible link between radiation exposure and an elevated cancer risk.


2. Exposure to radiation affects sleep

According to a 2020 study published in the Nature And Sleep of Science, excessive use of mobile phones before bedtime has been associated with sleep disturbances and reduced sleep quality. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt circadian rhythms and interfere with sleep patterns.


3. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS)

Some individuals report symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness when exposed to electromagnetic fields, including phone radiation. However, scientific studies have not consistently supported the existence of EHS as a medical condition.


4. Radiation can cause brain tumours

A 2018 study published in the National Centre for Health Research shed light on the fact that a child's brain can absorb 2-3 times more radiation than that of an adult. And kids who use cell phones before the age of 20 are at an even higher risk of developing brain tumours.


Related Post: Are You Addicted to Your Phone? Here’s How You Can Cut Screen Time


Tips for Reducing Radiation From  Smart Devices

Remember that while these tips can help reduce radiation exposure, the overall risk associated with mobile devices is considered low when used within established safety limits.


Reducing radiation exposure from smart devices, such as mobile phones and wireless routers, is a wise precautionary measure. While the scientific consensus suggests that such exposure within established safety limits is generally safe, here are some tips to minimise radiation exposure:

1. Use hands-free devices

Whenever possible, use speakerphone, Bluetooth earpieces, or wired headsets to keep your phone away from your head. These devices allow you to talk without holding the phone close to your ear.


2. Keep devices at a distance

Maintain some distance between your body and the device. For instance, use the speakerphone function or text instead of holding the phone directly to your ear.


3. Use aeroplane mode

When you don't need to be connected to a cellular network or Wi-Fi, switch your phone to aeroplane mode. In this mode, your phone does not transmit RF radiation.


4. Limit phone use by children

Encourage children to use mobile phones only when necessary, and consider limiting their screen time and exposure to wireless devices.


5. Reduce lengthy calls

Limit the duration of your phone calls. Lengthy conversations mean more exposure to radiation. Consider sending texts or emails for non-urgent communications.


6. Avoid carrying phones close to the body

Refrain from keeping your phone in your pocket, bra, or tucked into your clothing. Use a purse, bag, or belt holster instead.


7. Turn off wireless when not in use

When you're not actively using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or mobile data on your device, turn these functions off to reduce unnecessary radiation.


8. Use a wired internet connection

Whenever possible, use a wired Ethernet connection for internet access instead of relying solely on Wi-Fi.


9. Keep devices away from the bed

Avoid sleeping with your phone under your pillow or close to your head. Place it on a nightstand or farther away from your sleeping area.


10. Limit wireless device use in vehicles

Using wireless devices in a moving vehicle can result in higher radiation exposure as the devices work harder to maintain connections. Minimise non-essential device use while driving. 


In summary, differing opinions on phone radiation's impact range from those asserting minimal risk when safety guidelines are followed to those advocating for a precautionary approach due to uncertainties about long-term effects. While specific concerns have been raised, the consensus among many experts and regulatory bodies is that current evidence does not establish a definitive link between phone radiation and significant adverse health outcomes. Nevertheless, ongoing research is essential to continually assess and refine our understanding of this complex issue.



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