Donders Wonders Blog

Maybe don’t keep your mobile phone in your pocket

Scientists don’t agree on whether cell phone radiation is safe for our health. If you’re concerned, here’s how to reduce your exposure to this type of radiation when using your phone.?

This post is also available in Dutch.

Scientists don’t agree on whether cell phone radiation is safe for our health. If you’re concerned, here’s how to reduce your exposure to this type of radiation when using your phone.

You may have heard that mobile phone radiation can lead to health problems, perhaps something to do with male fertility. But it’s not a topic that’s discussed often, and not many people seem worried about it. After all, it’s completely normal to carry your phone in your pocket.

Is cell phone radiation actually a problem?

“Maybe”, according to science. There are organizations, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the USA, responsible for determining safe levels of cell phone radiation. The FCC established the current safe amounts of mobile phone radiation exposure back in 1996. In 2013, they re-evaluated their guidelines based on the wealth of new evidence available and concluded that the old standards were still safe.

However, scientists don’t agree on what “safe” amounts of radiation exposure are. Some studies fail to find any adverse effects of phone radiation, while others do. Back in 2009, a scientific review concluded that the maximum acceptable exposure limit should be lowered for cell phones. Multiple research studies, summarized in this review, show that cell phone radiation is associated with oxidative stress, DNA damage, male infertility, and possibly cancer (although this last one is controversial). At the present moment, scientists are not sure whether cell phone radiation is bad for our health, and the discussion is ongoing.

What to do?

After seeing such mixed results, you may want to expose yourself to less cell phone radiation. In case you are interested, here are a few ways in which you can reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation.

Dr Devra Lee Davis highlights several simple steps to limit any damage caused by cell phone radiation.

Since the closer you are to your phone, the more radiation you get, you should aim to increase the distance between you and your phone. To do this, you can use speakerphone or you can plug in a headset with a microphone when you’re on a call.

If you are in an area with diminished cell reception, your phone will send out more microwaves. At those times, you may want to keep your phone further from your body.

Even if you’re not actively using your phone, it still emits microwaves, so you may prefer not to keep your phone in your pocket. While walking or traveling, you can keep it in your purse, briefcase, or backpack. When you’re sitting at your desk at work or on your couch at home, you can place your phone somewhere out of arm’s reach such as on top of a shelf. (This has the added benefit that you won’t end up mindlessly spending time on your phone just because it’s right next to you.)

Finally, if you use your phone as an alarm clock and place it on your nightstand while you sleep, you can put it on airplane mode. This will ensure that you don’t get radiation throughout the night. In fact, it may be worth buying a separate alarm clock. Having your phone next to your bed tempts you to switch off airplane mode and immediately check email, messages, and social media, which is linked to reduced productivity and increased stress.

It may be good for us to use our cell phones in a more moderate manner. Then we can still enjoy the convenience and benefits they bring but also (literally) take some distance from them to protect our health and perhaps engage with our “real” life a bit more fully.

Written by Marisha and edited by Christienne and Monica.

Featured image by Max Pixel

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