While there are no conclusive studies showing a link between cellphone use and cancer and many experts believe there is no link at all, the World Health Organisation suggested earlier this month that mobile use should be classified as “possibly carcinogenic” and further investigated.
In today’s connected world it’s not practical to suggest we do away with mobiles altogether, however if you’re concerned there are some commonsense steps you can take to reduce your exposure.
KEEP SOME DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU
Moving the phone just a centimetre away from your body can dramatically reduce radiation exposure. Signal strength has a “square relationship” with distance so when you double the distance of the cellphone from your body, the signal strength is four times less and if you triple the distance it’s nine times less and so on. You could also try and carry your phone in a bag or briefcase, rather than in your pocket.
LIMIT TALK TIME
Try and keep conversations short, or switch to a landline if you can. If you don’t need to physically speak to the other person consider texting, emailing or instant messaging them instead.
USE A HEADSET OR SPEAKERPHONE
Both these options will keep your phone away from your head. You may still be exposed to some radiation when using a headset, but it’s a lot – more than 90 per cent – less.
TURN IT OFF WHEN NOT IN USE
This may seem to defeat the purpose of having a cellphone but there are times when turning off your phone, or at least turning off the cellular radio by switching to flight mode, is not so inconvenient, such as when you’re asleep.
AVOID USING YOUR MOBILE WHEN SIGNAL IS WEAK
The further away you are from the cell tower, the harder your phone has to work to get a signal and the harder your phone has to work, the greater the radiation it emits.
KEEP STILL WHEN TALKING
If you’re moving from place to place the phone will have to work harder to ensure you keep your signal.
CHECK RADIATION RATINGS
Cellphone manufacturers are required to publish the specific absorption rates (SARs) of their phones – which indicate the amount of energy absorbed into tissue when held against the body. The maximum rate allowed is 2 watts per kilogram. Experts warn not to put too much weight on these ratings, as the way phones are tested may not reflect how they are used, but they at least give you some idea of a phone’s emissions.
WHAT IS CELLPHONE RADIATION?
Cellphones communicate using radio frequency signals, which can penetrate your body if the handset is held close. The amount of radiation emitted by cellphones differs from model to model, and depends on factors such as how hard the phone is working to find and keep a signal. The harder the phone is working the greater the radiation.
If cellphone use does pose a risk, many experts believe children will be especially vulnerable, given they are likely to begin using mobiles earlier and have smaller heads and thinner skulls than adults.
Some companies have manufactured shields that they claim will block or reduce radiation, but the United States’ consumer protection agency the Federal Trade Commission has found no evidence the shields perform as promised.
Israeli firm Tawkon has developed a smartphone app that claims to monitor cellphone radiation exposure and alert users when exposure is likely to be high. Tawkon says the app – which has not been independently verified – does this by measuring the ‘specific absorption rate’ (SAR) of the phone at any given time, taking into account factors such as the position and proximity of the phone to the body using GPS and data from the phone’s accelerometers.
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