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October 29, 2017

Essays for Competitive Exams : Harmful Effects of Mobile Phones

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The Harmful Effects of Mobile Phones

Main Points to Highlight : Mobile phones today have come under the category of necessary items rather than luxury. These have made lift simpler with a person being in touch always. They have come to represent your personality and the younger generation's life revolves around the use of these wonder gadgets. Though technology has changed the way we view mobile phones, we cannot ignore the fact that the radiations emittedfrom mobile phones are a matter ofdeep concern. With more and more people claiming to have contracted diseases resulting from mobile phone radiations, it has become important that we take a look at the reality. This essay tries to do exactly that.

Mobile phones have come a long way from the brick sized, extremely expensive gadgets seen in some exclusive people's hands only. Today, various types of mobile phones are available that can be used to represent not only the person but also reflect the user's personality. Children, teenagers, adults or the elderly — there is hardly anybody who has not been touched by this wonder gadget. Everyone knows how to use it and a lot of people are using it to express their views. Increasingly being considered as an object of necessity, the mobile phone today has more takers than it can handle. 

In 1993, when the world was just getting used to the idea of everyone having their own mobile handset, the suit filed by a man claiming that his wife had contracted brain tumor because of the use of mobile phones, shocked everyone. The case was reported in Florida and it sent all the scientists in a flurry to study and prove the authenticity of the claim. It was after these studies were undertaken that it was realized that yes, mobile phone radiations could be harmful for humans.

Mobile telephony has two main aspects — the base tower and the mobile handset itself. The working of the mobile phone depends on communication between the base tower and the handset and the means of this communication is radiation. Let us take a brief look at how a mobile phone and a base interact in order to work.

A base station has a tower mounted on a building. This tower is generally placed at heights between 15 and 30 metres. All the towers are equipped with three-directional antennae separated by 120 degrees. The instrument room, located at the base of the tower, is used as a home for low power radio transmitters and receivers. Generally, a base station has more than one transmitter, depending upon the number of mobile users in that particular geographical area. The combined output from these transmitters is fed to the antennae. This combined output can be as high as 20 to 40 watts of Radio Frequency (RF) power. 

Though, the radiations from a base station are quite high, they do not effect the public in general. These radiations would effect those people, who are living directly in the path of the radiation beam. 

The mobile phone also works with the help of a radio transmitter and an antenna located inside the handset. The transmitter in the mobile handset generates only one to two watts of RF frequency. This radiation is generally absorbed by the brain as the mobile phone is held close to the head. 

The main concern raised by scientists all over the world was that the use of mobile phones causes an increase in the incidence of cancer. Studies were conducted all over the world to prove this and a lot of other things were also discovered, The side effects of exposure to high levels of radiation can be categorized under different heads to understand their cause and effect relationship. 

The first such category is that of Thermal Effects. The International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an independent science organization, states that when the human body absorbs the energy from radiation, it results in a rise in tissue temperature. Generally, human tissues are capable of distributing this temperature to avoid any harm. But when this temperature increases beyond a degree or two (Celsius), then the problems start. The tissue is unable to distribute the heat resulting in tissue damage. The brain is able to scatter the additional temperature by increasing local blood flow, however the eyes are unable to do so. This has resulted in eye lens opacity. This was proved in the case of rabbits and also human volunteers. But the same condition was not proved in the case of monkeys. Other thermal effects included penetration of the blood-brain barrier, reduced sperm production and disturbed neuromuscular functions. 

Another study published in 2006 completed by 3 scientists in Sweden confirmed that long term use of mobile phones (more than ten years) increased the risk of malignant brain tumors. In the same study, the scientists also mentioned that this conclusion needed to be studied further as the research had too short a latency period. 

A journal published in 2007 on Mobile phone use and risk of glioma is 5 North European countries put everyone in doubt. This particular research combined the results from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Southeast England. This study looked at reasonably large group of people of 2,530 glioma patients and 6,581 controls. The study was not very clear on its conclusion that glioma was actually caused by use of mobile phones. This was very surprising after their extremely confident claim in 2006 that this was the reason. 

In 2007, REFLEX conducted a study to test for genotoxic effects in human cells that are exposed to radio frequency levels between 0.3 and 2 watt/kg. This study showed that increased exposure to these frequencies caused an increase in single and double strand DNA breaks. Even choromosomal aberrations were observed in fibroblasts. Apart from this, intracellular increase of free radicals in HL-60 cells was also observed. 

In 2006, a Danish study was conducted to see if the use of mobile phones actually increased the incidence of cancer in users. The study was conducted on more than 4,00,000 Danish citizens. They were monitored for 20 years and showed no increased risk of cancer. In spite of this, some people consider this report to be inconclusive. 

The largest study conducted to find a connection between cancer and use of mobile phones was called the INTERPHONE. This study was conducted across 13 nations. Even this study did not find any connection between long term use of mobile phones and an increase in the incidence of cancer.

After this study, the International Journal of Epidemiology published its data after studying a sample of population gathered from multiple nations. The study said that there is no evidence of increase in the incidence of cancer with the use of mobile phones. The study also said that the study was distracted with bias and errors and the results needed to be investigated further for the study to be totally conclusive. Other scientists have added that since the usage pattern of mobile phones has changed with frequency and duration of calls increasing as well as number of mobiles increasing, it is important to undertake a research that would be current and would study the effects of the mobile phone usage. 

Keeping in mind this uncertainty about effects of exposure of mobile radiation, a lot of countries have placed ceilings on the levels of exposures. The United States of America and Canada have set the levels at 1.6 W/kg and Europe at 2 W/kg. 

To conclude, one can say that though studies conducted all around the world to prove that the incidence of cancer increases with the use of mobile phones have either been unable to provide any conclusive proof or have published their results as inconclusive, one cannot ignore the fact that exposure to radiation from mobile phones can cause problems like opacity of eye lens, sperm count reduction and changes in DNA structure to cause birth defects and mutations. Though, even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has established that the use of mobile phones does not increase the incidence of cancer in humans, countries have established laws that would limit the exposure of radiation for the benefit of its population.
shared by Suresh Kumar
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