Cell phones have become a necessity in the daily lives of people all over the world. Since the 1980s and 1990s when cell phones began emerging, their popularity has only grown over time. In today’s society, it is hard to find someone who does not own some type of cell phone. However, cell phones could actually be doing great harm to the human body. A 2016 study conducted by the National Toxicology Program observes the various effects of cell phone radiation on rats and mice (Melnick 2018). Although cell phones were becoming increasingly popular throughout the 1990s, people were unaware of the possible health effects caused by this cell phone usage. Cell phones emit radiofrequency radiation (RFR) when being used, so the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health chose the NTP to conduct this study in order to discover the effects of this radiation (Melnick 2018). The amount of this radiation is not intense; however, there were thoughts that this radiation could cause tumors and cancer. The NTP study was conducted to test the hypothesis that cell phone radiation at nonthermal exposure intensities will not cause negative health effects (Melnick 2018). This study provides consumers with insight into the possible harms and effects of daily cell phone usage.
The NTP study was conducted by exposing rats and mice to cellphone RFR (Melnick 2018). The animals were placed in reverberation chambers in order to be individually exposed to the radiation, where scientists would observe the absorbed dose and tissue uniformity (Melnick 2018). These subjects were exposed to 900 and 1900 MHz frequencies of radiation in order to stimulate cell phone usage (Melnick 2018). The study was then conducted in four different phases. In the first phase, equipment was gathered and prepared in order to test the rats and mice (Melnick 2018). In the second phase, a thermal pilot study was conducted, where the animals were exposed to modulated cell phone RFR in order to determine its effects on body temperature, body weight, and survival (Melnick 2018). In the third phase, a perinatal toxicity study was conducted in order to determine the appropriate radiation levels for each species and sex (Melnick 2018). In the fourth phase, a chronic study was conducted to determine the chronic effects of cell phone RFR. The subjects were exposed for a daily total of nine hours for approximately two years (Melnick 2018).
The results from the thermal pilot and prechronic studies showed that rats could tolerate daily exposures of up to six W/kg without significant effects, and mice could tolerate up to ten W/kg (Melnick 2018). However, the findings of this study focus on two organs where tumors increased in exposed rats: malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas in the heart (Melnick 2018). These tumors were likely the result of exposure to cell phone RFR (Melnick 2018). There was also reported damage to DNA strands found in the brains of exposed rats and mice (Melnick 2018). The hypothesis was disproved, showing that at nonthermal temperatures, cell phone RFR can have negative health effects (Melnick 2018).
Although there was an increase in tumors in the tested rats and mice, it is unlikely that cell phone radiation has the same effects on the human body. Due to the difference in size, it is likely that this radiation had more drastic effects on rats and mice than it would on the human body (Melnick 2018). The exposure levels in this study were also much higher and much longer than actual human exposure limits (Melnick 2018). Typically, cell phone usage would not result in the equivalent amount of radiation that these rats and mice were exposed to. These two issues with the study make it difficult to determine if cell phone RFR has the same effects on the human body that it has on rats and mice.
There is also a possibility that cell phone radiation may have an effect on the auditory system. As someone is making a phone call, their ear is being exposed to cell phone radiation. This became a growing concern, so studies were conducted in order to determine the different effects of cell phone radiation on the auditory system (Dabholkar et al. 2016). However, the studies that were conducted did not show uniformity in their data, making it difficult to determine the true effects of this radiation on the auditory system (Dabholkar et al. 2016).
While there was growing concern over the potential long-term effects of cell phone radiation, it is likely that daily cell phone usage will not cause drastic health issues in humans. However, in order to better understand potential risks of cell phone RFR, more studies could be conducted that are more accurate to humans rather than using rats and mice. Scientists could study a group of daily cell phone users and see what the short-term and long-term effects on their bodies are. They could also study a control group that is not exposed to cell phone radiation in order to compare results. While it would be unethical to put humans in chambers and expose them to different levels of radiation, by observing average cell phone users, scientists can observe the true effects of this radiation on the body.
Dabholkar YG, Pusalkar AG, Velankar HK. 2016. Effects of cell phone EMF radiations on the
auditory system- a review. International Journal of Health Sciences and Research. [accessed 2020 Aug 31]. 6(1):506-515. https://www.ijhsr.org/IJHSR_Vol.6_Issue.1_Jan2016/70.pdf.
Melnick R. 2018. Commentary on the utility of the National Toxicology Program study on cell
phone radiofrequency` radiation date for assessing human health risks despite unfounded criticisms aimed at minimizing the findings of adverse health effects. Environmental Research. [accessed 2020 Aug 19]. 168:1-6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118304973?via%3Dihub. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2018.09.010.
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