We live in the wired age. Walk down any street in any city in developed nations and you will see more people looking at or talking into a device than not. The majority of people between the ages of eight and eighty own a mobile device that they use on a regular basis.
This high degree of connectivity and accessibility has revolutionized the world. The ability to connect with almost anyone, at anytime, and have access to vast amounts of information is infinitely valuable. We are the instant generation, able to share whatever we want across the world in a matter of nanoseconds. Cell phones have changed the way we work, bank, travel, share and live our lives.
But this type of connectivity, when combined with corporate attachment to profits over people, comes at a high cost. The technology we use to create our phones and transmit between them creates some toxic effects, for our bodies and our ecosystems.
While some health and governmental organizations are already taking steps to warn people about safe cell phone usage, many people remain uninformed about the potential danger. If you are using a cell phone frequently, especially if you hold the phone close to your head or your child, you may be doing more harm than good.
How Cell Phones Are Toxic for Your Body
Cell phones pose health risks to the human body in two key ways. First, the phones contain toxic minerals and chemicals such as lead, mercury, bromine, and chlorine. You might not ever come into contact with the insides of your phone, but if it is ever damaged you can become contaminated with those toxins. And those elements have toxic effects and sometimes cause conflict in the other parts of a cell phone’s lifecycle: mining, production, and disposal.
But of more immediate concern to most cell phone users is the toxic poisoning that can happen while using cell phones and other electronic devices. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and wifi routers create an electromagnetic field that affects several systems in the body in detrimental and potentially devastating ways.
Cell phones are basically high-powered microwave transmitters, a kind of small microwave radio. The put out a pulsing signal to connect with a cell phone tower or wifi router. This pulse is indiscriminate, going out in every direction. Like a radio wave that is always pulsing through the air, received by any nearby radio that is tuned into that channel. Our bodies, organisms guided by electrical pulses sent by the brain and nervous tissue, pick up the pulsing put out by cell phones and other devices and it interferes with our functioning.
While the low-level pulsing radiation from cell phones is not as detrimental as that from x-rays, it can still cause considerable damage in the long term. Among its many effects, this low-level radiation alters the ability of cells to synthesize proteins from amino acids, interfering with energy metabolism, cellular reproduction, and organ functioning. Short term effects of electromagnetic poisoning include fatigue, insomnia, nausea, foggy thinking and poor short term memory, anxiety, depression, heartbeat irregularities, chronic pain, and disorders of the skin, eyes, and ears.
The cumulative affect of integrated doses can lead to biological damage, and can be devastating to the brain, nervous system, reproductive system, and immune system. Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) damage DNA and cause mutations in its structure, which is a precursor to the development of cancer.
Studies in the effects of EMFs have revealed that people have up to triple the risk of developing brain tumors when they use cell phones for 10 years or more. There is also an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease. And male fertility drops with increased cell phone usage, especially when the cell phone is worn in a pants pocket. In an Israeli study it was determined that people who use cell phones for more than 22 hours per month are significantly more likely to develop salivary gland cancers. Other studies have indicated that cell phone exposure is linked to increased risk of eye cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and leukemia. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that EMF exposure is a possible cause of cancer.
You might be wondering why you are not being warned by the cell phone companies about the danger of their products. Actually, you probably are. Cell phones come with instruction manuals that use vague terminology to warn consumers to keep the phones away from their bodies when the phones are in use. But these warnings are in very small print, and usually do not list the potential ramifications of using the phones for extended periods of time or in close proximity to the head or body. Most consumers do not even bother to look at the instruction manuals that come with electronic devices, let alone read the very fine print. But governmental agencies are slowly beginning to acknowledge the ramifications of EMF exposure, and public service announcements are starting to go out all over the world.. Sweden’s health care system recognizes electromagnetic hypersensitivity is now a legitimate disability.
How Cell Phones Are Toxic for Other People and the Planet
In addition to the personal health ramifications of EMF exposure, cell phone use can be damaging to your neighbors and our planet. Cell phone transmission towers emit even higher doses of EMFs to the surrounding areas. One long-term study found that people who live within 400 meters of a tower for 10 years had triple the likelihood of developing cancer as people living further away.
As mentioned previously, the components of the phones are toxic to the people who mine the raw materials and assemble the phones. The mining of tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold required to manufacture cell phones has contributed to brutal exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other developing nations where such elements are found. Mining operations for gold, cadmium, nickel, and the other base minerals devastate watersheds, causing intense poisoning of the soil and water of entire regions and leaving millions of people without safe water globally.
During manufacture, workers are exposed to bromine, chlorine, flame retardants, PVC, mercury, and the neurotoxic industrial glass cleaner n-hexane. This exposure leads to reproductive harm and birth defects, cognitive impairment and brain tumors, organ damage, and cancer.
Then once the phones live out their two to five year life cycles, most of them become toxic waste. Several hundred million cell phones are discarded every year. Less than 10 percent are responsibly recycled. Many end up in local landfills by default. Others are “recycled” by being shipped to India, Pakistan, China, Ghana, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries with lax recycling regulation. When these old phones end up in landfills, the minerals and chemicals contaminate the nearby soil and leach into groundwater, eventually poisoning the plants, food, animals, and people. If they are burned the toxins destroy air quality and cause asthma and lung cancers.
Using Cell Phones Safely
Chances are high that if you are reading this article you own a cell phone. In most professions and walks of life it is almost impossible to get by without mobile communications access. With the way our world is set up, experiencing some of the negative effects of EMFs may be unavoidable. But the danger can be mitigated.
Distance plays a huge part in cell phone toxic damage. For each millimeter of space between the body and phone, there is a 15 percent reduction in the amount of radiation absorbed. Get a wired headset or air tube, and be vigilant about using it for every call. Steer clear of bluetooth headsets, as those transmit and receive EMFs right by your brain. Keep your phone in a purse or approved carrier, and as far away from your body as possible when using it. Keeping the phone six to seven inches away is preferred, though one inch is a minimal safe distance for most phones. Do not keep your phone in your pocket, as the symmetrical nature of the antenna means that you will receive more condensed radiation from having the unit enclosed that close to your body.
Limit your data usage, as scrolling through endless social media posts is still a form of radio transmission with the phone close to your face. And avoid using your phone when the signal is weak, as having just one or two bars of signal means the phone is using more power to send and receive the transmission, and your EMF exposure is increased by up to 1000 percent.
Do not sleep with your phone turned on. If you must use it as an alarm clock, be sure it is set to “airplane” mode and at least a foot away from your body and head. It is also a good idea to stay away from screens for at least two hours before bed, anyway, as the blue light electronic screens emit interferes with melatonin production and can cause serious sleep disturbances. And turn off the wifi router in your house at night, as they are like miniature cell phone towers and emit more EMFs than your sleeping body wants to receive.
Next, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as “away” when it comes to cell phone disposal. Throwing an old phone “away” means poisoning the soil, water, and air, in a developing county if not your own local watershed. The only way to ensure that your old cell phone or other electronic device is responsibly recycled is to send it to an e-Stewards certified recycler.
Cell phones have become ubiquitous in modern cultures. We use them for everything from emergency response and conducting business to watching cat videos. But the very fact that they are everywhere is part of what makes them so dangerous. Despite their positive impact on our ability to communicate, cell phone usage is seriously detrimental to health of users and the planet. To minimize the personal and collective negative effects of cell phones, be prudent about your use, keep active phones away from your head and body and the heads and bodies of children, and dispose of your old electronic devices in truly responsible ways. And consider the ways you can connect with other people and life directly, reviving the old ways of in-person communication that allows us to remember what it means to be living, breathing humans in real time.