Friday, 11 January 2013

Should we be concerned about the effects of mobile phones?

It has been suggested that mobile phones do fry your brains Numerous articles and studies have suggested that regular use of mobile telephones may be harmful to our health. It has even been suggested that mobiles fry our brains. Given that mobile telephone are becoming more and more prevalent, are being used by younger and younger children, and for many of us are our primary means of communication, it is important that we understand the effects of these devices on our brain functioning. It is also important that we do not make false assumptions about the erroneous effects of mobile phones.
The public concern about mobile phones is based on the fact that wireless phone signals cause electromagnetic fields from which radiation is emitted. The World Health Organisation has found that radiation is a possible human cancer-causing agent.
It is however difficult to measure to what extent radiation from mobile phones heats human brain tissue. A recent study by researchers from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Alcatel-Lucet Bell Laboratories in the US found that MRI scans can directly study how mobile phones heat the human brain. Research is in its early stages however and there are no conclusions as yet.

Research to date

Most current methods for estimating the effects of mobile phone radiation on the brain rely on computer simulations which model human brains. Sensors in these simulations (known as 'phantoms') measure a specific absorption rate, which is reported in mobile phone manuals.
Brain MRIResearch with phantoms suggests that heating from mobile phones is minimal. Professor Rodney Croft from the Australian Centre for RF Bioeffects Research reports that it is very, very small and is not likely to be large enough to cause an effect because it's many times lower than the brain and the body is used to dealing with.
However, measurements relying on these phantoms are only estimations of the amount of heat, as factors unique to each individual, including how close the phone is being held to the head, skull size and thickness, the amount of different types of tissue in the brain (grey and white matter), among other factors, can affect the degree to which the brain is heated by the radiation from the phone.
The MRI technique is likely to provide a much clearer measure of how much heat is produced by mobile phones in actual human brains. Professor Croft reassures us that the the level of heat produced is so small that even with this more accurate measure it is very unlikely that future research will reveal a significant negative effect of mobile phone usage on the human brain.
So currently there is no cause for concern that your mobile phone is 'frying your brain'. Stay tuned though as we report the details of future research in this area.

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