Mobile phones – are they toxic?

(and 11 tips to reduce the risk if they are)

A friend recently told me she was “detoxing” from her mobile phone. She described the huge stress caused when her iphone was kaput, thwarting her orientation via Google maps and forcing a manual search through an olde worlde street directory. It placed her world into a spin. She had become so accustomed, and perhaps addicted, to the convenience her phone provides, that she went into an “iphone withdrawal”.

The conversation prompted me to question, if mobile phones really are toxic to us and if so, do we need to detox from them?

The Australian Government’s Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s website states:

“There is no clear evidence in the existing scientific literature that the use of mobile telephones poses a long-term public health hazard (although the possibility of a small risk cannot be ruled out).”

Research to support health hazards for mobile phone use is fairly unclear and inconsistent (at time of writing). Certainly the internet is full of ill health claims of varying reliability. I really can’t ascertain if the popping corn through the radiation of 3 mobile phones is true or not. Though brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo recommends exercising caution with their use.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) cite numerous, recent studies that show that long term use of mobile phones, of 10 years or more, definitely increases the risk of various diseases. Two types of brain cancers, glioma and acoustic neuroma, have an increased risk between 50-90%, salivary gland tumours a 50-60% increased risk, 80% greater risk of behavioural problems in children exposed to mobile use in utero and after birth and greater incidence of migraines and vertigo in mobile phone users. Additionally, EWG claims there is sufficient evidence that high doses of radiofrequency radiation can damage delicate tissue, such as those found in the eyeballs and testicles.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 5 billion people had mobile phone subscriptions in 2010, almost double the number of subscriptions than in 2004. This is staggering growth. With a market this enormous, there’s a very powerful economic incentive to overshadow any concerns about any health risks associated with exposure to the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.

Radio-Frequency Radiation

Mobile phones communicate through Radio-Frequency Radiation (RFR), one spectrum of electromagnetic radiation field, which is also used for television and radio. The RFR used for mobile phone communication is non-ionising. This form of radiation doesn’t emit enough energy to actually break electrons off molecules or atoms. So while RFR can interact with body tissue, it is suggested that there is no adverse reaction or health effect from them. On the other hand, X-rays and Gamma rays, both forms of ionising-radiation, have sufficient energy to move electrons from a molecule or atom and break chemical bonds, thus damaging tissue.

RFR do effect living tissue.

Mobile phone radiation is heating, increasing the temperature by around 0.03 to 0.1 degrees Celsius. This small temperature shift can affect delicate tissues and can be felt by sensitive people, myself included. They also create enough electrical current to generate sparks, which is why one can’t use them when getting off planes or filling up with petrol. The electrical impulses are sufficient to create changes in the action potentials in the nervous system. Changes in brain activity, evidenced through changes in reaction time and sleep disturbance have been acknowledged by ITU.

Given that our nervous system operates via sophisticated electrochemical symphonies, this is hardly surprising. In addition to the temperature and electrical effects, overwhelm caused by too much information or communication can induce the stress response, which creates all manner of physiological change, including a drop in immune function.

The ITU website provided statistics on a subpopulation who self-reported experiencing “Electromagnetic Sensitivity”. The figures they provided were 3.2 % of Californians, 4% of people in the UK, 8-10% of Germans and 5% of Swiss people are in some way sensitive to exposure to electromagnetic fields. These folk could well be the “canaries of the goldmine”, or the sensitive ones alert others of dangers, in terms of electromagnetic radiation adverse effects.

The most potent radiating portions of a mobile phone is the antenna, and also the transmitter towers or base stations that provide the range.

ITU actually recommends building base stations far away from schools and hospitals. The intensity of radiation is very high close to the base. Levels of radiation emitted from antennas vary considerably. When the range for the phone is low, the antenna emits more radiation to pick up the signal. The radiation is higher when you talk than when you listen. It is much higher making a call than sending a text.

In terms of environmental toxicity, the levels of electronic wastes from disused downgrades are ominous. Additionally, the mining of precious metals like palladium and tantalum also creates concern. From a cultural perspective, a 2007 study by Pew Research Centre suggests that mobile phone pose a threat to local cultures and economies.

Ask yourself if it’s really necessary to upgrade your phone every year or two?

Mobile phones create political, social, cultural, environmental, interpersonal and economic phenomena. They are unquestionably technological marvels, incredibly useful communication and navigation tools that help us through contemporary life. New trends suggest mobiles will soon overtake computers as our major access to the internet. How amazing that we have developed such a strong reliance and dependence upon a gadget in such a short period of time.

The damaging effects of mobile phones on human health will continue to unfold. While direct evidence of their toxicity remains clouded, it is wise use common sense and minimise any potential damage by practicing the precautionary principle.

Tips to reduce potential harm from mobile phones:

  1. Keep your mobile away from your body
  2. Use a hands free device when talking
  3. Make shorter calls
  4. Listen more, talk less
  5. Text more, call less
  6. Avoid calls when range is low
  7. Have regular breaks from your phone
  8. Use each mobile for as long as possible, then recycle it
  9. Meet in person
  10. Support your nervous system with nourishing foods and actions
  11. Choose a lower emitting phone. See for mobile phone radiation analysis

This is one element of Sparkle Detox Course – a step-by-step, effective and safe, body tissue cleansing process designed by Naturopath Sally Mathrick. If you haven’t already, join Sparkle Detox. You’ll have life-time access to wholistic, doable, ‘delicious-with-benefits’ practices to keep your precious body-mind healthy, fresh and vital. JOIN NOW

Copyright Sally Mathrick – please cite if using this information
Written Dec 2010 and previously published in Wellbeing Australia issue #132