It's a concept that many accept as a myth time and time again – cellphone usage leads to cancer. As mobile devices have become more prevalent in our lives, the question has been revisited countless times. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is the latest agency to come out with a warning about the carcinogenic potential of cellphone radiation.
"Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cellphones," said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH director and state public health officer.
Cellphone radiation has received considerable debate over the last decade. While no conclusive evidence has been found linking cellphone radiation to cancer, the Federal Communication Commission has regulations in place to protect consumers from harmful levels of radiation from cellphones.
More than 75 percent of Americans own a smartphone. But it may take a while for conclusive findings to emerge about the safety of smartphones. In the meantime, it's important to think about how you use technology for your business and adopt some good habits to foster a healthy relationship with technology.
Regardless of whether our devices might be harmful, it can be easy to let technology intrude on our personal and family lives in the name of business. Establishing a healthy work-life balance often means knowing when to be online and when to put the phone down and be present in the world around us.
The CDPH's advice, while it is geared toward protecting yourself from potential effects of cellphone radiation, can also be followed to help separate ourselves from our devices.
What kind of radiation do cellphones emit?
Cellphones emit radio waves. These waves are on the electromagnetic spectrum, and depending on their frequency, can damage tissue and increase the risk of cancer. We interact with radio waves daily, as different appliances and devices like microwaves and TVs all emit radio waves.
There are two kinds of radio waves: ionizing and non-ionizing. Non-ionizing radio waves are extremely low-frequency waves while ionizing radio waves are of a higher frequency, like X-rays. Ionizing waves have been linked to cancer while there's no clear evidence for non-ionizing radio waves. Cellphones emit non-ionizing radio waves.
As technology has improved, digital cellphones emit significantly less radiation compared to analog cellphones. Today, there are very few, if any, analog cellphones still being used. You can look up the frequency of your device by searching its FCC ID and viewing the lower and upper frequencies. The FCC will also verify that the device has been certified as safe for use by the FCC. The FCC ID is usually on the back of the device.
The FCC, however, doesn't measure safety according to a specific frequency range. Instead, it has developed a separate value known as the specific absorption rate (SAR). SAR levels are determined by analyzing how radio waves have impacted muscle tissue on the body and are measured by watts per kilogram.
The FCC regulates cellphones so that any phone above an SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram cannot be sold in the United States. The European Union regulates SAR levels so that 2 watts per kilogram is considered safe. These are values determined by these government agencies and apply to all phones sold in the respective countries. So, you don't have to worry about whether your phone is safe since it is illegal for a company like Apple to sell you a phone that has an SAR level above 1.6 watts per kilogram.
The CDPH included a few ways you can reduce your exposure to your cellphone's radio waves. Some of these practical tips will help provide distance between you and your phone, which can be beneficial to both your health and work-life balance.
Don't sleep with it next to your bed
One of the easiest steps you can take is to move your phone away from your nightstand or bed while you sleep. Unless you turn your phone off at night, it will receive signals all night. And the proximity to your head over time could lead to problems. More importantly, checking your phone in the middle of the night disrupts sleep and can leave you feeling tired the next day.
By moving your phone to another area of the house, you can ensure that you aren't exposed to any radio waves – regardless of whether they are harmful – plus you won't be tempted to check it in the middle of the night or right when you wake up.
Don't use cellphones when the signal is weak
This tip may be near impossible to follow, since it seems a cellphone is always needed most when the signal is weak. Your phone works harder to send and receive signals when it doesn't have great service. This heightened activity may emit harmful rays.
It's unrealistic to think you're not going to use your cellphone when you need to, regardless of the signal strength. So, instead, try and look for areas in your daily routine where your phone's signal is not strong. Once you note these different places, you can do things like move your phone out of your pocket or decrease usage when you're in those places.
Remove headsets when not on a call
A Bluetooth headset is meant to add convenience to phone calls. But all too often, it can be easy to leave your Bluetooth device in while you're not on the phone. Especially for drivers, it can be difficult to remember to take it out after a phone call. The CDPH recommends removing your headset when you're not using it.
Because your headset has Bluetooth capabilities, it's emitting radio waves as well and communicating with your phone. Regular wired headphones, on the other hand, aren't as risky, because they don’t connect to your phone via wireless Bluetooth waves.
Don't buy products that claim to block radio frequency
There are a lot of products out there that claim to block radio frequency. Be careful with these products, and possibly avoid buying them entirely. Often, they can emit more radiation.
Creating good habits around phone use extends beyond some quick tips to decrease radio wave exposure. While the science still isn't clear, thinking about how we use our devices can lead to a better work-life balance.