Mobile technology, specifically the use of cell phones, has become an internal part of today's life all around the globe and has permanently changed our perception about life and communication. Very little information is available about the radiation risk associated with the device, which has been taken so much for granted.
Mobile phones emit non-ionizing radio frequency waves and operate in a frequency ranging from about 850 to 1900 megahertz (MHz). This RF energy is different than the ionizing radiation (X-ray, gamma rays), which can present a health risk at certain doses. At high enough levels, RF energy, too, can be harmful, because of its ability to heat living tissue to the point of causing biological damage.
Controversial data has been obtained regarding the use of mobile phones and the subsequent risk of developing cancer. A study conducted recently to address the above issue has reported, "Using a mobile phone for up to 10 years does not appear to increase the risk of brain cancer".
Data was collected from nearly 678 people with acoustic neuroma - slow growing, benign tumors which grow in the nerve connecting the ear and inner ear to the brain - and 3,553 people who did not have the disease. No link has been established between acoustic neuroma and the number of years mobiles had been used, the time since first use, the total hours of use, or the total number of calls.
The long-term risk assessment with the relatively new technology has still a long way to go. At this juncture, it would be appropriate to remember our love affair with radiation, which has taught more than just a lesson.
Over the pat century, very few topics have had the potential to attract public attention, as has radiation. Time and over again, radiation has always been a powerful tool to attract the brilliance of the human mind despite the biological hazard. Our perceptions of it have shaped policy in arenas as diverse as medical care, energy, and international relations.
With the discovery of X-rays by Roentgen, coin-operated fluoroscopes appeared on city streets. Exhibitions where people bathed themselves under X-rays to amuse customers became popular. Even propaganda claiming the beautifying effects of X-ray radiation caught the attention of many women in the early twentieth-century.
Thanks to the efforts of Madam Marie Curie who had discovered the radioactive properties of Radium. The idea of a new element that could change into some other form while giving off mysterious rays was electrifying to both the scientific community and the public.
The public wanted radiation in everything, and business was happy to satisfy the craving. Radium was made available in the form of drink, toothpaste, and cigarette holder. Radioactive hot springs were regarded a sign of luxury then. Even claims of miraculous cures by radiation, such as giving sight to the blind, were commonplace in this century's first decade.
However, radiation has not been able to enjoy the benefits of fame and glory for long.
Disgrace to radiation dates back to as early as 1896 with reports of vision problems and skin damage in radiation workers. The fall of radiation was further hastened in the 1930s by the death of the wristwatch dial painters, who ingested tiny amounts of radiation during work. They were so thoroughly imbued with radiation that their teeth could expose photographic film.
It was soon learnt that " Science is bad master but a good slave". Man was capable enough to exploit radiation in a constructive and efficient way. Some examples are the application of radiation in medical diagnosis, food processing, treatment of cancer and communication systems and the list goes on. Members of the scientific community have been wise enough to devise acceptable safety norms for the optimal use of radiation. Yet, one area, which requires critical analysis and formulation of radiation protection law, is the communication sector with special emphasis on the use of cell phones.