# Why are people afraid of cell phone radiation?

• daniel_i_l
In summary: The energy of the radiation drops off as 1/r (I believe). More energy = more harmful. It takes energy for the alpha particles to pass through your skin and cause cell damage, not frequency.The energy of the radiation drops off as 1/r (I believe). More energy = more harmful. It takes energy for the alpha particles to pass through your skin and cause cell damage, not frequency.The frequency determines how much damage can be caused by each photon absorbed. Intensity determines how many such photons are absorbed.Frequency determines how much damage can be caused by each photon absorbed. Intensity determines how

#### daniel_i_l

Gold Member
Considering the fact that the standard cell phone frequency range (0.8-2GHz) is less than the atandars Wi-Fi range (2-5GHz), why are people afraid of cell phone radiation and not of wireless networks?

Because you hold a cell phone right up to your brain (oh, the irony in that sentence!).

But isn't the frequency the only parameter that determines if the radiation is harmful? What does the intensity have do with it?

daniel_i_l said:
But isn't the frequency the only parameter that determines if the radiation is harmful? What does the intensity have do with it?

The energy of the radiation drops off as 1/r (I believe). More energy = more harmful. It takes energy for the alpha particles to pass through your skin and cause cell damage, not frequency.

Cyrus said:
The energy of the radiation drops off as 1/r (I believe). More energy = more harmful. It takes energy for the alpha particles to pass through your skin and cause cell damage, not frequency.

I'm pretty sure that energy is conserved. If you meant intensity (I think you did), then I'm pretty sure it goes like $1/r^2$.

daniel_i_l said:
But isn't the frequency the only parameter that determines if the radiation is harmful? What does the intensity have do with it?

Frequency determines how much damage can be caused by each photon absorbed. Intensity determines how many such photons are absorbed.

Cyrus said:
The energy of the radiation drops off as 1/r (I believe). More energy = more harmful. It takes energy for the alpha particles to pass through your skin and cause cell damage, not frequency.
Yes, the total energy (sum of each of the photons energy) depends on the distance from the source, but inorder to damage cells, each individual photon has to be above a certain frequency, this type of radiation is called ionizing radiation:
The occurrence of ionization depends on the energy of the impinging individual particles or waves, and not on their number. An intense flood of particles or waves will not cause ionization if these particles or waves do not carry enough energy to be ionizing. Roughly speaking, particles or photons with energies above a few electron volts (eV) are ionizing.
So if the cell phone transmission frequency isn't in the ionizing radiation range, how can it be dangerous?

that's just it... it isn't dangerous (unless you stick one in your ear or drop one on your foot). If people were getting brain damage from the radiation, don't you think that they would first develop radiation burns on the skin around the ear? I don't see many people with their ear rotting off, so...

Although this all makes sense, I still prefer to keep my cell phone out of my front pocket :tongue:

You think you're unaffected by it? The radiation could cause effects not yet predictable (how can one confirm it doesn't affect cell reproduction or something). I'd say anything being absorbed by your body would affect you in some way.

If everything absorbed by the body has an effect, then it could just as well be a positive affect, if I follow your thinking. Food is absorbed by the body, as is air... Solar radiation can improve the body's production of Vitamin D. But the point is, there are no radiation burns on the skin from normal cell phone use, then the effect of the absorbed radiation can't be more harmful than that...

Blenton said:
You think you're unaffected by it? The radiation could cause effects not yet predictable (how can one confirm it doesn't affect cell reproduction or something). I'd say anything being absorbed by your body would affect you in some way.

This reasoning leads to fear of the unknown or of that which isn't understood which I fear far too common nowadays. Of course cell phone radiation absorbed by your brain affects you. The small amount of electromagnetic energy provides a small amount of heat to your body, the same way the sun, a campfire or a cup of hot cocoa does.

The power level diminishing from the phone can be modeled as

$$\frac{1}{4\pi r^2}$$

since it's designed to broadcast omni-directionally pretty much.

Wavelength for a cell phone signal at 1.9 GHz is about 15 cm, about the size of the head.

Power level is definitely to low to cause any type of heating damage. But if the brain is a good, or even a poor electrical conductor, then there is a possibility that very weak current loops will be induced in the brain thus disturbing chatter between neurons. I'm not sure if this have studied or not.

daniel_i_l said:
why are people afraid of cell phone radiation and not of wireless networks?
In the UK the idiots are the other way around, the same parents that give their 5 year olds cell phones are insisting that wifi is removed from schools.
With the usual - 'won't somebody think of the children?'

skeptic2 said:
This reasoning leads to fear of the unknown or of that which isn't understood which I fear far too common nowadays. Of course cell phone radiation absorbed by your brain affects you. The small amount of electromagnetic energy provides a small amount of heat to your body, the same way the sun, a campfire or a cup of hot cocoa does.

Ooh! *shudder* I'm never going near a cup of cocoa again!

Cell phone radiation is pretty horrible. I for one think that cell phones should be banned. Also we should get rid of a much larger source of radiation that effects us all. There is a huge nuclear fusion reactor that we all see and are exposed to everyday. It's emissions are the most significant dose of radiation that almost anyone can get. I also would like to see it banned or at least shut down. There I've said it, we need to get rid of the sun.

Seriously a few studies showing that cell phone radiation can cause localized heating in the brain are complete nonsense. Unless we can show a statistically significant number of people that have brain tumors or other problems from normal cell phone use there is no reason to worry.

Right now I am pretty skeptical of any study aimed at showing adverse effects of anything. If you begin a study trying to find a result you will find it. If you can't get rats to develop tumors from average cell phone radiation then increase the dose by a factor of ten. If that doesn't work then increase it again. And again. Then when you have a significant number of rats with tumors proclaim cell phones cause cancer. Simmilar to the studies that have shown rats that consume several times their body weights in sacrin develop cancer.

The reason why people are afraid of cell phones is that the media makes money by making people afraid. Just like scientists make money off studies that make people afraid. Then again, I could be a representitive of 'big cell phone' in disguise.

It doesn't seam too radical to worry that microwave radiation from cell phones will affect your brain in one way or the other. I'm not sure that the risk of cancer is that great, maybe I'm wrong. But, there are some studies that seam to show that cell phones can affect the workings of the brain. This study shows that it messes with the memory in rats. They also make a claim that it can somehow affect the brain blood barrier.

"Henrietta Nittby and her, supervisor Professor Leif Salford, believe that the findings may be related to the team's earlier findings, that is, that microwave radiation from cell phones can affect the so-called blood-brain barrier. This is a barrier that protects the brain by preventing substances circulating in the blood from penetrating into the brain tissue and damaging nerve cells. Leif Salford and his associates have previously found that albumin, a protein that functions as a transport molecule in the blood, leaks into brain tissue when laboratory animals are exposed to mobile phone radiation.

The research team also found certain nerve damage in the form of damaged nerve cells in the cerebral cortex and in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. Albumin leakage occurs directly after radiation, while the nerve damage occurs only later, after four to eight weeks. Moreover, they have discovered alterations in the activity of a large number of genes, not in individual genes but in groups that are functionally related."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081205095956.htm

This study indicates that cell phone radiation can affect our brain waves. Just google "cell phones affect brain waves".

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=mind-control-by-cell

There I've said it, we need to get rid of the sun.

Since the dawn of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun :D

I weep.

russ_watters said:
I weep.

I don't use mine{or my microwave oven} enough to worry about it. The young people who can't get by without it, should be wary, and use headphones, blue tooth ect.

russ_watters said:
I weep.

JaredJames said:
Not sure, but I think that russ is weeping for the chicken little decision by WHO.

But as Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer explained last year, "Physics shows that it is virtually impossible for cell phones to cause cancer." (In short: unlike UV radiation, the radiation from cell phones is too weak to destroy the bonds inside cells.)

Evo said:
Not sure, but I think that russ is weeping for the chicken little decision by WHO.

I was echoing his remark. I'm disappointed at the decision. I can see the crackpots flooding in here now with that as their prime evidence.

JaredJames said:
I was echoing his remark. I'm disappointed at the decision. I can see the crackpots flooding in here now with that as their prime evidence.
Lots of people are using cell-phones. The incidence of glioplastomas has remained flat for the last couple of decades. Not a controlled study, but a REAL good indication that cell-phone EM is not harmful.

As an aspiring crackpot, I'm mildly insulted.

Crackpottery does not imply lack of common sense about everyday technology.

The cellphone decision is foolish.

turbo-1 said:
Lots of people are using cell-phones. The incidence of glioplastomas has remained flat for the last couple of decades. Not a controlled study, but a REAL good indication that cell-phone EM is not harmful.

Agreed. Actually the rate has declined slightly. See http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/540146_3 You have to register but it is free.

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what's the mechanism of the fear anyway?

That radiation will change the energy landscape around biological processes leading to "unordained" protein conformations? I.e. "knock" subunits out of protein structures or something?

Greg Bernhardt said:
"Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform."

National Public Radio's story on this noted that the WHO list also includes coffee and pickled foods.

Fewmet said:
National Public Radio's story on this noted that the WHO list also includes coffee and pickled foods.
Smoked food, especially meat and meat cooked at high heat are a cancer risk, but you don't see people getting crazy about the dangers of barbecue.

Barbecue cancer warning

A health hazard?

Barbecues poison the air with toxins and could cause cancer, research suggests.

A study by the French environmental campaigning group Robin des Bois found that a typical two-hour barbecue can release the same level of dioxins as up to 220,000 cigarettes.

Dioxins are a group of chemicals known to increase the likelihood of cancer.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3106039.stm

Also

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/cancer-risk-from-bbq-meat

Evo said:
Smoked food, especially meat and meat cooked at high heat are a cancer risk, but you don't see people getting crazy about the dangers of barbecue.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3106039.stm

Also

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/cancer-risk-from-bbq-meat

Because that doesn't have the technology-induced-headline-catching ring to it :rofl:

People have been eating meat cooked at high temperatures for hundreds of thousands of years, we're past that being scary. Now cell phones, new little sleek things that rule our lives? And who can figure out all those damn buttons anyway? That is scary!

Its like when nMRI first came out and was adapted to medical usage. People were scared sh**less of the word "nuclear" that the "n" stood for. Luckily enough the powers that be were quick enough to respond and drop the "n" and just go with magnetic resonance imaging.

Maybe we should similarly dumb down the lingo used with cell phones?