THE RISE OF MOBILE TECHNOLOGY
The last couple of decades have seen an exponential rise in the use of mobile technology. It uses microwaves to send and receive communication signals. As we know from the fact that we have microwave ovens, microwaves have a habit of cooking animal tissue, especially items with a high water content. So we are installing, and placing close to our bodies, a network of tissue cookers. The question is, is there a chance that this tissue-cooking network might affect our brains and bodies adversely?
MICROWAVES AND THEIR EFFECT
Microwave ovens operate at around 2450MHz, with a wavelength of about 12cm. The microwaves created agitate the water molecules in our food, causing it to heat up. The important thing here is the water content. Waves in the microwave spectrum tend to be very effective at heating up things with a high water content. That's why liquids heat up efficiently in a microwave, but items with low water content take much longer.
When you cook chicken in the microwave, for instance, you are exposing it to a high dose of microwave radiation, which makes the water molecules in the meat heat up.
The microwaves created by mobile phone technology are capable of causing the same kind of heating. The difference is, instead of cooking our food, the waves cook our brains and bodies. By placing a mobile phone close to your head during a phone call, you are heating up the inside of your brain. The microwaves can penetrate your skull, and start to cook your inner brain tissue.
A certain, low-level amount of this kind of radiation is present in our atmosphere all the time. But the advent of mobile technology has dramatically increased our exposure. The question is, how does this increase affect us and our bodies?
SOURCES OF MICROWAVE RADIATION AND THEIR DISTANCE
Early mobile standards often used frequencies of around 800MHz. Later technologies doubled this to around 1900MHz. Generally, the higher the number, the longer the wavelength, and the further the waves can travel. However, all of these frequencies are capable of heating human tissue.
So why are we not all permanently cooking? Because of a distance effect. Basically, the further away you are from a source of microwaves, the less it can affect you. Microwave ovens put food very close to the source of the signal.
Placing a mobile phone next to your head does the same kind of thing. The distance is very small, and therefore the microwaves can enter your head and heat its insides up. Which is exactly what happens.
STATUTORY CONTROLS ON MOBILE PHONES
Governments have implemented a rule. They say that a mobile phone must not cause more than 1.6 watts of heating energy per kilogram of your head. This is called the SAR (Standard Absorption Rate).
This is the only rule they have.
Does this mean we are safe? Not at all. For two main reasons:
1. The standard SAR requirement does not take distance properly into account. In particular, it does not allow for the fact that many people place the phone against their head when making and taking calls. Yes, you heard that right. Mobile phone companies are not required to test the effect of their phones next to your head. In fact, if you check your phone's instructions, it is likely they explicitly WARN AGAINST placing the phone next to your head. Yes, you heard that right too. Mobile phone companies sell you a phone designed to go next to your head, and then warn you against placing it there!
2. The standard SAR requirement does not take proper account of variations in signal. For example, you may be sold a phone with a SAR below 1.6, but then the SAR may increase dramatically when your phone is exposed to different kinds of transmission equipment. Yes, you heard that right too. The heating effect tested in the laboratory is potentially completely different to the heating effect out in the field.
In summary, what is considered a safe rate of heating in the phones we are sold, bears little relation to the actual level of heating when the phones are used in real life.
How is the industry allowed to get away with heating our heads so much? The answer is, too much money is being made, by companies, and by governments. Remember, these 'frequencies' we have been talking about are sold to mobile companies by governments, in the form of licences, for millions and billions of dollars.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL EFFECTS?
Finally, a brief look at the potential effects of exposure to microwave radiation.
Effects can include:
- feeling 'jittery'
- stress responses
- brain tumours
- mood swings
- sleep disturbance
Exposure to microwave radiation, at the levels to which we are exposed through normal use of mobile phone technology, puts us in danger of, essentially, slow-cooking our brains, bodies and nervous systems.
These are known risks. We are prepared to put up with them, because we are unable to live without the perceived communication benefits mobile technology brings.
I have focused on heating effects in order to simplify the illustration of the logical effects of mobile phone technology. But there are a number of ways in which mobile technologies affect our brain and body tissues which are non-thermal. In particular, the balance of our nervous systems and brains, both chemical, physical and biological, is influenced by the influx of microwave interference. Although simplified, I believe that the general argument still holds: we are, every day, exposing ourselves to the inadequately regulated risk of ill health. These are known risks. But neither the industry nor government has any particular vested interest in exploring them, or exposing them. They make too much money. It's up to us.