Ever since I was a kid, I was told that mobile technology could be dangerous. I haven’t spouted an extra limb thanks to radiation yet, but there are still a number of risks and myths associated with mobile devices that most people are unsure of.
Warning: I’m not a doctor, but I do know phones. Every step in this list was fully researched, but be careful when using your mobile device.
Here’s a list with 10 smartphone health risks and myths, with information about each one, including how dangerous it actually is for you and your children.
Let’s get started;
1. Radio Wave Exposure
We might start off with the biggest, (and worst sounding) risk. Radio wave exposure is when the radio waves that are sent and received by mobile phones are absorbed into our bodies.
It might make you think of Hiroshima, but it’s actually reasonably benign according to most studies, which have only found that radio waves cause a very small rise in temperature for the human body.
Considering how dangerous it actually sounds, it’s a relief to see that most experts agree that they can’t find any evidence to prove that it’s harmful in the long term. There’s also the fact that it’s a different type of radiation altogether, and it’s a lot weaker than you might expect.
However, exposure from radiofrequency fields generated by mobile phones can be 1000 times higher than the base station itself. RF fields have been classified as possibly carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Depending on which device you have, heat can often be an issue.
Now, when we say heat, we don’t mean how radio waves affect the human body as discussed above. We mean when the phone is extremely hot to the touch. When a device starts to overheat, is there any chance that we could get burned if we hold the device for a prolonged period of time, and are there any associated risks?
The easiest answer would be to keep your device away from direct sunlight, and to avoid use if it starts to burn like the Fires of Mordor. It’s unlikely to harm you, but you should make sure that your device isn’t faulty if it exceeds the recommended temperature.
You can also use an app like DU Battery Saver to cool down your device if it’s a regular problem.
It works by monitoring, managing and disabling apps if they’re causing your device to overheat, as it could end up damaging the device if it’s left for too long over 145⁰F!
3. Risks to Children
The average adult might be fine, but children are always at more risk to harmful elements in the environment. It’s just another hurdle we all have to go through when growing up, and we’ll feel it once again once we get to old age.
In this case, it’s true that children are more at risk to almost everything, but there has been no proven link between mobile phone use and childhood cancers. It’s still recommended that children limit the amount of time they spend using mobile phones, but it’s understandable that it can be hard to take away devices when it has become a key part of their learning and entertainment.
ALSO READ: 5 Best Android Apps for Toddlers
4. Traffic Accidents
Governments across the world have moved to curb people using their devices while driving, and the reason why is obvious when you check the stats. A study by the CDC discovered that 69% of US drivers they polled aged 18-64 had made a phone call while driving over the last 30 days. You could be in the minority if you don’t make a cheeky call here and there. The figure fell to 31% for sending or reading text messages or emails, but it’s still dangerously high.
Even anecdotally, it’s terrible to see your driver on the phone, and the subtle, tiny swerves that tend to go with their loss of concentration. If the government can’t get through to you, it’s unlikely that I can, but it’s worth reiterating; concentrating on the road should be your number one priority.
Here’s one of many PSA’s (Public service announcement) about the issue;
Another factor is pedestrians themselves, who can often be oblivious to their impending doom as it rushes towards them at high speeds. Just because you’re not driving, doesn’t mean that you’re not at risk from traffic accidents. 1 in 3 people surveyed used their device while crossing the road, so try and pay attention to your surroundings.
In short, be more careful when using your mobile phone on the sidewalk, and be aware that you’re not the only one who could get hurt.
5. Interference with Electrical Equipment
We’re often told to switch off our phones when we go to the hospital or get on a plane, but why do they even bother, and is it really that important? People seem to be happy blatantly checking their devices while in the waiting room, but it can interfere with certain types of equipment.
There’s nothing worse than being a jerk, so if you want to use your phone it’s probably best to head outside, or wait for a better opportunity.
Mobile phone use has long been linked with infertility, and it’s worrying for any potential parent. Luckily, the links are often attributed to radiation, so it’s likely that you’ll be fine if you’re careful.
However, one study has shown that the radio waves emitted from cell phones can damage sperm, while the effects for women are still unclear. If you’ve been diagnosed with a low sperm count, be aware that it was only dangerous for sperm while in talk mode. If you often use hands free, consider keeping your device in your back pocket. No, seriously.
7. Sleep Patterns
If you’ve noticed a difference in your sleep pattern, it’s possible that your device could be the cause. The screen is bright enough to alert your brain, (which keeps you awake for longer) and it can be hard to get to sleep afterwards.
Of course, the only way it can really mess up your pattern is by you looking at it before you lie down, so try to avoid checking your phone if you’re planning on getting ready for bed. Researchers suggested having a screen-free hour before settling down to sleep.
Germs on your device are way more common than you might expect, and it can be pretty disgusting if you think about it. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that one in six cell phones checked was contaminated by some form of fecal matter, thanks to improper hygiene. It’s a troubling thought considering we keep devices so close to our faces, and it’s enough to make you want to stop using other people’s phones.
If you haven’t already, make sure to give your phone a light scrub when you get the chance. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and the idea of someone else’s germs touching your face should be enough to get you to pay your own phone bills.
9. Eye Health
Staring at any screen for a prolonged period of time is always inadvisable, but it can often be addictive if you’re used to using your device at length. It’s a problem that is wholly preventable, but sometimes it can be hard to see the damage taking place until it’s too late.
You can always download a filter to protect your eyes while using your Android device, and there a number of options available on the Play Store. Bluelight Filter will do, but it’s one of many available, so have a look for yourself.
Your eyesight is incredibly important, (how will you read JOA otherwise?) so try to ensure that you take the necessary steps to look after it while using your device. Take breaks as and when you have to, (every 20 minutes is a figure that is widely accepted to be helpful) and try not to stay on your device for extended periods.
Small text and bright screens combined will cause damage, and considering that over a third of US adults said they spend 4-6 hours per day on a handheld device, maybe it could be time to give smaller screens a break.
10. Brain Damage
Brain damage is incredibly worrying, and the link between it and mobile phones seems to derive from radiation emissions. It was originally thought that the radiation from mobile phones could cause tumours, or trigger harmful changes in human cells, but so far there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive evidence to prove that it is actually harmful. It’s seems like it’s more of an urban myth, but it’s still scary.
Okay. Ending after discussing brain damage is never easy, but it’s better to be fully aware of just what the risks are considering the way mobile phones have taken over our lives. (As well as having a better understanding of the myths.)
Would we really be willing to give it all up anyway? Do the gains outweigh the risks? It depends, and how often you use your device is entirely up to you.
If you take one thing away from this list; please wash your phone if you haven’t done so in a while! Overall, research suggests that it’s unlikely that mobile phone use increases the risk of health problems, but it’s a good idea to check back every couple of months to see if there have been any developments, and remember to be careful if your child uses a mobile device frequently.
If we’ve missed an interesting myth or health risk, or you have questions about one of the points on this list, let us know in the comments below, or you can contact us via Facebook or Twitter.