We've been asking the question. And now we're asking it again: what health risks do we face by keeping our cell phones pressed against our bodies nearly 100% of the time? We’re no Neil deGrasse Tyson, but something about the invisible transmissions buzzing in our pockets makes us wonder if there isn’t more to the story when it comes to staying connected.
A recent study showed that sleeping with your cell phone in your bedroom isn’t a great idea, for several big reasons. The interruptions caused by texts, social media updates and emails can disrupt vital snooze time, killing your brain’s ability to fully recharge. In more extreme examples, sleep disorders like insomnia can develop from unstable sleep patterns (another source of distraction is the light from a cell phone; it stimulates retina cells and triggers the hormone cortisol which wakes us up and tricks us into thinking daylight lies behind our lids). Checking your phone in the middle of the night also gets your cognitive gears grinding, which definitely doesn’t help when trying to slip off to Neverland.
OK, so spooning with our mobile devices isn’t the best idea, but are there any other (more daunting) health effects we should consider?
An 11-year long study in Britain found no link between cell phone towers and childhood cancer or leukemia development, but noted that additional funding had been set aside for longer-term testing as many other adverse effects may be discovered during a more substantial study.
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Green of Hawaii is raising awareness about the unknown effects of longterm exposure to radio frequency (RF) energy, and while he’s well aware that there substantial research to cause concern, he (along with many of his constituents) believe that until we know more about any potential health hazards, we should at the very least make consumers aware that there are precautions that can be taken to safeguard ourselves. For example, keeping your cell phone at least a centimeter away from your ear when using it (hands-free accessories are even better) can greatly reduce RF exposure—and Green is suggesting a prominent label on mobile devices to remind consumers to keep their devices at a distance. Though iPhones already have a fairly detailed warning encouraging speaker use and other ways to lower RF energy, Green says consumers don’t read those details (yes, we're busted. We also don't read those User Agreements before checking the "yes" box).
When it comes to the dangers of cell phone use, there are clearly many unanswered questions. We can’t promise we’ll pry our fingers from our mobiles, but we’ll looking for health updates as they come in.