By Dr. Mercola
Cellphones are growing in popularity every year. Smartphones enable users to call, text and use the internet from almost anywhere there is a cellphone signal. From the convenience of a piece of equipment that fits in your pocket, you can communicate and receive news from anywhere in the world. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 90 percent of Americans own a cellphone and two-thirds of those are smart phones.1
The cellphone has become the most rapidly accepted device in the history of consumer technology. Pew attributes the rise in popularity to the development and accessibility of smartphones.2 Unfortunately, this connectivity to a world well outside your physical boundaries places you in danger of disconnecting from what is real and important in your immediate environment. The New York Times observes:3
"The near-universal access to digital technology, starting at ever younger ages, is transforming modern society in ways that can have negative effects on physical and mental health, neurological development and personal relationships, not to mention safety on our roads and sidewalks."
Easy access to technology has led people to take their smartphones everywhere without a second thought, including the kitchen, doctor's office, dinner table and bathroom. This rise in usage increases your potential risk to over exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation and your exposure to a device that may carry nearly 17,000 bacterial genetic copies.4
Your Cellphone Likely Carries 10 Times More Germs Than a Toilet Seat
Several studies have demonstrated contamination of mobile phones in a hospital, but little information about bacterial contamination on cellphones in the community has been gathered. Researchers were interested in quantifying the number of bacteria residing on secondary school students' mobile phones, as this is a population that has made smartphones an intimate part of their everyday life.
Samples were collected from 27 mobile phones of students aged 16 to 18, and bacterial colonies were counted. Researchers found that all phones had bacterial contamination, which was different from the results of previous studies.5 In this study, a high average count of microbes was found on each of the phones, with more than 20 different species detected.6
Interestingly, while the researchers identified several strains of bacteria that are potentially pathogenic, they did not identify a significant amount of bacteria that would indicate fecal contamination, despite the fact that most students took their phone with them into the bathroom. The researchers concluded:7
"Our study showed high level contamination of secondary school students' mobile phones with potentially pathogenic bacteria to be common, and we hypothesize that this may play a role in the spread of infectious agents in the community. However, based on our results, the mobile phones of secondary school students do not appear to be considerable vectors for the spread of antibacterial resistance."
Although the study had a small sample size, the results do confirm that bringing your cellphone from bathroom to the dinner table potentially increases your risk of spreading germs and illness. However, the majority of the bacterial contamination on the phones was the result of transfer of microbes normally found on your skin, to the surface of the phone.8 For instance, Staphylococcus bacteria, normally found on skin, may be present on your phone, but not typically the type that triggers a staph infection.
Cellphone Usage Rising, and so Is Addiction
Even when you aren't using or touching your cellphone, it may be distracting you from your immediate tasks. A study using a group of more than 50 college students found that performance in complex tasks was worse when the participant could see a cellphone present, whether it was the study leader's phone or their own, as compared to the performance of tasks when no cellphone was visible.9
This continued attention and reliance on digital technology has in part driven the advancement that led from a relatively static internet of the early 2000s to websites that must be mobile-ready or lose customers. According to Pew, nearly 10 percent of Americans now connect to the internet at home using only their smartphone, and do not have traditional broadband service.10 This aligns with the goals of companies doing business online that want your increased attention on their products and services.
Programmers have achieved a process they call "brain hacking"11 that increases your desire to pay attention to your smartphone. They incorporate information from neuropsychology into the development of website interfaces that increase your interaction.
For instance, getting likes on Facebook, or "streaks" on Snapchat are designed to lengthen your engagement with the program and increase your desire to return. A combination of these factors has led to a dependence or addiction to the internet that affected 6 percent of the world population in 2014.12
While this number may not seem significant on the surface, compare it against a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that stated 3.5 to 7 percent of the world population between 15 and 64 years had used an illicit drug in the past year.13 The problems with overuse and abuse of cellphones lead to sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress and depression,14 as well as an increased exposure to EMF radiation, placing your physical health in greater danger.
Risk From Cellphone Usage Linked to Mitochondrial Damage
As I explain in this video, the ongoing debate over whether exposure to cellphone radiation causes brain tumors may be counterproductive and, in fact, may distract you from the real dangers of cellphone use. When you consider the number of people who carry cellphones daily exceed the number who have access to toilets,15 and that you probably don't know anyone with a brain tumor, it may lead you to believe your cellphone is safe.
The primary origin of disease processes attributed to EMF radiation exposure is related to mitochondrial damage triggered by the reactive nitrogen species peroxynitrites. Devices that consistently emit EMF radiation at levels that damage your mitochondria include your cellphone, cellphone towers, Wi-Fi router and modems.
An increase in peroxynitrites in your body has been associated with an increased level of systemic inflammation, and most importantly, mitochondrial dysfunction. Please see my recent interview with Martin Pall, Ph.D., who discovered this mechanism of harm, for a more in-depth discussion of this vital leading-edge information.
Health Risks Associated With Cellphones Linked to Multiple Conditions
Pall discovered that microwave radiation from cellphones and other wireless technologies activates voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) that then open up, allowing excessive amounts of calcium into your cells.16 As noted by Pall, "the excess calcium in the cell is responsible for most if not all of the biological effects."
The rise in cellphone use, with related oxidative destruction triggered by EMF radiation from mobile devices, may partially explain an unprecedented growth rate of chronic disease.17 This phenomenal progression in chronic disease is a far greater concern than the hazards associated with brain tumors. Information from the scientific literature reveals a dramatic acceleration in a single generation in the prevalence of a long list of diseases.
Once you understand that cellphones can contribute to these chronic diseases — not just brain tumors — you may be more apt to take a few precautions to limit your exposure. Although the major health threats continue to be cardiovascular disease, cancer and infections, it should be noted that the following list of conditions often create significant challenges in the lives of those who suffer. Some of these diseases were not even public knowledge prior to 1980.18
|Disease or disorder||Increase since 1990|
Bipolar disease in youth
Children Face Greater Risks Than Adults
Holding a cellphone to your ear allows between 10 percent and 80 percent of EMF radiation to penetrate up to 2 inches into your brain.19,20 However, in children, this penetration is even deeper, as an adult's skull is up to four times thicker than that of a child. Children are also exposed to EMF radiation at a much earlier age, whereas most adults can still recall days when every phone was hardwired to the wall.
The opportunity to experience greater mitochondrial damage over time is exponentially greater for children than it is for adults. The exposure is also not limited to cellphones. Most homes have Wi-Fi routers, modems, computers and tablets, and many public areas also provide Wi-Fi. Children may spend hours on smartphones and tablets playing games, watching videos or doing their homework.
Problems with overuse and behavioral consequences are also more significant for children. Whether it's a tablet, Wi-Fi enabled screen or smartphone, children are spending up to seven hours every day in front of a screen.21
This a far cry from the two-hour maximum the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends,22 and definitely more than the number of hours anyone over 40 years spent in front of a screen growing up. Ronald Melnick, scientific adviser for the Environmental Health Trust, commented on the use of cellphones in the pediatric population:23
"The penetration of the cellphone radiation into the brain of a child is deeper and greater. Also, the developing nervous system of a child is potentially more susceptible to a damaging agent."
California's Environmental Health Investigations guidelines concur, saying:24 "EMFs can pass deeper into a child's brain than an adult's. The brain is still developing through the teen years, which may make children and teens more sensitive to EMF exposure."
Take Precautions to Protect Yourself and Your Children
The first cellphone was manufactured in 1973, and since then technology has advanced at an ever increasing pace. It is important to note it was almost another 20 years before the cellphone became a mainstream product. The damage done by EMF radiation can take years, and sometimes decades, to develop. This means there is no good way to predict the long-term effects on children, many of whom are exposed before birth.
In one study25 of children whose mothers used cellphones prior to birth, researchers found a 25 percent increase in emotional problems, 34 percent increase in peer related problems, 35 percent increase in hyperactivity and a 49 percent increase in behavioral problems than in mothers who did not use cellphones during pregnancy. For your child's sake and your own health, I urge you to minimize these kinds of risks and reduce the potential for spreading bacteria, by following a few common-sense strategies:
Reduce the amount of bacteria on your phone
Keep your phone out of the bathroom where fecal material is aerosolized with every flush of the toilet. Cleaning your phone daily by wiping with a soft microfiber removes many germs. For a deeper clean, every week use a combination of 60 percent water and 40 percent rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth and wipe it gently across the phone.
Dip the cloth in the solution without saturating the material. Steer clear of liquid or spray cleaners that may damage the phone. Remember to wash your hands several times each day to reduce the transfer of bacteria from your hands to the phone and other common surfaces.
Keep the phone away from your head
Consider moving your cellphone away from your head when it's turned on or the Wi-Fi, data or Bluetooth are enabled. You may do this by using a selfie stick or speaking on the speaker phone. Short conversations and texting more than talking also reduce your exposure. When not in use, be sure to put your phone in airplane mode.
Wired headsets allow you to keep your phone away from your head while in use. However, if it's not well shielded, the wire itself may act as an antenna, attracting and transmitting radiation directly to your head. One of the best types of headsets is one with a combination of shielded wire and air-tube. These transmit the sound as an actual sound wave, in much the same way sound is transmitted through a stethoscope.
Limit cellphone use to areas with excellent reception
The weaker the reception in the area, the more power the phone must emit to make the connection and therefore the more radiation is emitted. This increases your risk of greater radiation penetration to your body.
Reduce or eliminate your use of other wireless devices
It is important to ask yourself whether or not you truly need to use a wireless device each time you pick one up. If you must use a portable home phone, consider those that operate at 900 MHz, as these don't usually broadcast when not in use. The way to measure your exposure from your portable phones and other electronic devices is to use an electrosmog (RF) meter that measures up to 8 Gigahertz to detect frequencies from newer devices.
Increase your distance from RF-emitting devices
The closer the device, the more radiation you absorb. Find a way to transport your phone other than your pants pocket or bra, to reduce your risk of infertility and of breast cancer. Avoid keeping your phone and tablets in your bedroom while you're sleeping.
Respect others in your immediate area
Some people have become sensitive to EMF radiation and feel the effects even when the phone is on, but not being used. Consider keeping your cellphone off when you're in a meeting, in a courthouse, doctor's office and other public areas, and around children to reduce "secondhand radiation" effects.
Don't let your child use a cellphone
Unless it's a life-threatening emergency, using a cellphone will increase your child's potential risk for cell damage from EMF radiation.
Turn off your Wi-Fi router and cellphone when not in use
When they aren't in use, such as at night, turn your Wi-Fi, modem and cellphone off. Many routers can be linked with an inexpensive remote, making the process simple and easy. Reserve your cellphone for emergencies, as even when it's not in use, the phone emits radiation as long as it's turned on.
Certain nutrients may reduce damage
Researchers have discovered certain spices may help prevent or repair damage from peroxynitrites.26,27 Spices rich in phenolics, specifically cloves, rosemary, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger root exhibited some protective capacity against peroxynitrite-induced damage.
Optimizing your magnesium level may also help reduce damage associated with EMFs. Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker, which reduces the effects of EMF on your VGCCs. When you're deficient in magnesium, you get excessive VGCC activity as well as excessive calcium influx.