An Emerging Epidemic: the Cell Phone

They are there for us when we wake up. They are there to give us advice when we need it. They are loud, obnoxious, and talkative. They are our best friends and our worst enemies. Of course, I am talking about our cell phones.

Look around the room. There are cell phones everywhere — whether laying on a desk, or in a backpack, or in someone’s pocket, their presence is undeniable. Without thinking, our minds are drawn to pressing that home button, in hopes that our picture was liked or someone had texted us since we last checked two minutes ago.

Don’t get me wrong — I was a cell phone addict as well. I used my phone as my alarm clock and my personal weatherman. My phone was the last thing I saw when I went to bed and the first thing I saw when I woke up.

In the past three decades, the United States has seen staggering technological changes. In 1990, 96% of the American population did not own a cell phone (What ‘Tech World’ Did You Grow up in?). Today, 95% have some sort of cellular device (Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership).

Cell phones emit small amounts of radiation that over time can cause tissue damage. Every time you use your cell phone, you are exposed to miniscule amounts of this radiation. 

According Devra Davis, author of Disconnect: The Truth About Cellphone Radiation, we may be witnessing an epidemic in slow motion.

The repercussions of phone usage became a reality for 59-year-old real-estate broker and father of three, Alan Marks. Marks constantly used his phone, averaging two hours-a-day — 10,000 hours in his lifetime. After Marks had a seizure, doctors discovered a golf-sized tumor on the side of his head in which he held his cell phone.

There was no question what caused it. It was my cell phone, says Marks.

However, Marks is not the only one suffering from the consequences of cell phone use. People have developed blinding headaches, and dizziness, and nausea, and cancer from the radiation emitted from cell phones (Gittleman).

Despite the indubitable evidence, several scientists have questioned the effects of cell phone radiation on health.

These conflicting studies that claim cell phone radiation had no correlation with cancer were addressed by Robert Herberman, the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer. He argues that because these negative studies primarily examined people with only a few years of phone use, the effects on long-term users could not be accurately predicted.

Health problems are not caused by a small amount of radiation we are exposed to at a single time, but how much we are exposed to day after day, year after year.

Still unconvinced? Take a close look at the thick manual that accompanies your cell phone. Notice the letters in small print. Manufacturers warn against the potential dangers of keeping your cell phone close to your body. For example, Apple suggests keeping your phone at least five-eighths of an inch away when calling. Although these dangers are not widely publicized, manufacturers still recognize their products are potentially dangerous. And you should too.

Nearly every teen has access to a cell phone. Our generation is growing increasingly dependent upon these devices. Our generation is at an increased risk of developing health problems due to cell phone usage, in comparison to older individuals. As with vaping or LASIK eye surgery, the negative effects of phone usage could be going unseen. In 20 to 30 years, our generation could be experiencing these health risks — except they won’t be risks, they will be reality.

According to Dr. Lennart Hardell, his studies find one pattern over and over again. Those who have used their phones the longest, are more likely to develop malignant brain tumors (Davis). However, a slight change in our daily habits can make the difference between a long life and premature death.

Now, I am not saying that you should stop using your phone altogether. However, acknowledging that cell phone use has its dangers and minimizing risks is one step in the right direction. Move the phone away from your head. Use headphones. Use speakerphone. Don’t overuse it. The life you preserve may be your own.

As with breaking any habit, changing the way you talk on your phone may come at a slight inconvenience at first, but will soon become second nature. You will be able to enjoy all the perks of using your phone without suffering the fate of Alan Marks. If Marks had known about the dangers of prolonged cell phone use, he would have done things differently. I wouldn’t have held it next to my head, he says. I would have used the speaker phone. I would have used the headset . . . And I would not have had the problems I had.

We have a tendency to ignore any danger that we can’t feel, hear, see, or smell. But there is enough evidence to suggest that cell phones are dangerous and every precaution should be taken when using one.

So, please, get in the habit of keeping your cell phone away from your ear when talking. Start today — and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

We can avoid the slow-motion epidemic that doctors and scientists are warning us about–as long as we keep this away from this.

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