Full text of report
Summary of Findings
Whether it’s the increased use of cell phones by children, or the overall increase in cell phone use by adults, human exposure to electromagnetic radiation is happening in ways never dreamed of before. Very young children are using them, teenagers live on them—and some even sleep with them on their pillows, as cell phones are often used as alarm clocks.
What do these exposures consist of and what do they mean for human health? Whether cell phone use affects the human nervous system and reproduction, causes
DNA damage and behavioral changes, or creates addictive behavior, cell phones are now ubiquitous in our lives.
Cell phone technology has changed quickly over time and continues to develop, which means that human exposures also change over time. This report explores what we know about cell phone use, exposures, and human health.
- All cell phones emit a type of radiation called an electromagnetic
field (EMF), composed of waves of electric and magnetic energy
moving together through space. Different types of electromagnetic
energy are categorized by their wavelengths and frequencies and
comprise the electromagnetic “spectrum.”
- Different radiation frequencies are used by different technologies.
Radio waves and microwaves emitted by transmitting antennas are
a form of electromagnetic energy collectively referred to as radiofrequency
(RF) energy or radiation.
- The RF part of the electromagnetic spectrum consists of frequencies
in the range of about 3 kilohertz (3 kHz) to 300 gigahertz (300
GHz). RF energy is used in telecommunications services, including
radio and television broadcasting, mobile communication, GPS
devices, radio communications for police and fire departments, and
satellite communications. Non-communication sources of RF
energy include microwave ovens, radar, and industrial uses.
- The complete electromagnetic spectrum consists of both ionizing
and non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation refers to any
type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough
energy to remove an electron from an atom or a molecule. Sources
of non-ionizing radiation include microwaves, radio waves, cordless
phones, wireless networks (wifi), power lines and MRIs.
- Ionizing radiation has high-frequency waves with enough energy to
eject electrons from molecules. It can damage the structure of cells
in the body (including DNA) and has well-documented effects on
human health. Ionizing radiation is emitted by radon, uranium, and other naturally occurring radioactive elements and is used for
X-rays, nuclear medicine, and CT (“cat”) scans.
- Decades of research demonstrate that even low doses of ionizing
radiation can increase the risk of cancer. The thyroid gland and
bone marrow are particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, especially
in children. Leukemia, which arises in the bone marrow,
is the most sensitive radiation-induced cancer and may appear as
early as a few years after radiation exposure. Other cancers that
can result from exposure to ionizing radiation, sometimes decades
after exposure, include cancers of the lung, skin, thyroid, brain,
breast, and stomach.While cell phones are not associated with
ionizing radiation, their long-term risks are unknown.