My coursework piece for physics had to be based on the topic of the effects of radiation emitted from mobile phones. Therefore, I began my case study by researching people’s opinions on the subject.
In this case study, I plan to investigate both the arguments for and against my question: “Does use of mobile phones adversely affect our health?” I will do this by using a number of sources and by researching evidence that back up my own ideas. In addition to this, I will conclude this case study with a final look at my opinion.
Mobile phones work using cells. That is where the American term “cell phone” derives from. Each cell has a base station as its centre. The base station sends and receives calls from the phone. There are three different types of base station; Macrocells, Microcells and Picocells.
Macrocells are the largest type of base stations and provide the main coverage for mobile phone networks. Its antennas can be mounted on ground-based masts, rooftops or other structures and must be high enough to avoid obstruction. Macrocells provide radio coverage over different distances, depending on the frequency used, the number of calls being made and the surrounding environment.
Microcells are used to improve capacity in areas where mobile phone communication is frequent, such as shopping centres. The antennas for microcells are mounted at street level. They are smaller than macrocell antennas and can usually be disguised, so that they are less obvious, in case of vandalism.
Picocells only have a range of a few hundred metres and may be used to boost weak signals within large buildings or where there is a dense population of users, such as in airport terminals, train stations and shopping centres.
The phone communicates with base stations using radio waves. Radio waves are made by various types of transmitter, depending on the wavelength. They are also given off by stars, sparks and lightning, which is why there is interference on radios in a thunderstorm. Radio waves are the lowest frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum, and are used mainly for communications.
Radio waves are just one type of electromagnetic radiation. There are various types of electromagnetic radiation, radio waves having the longest wavelengths but the smallest of frequencies and gamma radiation having the shortest wavelengths but the highest frequencies. The wavelength is the distance between the same points on two successive waves and the frequency is the number of complete waves that are produced by the source in one second. This is the same as the number of waves that pass a point each second.
Visible light is emitted by sources, such as light bulbs and candle flames. The light travels from the source to our eyes, which act as detectors. All electromagnetic radiation delivers energy in “packets” called photons. The photons of different colours of light deliver different amounts of energy.
With almost every person owning a mobile phone, including “over 300,000 children in the UK using them every day”, experts often conflict with whether or not this device is harmful to our health. Some people are worried about if the batteries or other compartments in the phone become dysfunctional in extreme heat and might harm the user. This has been noted as being a very rare case. The most common of the controversies with mobile phones is if the radiation emitted by them causes cancer and other brain-related disabilities.
Arguments that mobile phones are safe
Professor Barker is a Consultant Clinical Scientist in the Department of Medical Physics of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. He has spent the past 30 years carrying out research into the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. He says that “for over eighty years we have accepted wireless transmissions as part of our everyday life. We have big TV and broadcast radio transmitters all around us. Then, when someone proposes putting up a base station – which is also a radio transmitter – we all suddenly become concerned.”
Tech-FAQ.com also has an article on how mobile phones are safe. It bullet points different facts that support that mobile phones are safe. For example; “Regarding brain tumor incidence, researchers admit that the evidence still is not clear as to whether tumours or cancer are directly related to mobile phone use, Factors regarding loss of concentration, fatigue or headaches are likely false, since they cannot be replicated in the laboratory.”
Arguments that mobile phones are dangerous
However, Tech-FAQ.com doesn’t seem to only have one side of the story. They also have some facts on how mobile phones can be dangerous. For example; “While the evidence is still not clear, it is possible that using a mobile phone on a regular basis can increase the susceptibility to brain tumors or brain cancer by 2.5 times, Mobile phones operate using magnetic fields. Studies based on research in the past have shown that in certain circumstances, magnetic fields can affect living cells.”
In addition, many newspaper articles suggest that mobile phones are more harmful than smoking. It is a theory that has been studied many times but still we are unsure of the results. A study by Dr Vini Khurana is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks. He says that using handsets for more than 10 years can double the risk of brain cancer. Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon, who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that “there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumors”. He believes this will be “definitively proven” in the next decade.
Some scientists believe that the radiation from mobile phones can heat up part of the body and damage them, and some research show that mobile phone users are twice as likely to develop cancers in areas of the brain close to the ear. Other scientists argue that the radio waves used are not powerful enough to damge tissue, and there is no evidence that the slight heating effect can cause cancer. At present, there is not enough evidence to say this is definitely linked to using mobile phones. Professor Khurana’s research has been dismissed as “a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual” by the Mobile Operators Association.
Personally, from the information I have acquired and my own knowledge, I believe that mobile phones have no connection to the development of cancer near the brain. For the tests that may have been taken to create that theory, they are not accurate enough to be taken seriously. Scientists and newspaper articles that have continously argued about this subject are basically just biast opinions and I have not found any reliable stastistics or scientific facts to prove otherwise. Mobiles phones should not be used excessively, as with everything else, but banning them could create more problems than it solves.
January 9, 2018
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