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What is Cell Phone Radiation?

By Adam Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cell phone radiation refers to radiation in the form of electromagnetic waves that is emitted from mobile phones. This type of radiation takes the form of radio waves that are near the microwave range. The amount of radiation that a given cell phone will emit depends on the exact frequency of the radiation, as well as whether the device is using an analog signal or a digital one. There has been speculation that large amounts of cell phone radiation could be hazardous to the user's health, but there are no conclusive scientific findings on the subject.

There is a degree of controversy surrounding the implications of cell phone radiation, and what it means to our health. Some research has suggested that the type of radio frequencies used by cell phones can speed up the progression of cancer in laboratory test animals, but it has proven difficult to replicate these results. It is known that radiation from cell phones can affect pacemakers, but the main concern is related to the fact that most cell phone users hold the phone against their ear. If significant levels of radiation enter the tissues of the head in this way over time, some worry that this can increase the likelihood of brain tumors and related conditions.

When we think of harmful radiation, things like X-rays or gamma rays usually come to mind, but these types of radiation are different from mobile phone radiation in important ways. Radiation on the ultraviolet side of visible light, like those types just mentioned, has a wavelength that is short enough to alter some of the chemical properties of the objects it interacts with. It is referred to as ionizing radiation, for this reason. Non-ionizing radiation, which includes visible light, microwaves and radio waves, is typically regarded as harmless. Large amounts of it can produce a heating effect, like in a microwave oven, but no short-term damage has been linked to exposure to non-ionizing radiation.

Since cell phone radiation is non-ionizing, it is generally seen as being harmless in the short term. The question is whether long-term exposure poses any risk. Whether or not it does is unknown, but as cell phone usage continues to expand worldwide, more information will likely become available regarding this issue.

The exact source of radiation in a cell phone is from the transmitter, a device located near the antenna that converts audio data into electromagnetic waves. The amount of radiation a cell phone can emit is limited by legal restrictions in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Additionally, the average radiation levels of most mobile phones are available to the public, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon304763 — On Nov 21, 2012

I'm visiting in the Philippines, and they tell the kids that radiation is higher when phone battery is on the last bar. Is this true?

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