Electromagnetic radiation and its impact on people’s health and the environment is a subject surrounded by a lot of misunderstanding. It is easy to believe in pseudoscientific rumours when there is no way of (or will to) check the information.
We are upset by reasonable people saying things which are just myths. Sometimes they are so confident about their ‘knowledge’ it is hard to discuss anything with them. Especially in the field of mobile phone radiation, there are several ‘experts’ who turn out to know nothing on the subject. They might have heard somewhere that if phone mast is far away, you are not exposed to radiation in any way. Or they are so sensitive they don’t use a microwave oven because they read that it makes their food radioactive. Let’s discover the truth behind a few common myths about radiation.
Myth N°1: There is no safe dose of radiation
Reality: Radiation occurs everywhere in our everyday lives so it would be impossible to be affected by small doses of it. Radiation is emitted from both natural and manmade sources and there are different types. Our electronic devices are constantly emitting radiation and we are also exposed to EMF coming from cell phone masts and Wi-Fi routers which are literally everywhere (especially if you live in a big city). Sometimes you need to get an X-ray and it is not like the small dose of radiation you receive will kill you or make you ill. Long-term exposure may have some impact on your health. Low levels of radiation won’t influence you immediately but they can increase your risk of getting ill when you are exposed for a long time, e.g. using a mobile phone for a few hours a day for a few years. It is scientifically proven that mobile radiation affects infertility in men and may even increase the risk of brain tumours. You don’t have to worry about everyday exposure if you are using your devices responsibly. I’ve written about it here.
Myth N°2: Microwaved food is radioactive
Reality: This is a common myth caused by a lack of knowledge about radiation. Some people think that microwaves can make food radioactive because they’ve mixed up radioactivity and electromagnetic waves. Microwave radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from one meter to one millimetre; with frequencies between 300 MHz (100 cm) and 300 GHz (0.1 cm). The microwaves go through the food to oscillate its molecules and warm your meal. Radioactivity is the process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by emitting radiation, so as you can see it is a different matter. Microwaves are quite similar to the radiation emitted by our mobile phones. Devra Davis, co-founder of the Environmental Health Trust, said that smartphones are two-way microwave-radiating devices that we are holding next to our brain for a long time.
We already know that long-term exposure to this kind of radiation can harm our health (scientific research was provided in that field, you can read our article on that here). Microwave ovens should not be used too often due to the fact they increase the doses of radiation we are exposed to (particularly if you stand in front of the machine and wait for your food to be ready; better stop doing that).
If you are concerned about the quality of food, you should know that during heating in a microwave oven it becomes less valuable. That is because local high temperature eliminates some vitamins and other parameters of the meal (for example, the orientation of hydrogen in H2O is changed what makes it lose antioxidant properties). If you can, try not to use a microwave too much. To sum up, no need to be afraid of making food radioactive that you should remember microwave ovens emit electromagnetic radiation which can affect your health after long-term exposure.
Myth N°3: A car shields from the radiation so it is better to use a mobile phone in a vehicle
Reality: Most cars have metal roofs and there is a lot of tinted glass, so they can act as a Faraday cage. Radiation is trapped inside of a car via The Faraday Effect (if you don’t have windows opened or a properly mounted car antenna). The RF radiation is concentrated so the microwaves penetrate the human body at higher EM intensities while it escapes through the metal body of a vehicle. The metal parts reflect back the radiation at you. Keep in mind that mobile radiation frequencies are high enough for electromagnetic waves to penetrate the glass.
When you try to call in the car with all the windows closed, the phone signal is weak, so the mobile phone increases its power to find the nearest transmitter. It makes SAR level of the phone increased. So as you see it is not safer to use a mobile phone in a car. Obviously, don’t use a smartphone while driving! You should be focused on the road. When you are a passenger and you want to call someone on a mobile phone, it’s better to talk to your friends or family in the car instead.
Myth N°4: If cell phone towers are far, you are less exposed to radiation while using a phone
Reality: Living close to cell phone masts is considered unsafe because they emit RF radiation all the time and it is impossible to turn them off, so people living in the vicinity are constantly exposed. We wrote about this here. If cell phone towers are far away they still can affect you but in a different way. If something is hard to see, it doesn’t mean it’s not working. Your exposure to radiation depends both on the distance from the phone mast and the strength of the phone signal.
While a network’s signal is low, a mobile phone automatically sends and receives more powerful signals so it can reach the closest cell tower. If it is far, mobile phone users are even more exposed to radiation from their device.
Your phone needs to work on a higher power to keep the communication with the cell phone base station. As you can see, it is better not to talk on a phone if it has low signal reception. When you know there are no cell phone masts in the vicinity, wait for a better signal before making calls. If you are far from them, you may not be affected by the radiation they are emitting but you are increasing the mobile phone radiation impact on your body.
Myth N°5: Nobody cares about the health effects of RF radiation, it is all junk science
Reality: There are a lot of scientific studies on the impact of mobile radiation on health. Their results were so disturbing that the WHO (World Health Organization) decided to put mobile phone radiation on the list of possible carcinogenic hazards. This decision was made due to the fact that the evidence is already sufficient enough to state that radiation may have an impact on human health. Important research on mobile phone radiation is still ongoing. There were a few main studies which showed similar results – RF frequency may affect human health and increase the risk of developing cancer, especially brain tumours. Long-term effects were also researched.
Scientists from a few European countries launched COSMOS study in which mobile phone users are going to be observed for about 20 years. Partial findings will be published in five years. We wrote about this study here and you can also read our post about the most important research here. If you are still not convinced, you should know that in 2015 a large group of scientists in the field of electromagnetic radiation wrote an open letter to the United Nations.
They stated there that mobile phone radiation has been proved harmful in many ways, not only to humans but also animals and plants, so our environment is in danger. They advised to educate people more on the adverse health effects of being exposed (especially children and pregnant women) and to lower the levels of outdoor exposure (e.g. radiation coming from cell phone masts which are placed in the vicinity of urban areas). You can read their statement here.
Obviously, there are many more myths that should be revealed but these are the most popular ones. When you’re interested in learning more about electromagnetic radiation, you should look for good sources of knowledge. There are a lot of fake websites online which try to make you believe in conspiracy theories. We once read about people who think our ‘minds are being controlled by the signals from microwave ovens…’ Well, no, it doesn’t work that way.
Radiation and its impact on people’s health is a serious matter, already proved by scientific research. A lot of people are still not convinced yet and they think the whole field of research on EMF is a waste of time. As we said, there is a lot of misunderstanding which is caused by a lack of knowledge. If you read our blog regularly, you’ll know that we only appreciate scientifically proven information and we hope you won’t believe any myths associated with mobile phone radiation.
Hitchcock, R. T. (2004) Radio-frequency and Microwave Radiation [Online] https://books.google.pl/books?id=0TUIQ9-Ap5cC&pg=PA1&dq=microwave&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=microwave&f=false (Accessed 25.09.2017)
 Mercola, J. (2012) Dr. Mercola Interviews Devra Davis on the Dangers of Cell phones [Online] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/07/devra-davis-on-cell-phone-dangers.aspx (Accessed 25.09.2017)
RF Safe Corporation (2017) Cell Phones Increase RF Radiation Output Inside Vehicles – Faraday Effect [Online] https://www.rfsafe.com/cell-phones-increase-rf-radiation-output-inside-vehicles-faraday-effect/ (Accessed 25.09.2017)
iPhone Tricks (2014) 13 Tricks to Lower Radiation Exposure [Online] https://www.iphonetricks.org/13-tricks-to-lower-iphone-radiation-exposure/ (Accessed 25.09.2017)
Shimla, D. (Unknown) MYTHS & FACTS about EMF Radiations emitted from mobile towers [Online] http://termcellhp.org/myths-and-fcts-about-emr-radiation.pdf (Accessed 25.09.2017)