What Radiation Comes From Mobile Phones?

All electronic devices emit radiation in one form or another – there’s no escaping it. The plus side to the radiation coming from your computer or refrigerator, however, is that you’re not constantly being exposed to it. The same can’t be said of your cell phone, which is in your face or pocket 24/7.

While all of these things are great, it does constantly expose us to various levels and types of radiation. In all the world, roughly 5.1 billion people carry a cell phone with them. Out of nearly 8 billion people, that’s a tremendously large percentage.

The radiation those 5 billion phones emit is radiofrequency (RF) radiation. It passes through our bodies and immediately causes heating, which is the most obvious sort of effect it produces.

We’ll look at this type radiation in detail, how it can potentially affect you, and how you can protect yourself.

Concerned about 5G? Read the article on how to protect yourself from 5G.

Quick note! If you’re interested in learning more about EMF radiation, Nick Pineault’s The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs is a great read. The book explains EMF radiation AND it’s entertaining. It does cost a few dollars but I highly recommend it!

RF Radiation Emitted by iPhones

Close up of two women's hands both holding a white mobile smart phone

As we mentioned above, cell phones emit non-ionizing, radiofrequency radiation. Read our article on cell phone radiation levels to see which phones emit the most (and least radiation).

What that means specifically is:

Radiofrequency (RF) Radiation

Radiofrequency radiation is a low-frequency wavelength that is emitted and accepted by radios and devices with antennae that are designed to pick it up. This includes your wireless connectivity on your computer or gaming devices, phones, and regular old radios.

This type of radiation is known to heat things as it passes through them. If you’ve spent a long time on your phone, you know it gets hot and when it’s connecting to wifi in your pocket, that radiation is moving through your body.

Non Ionizing Radiation

Non ionizing is an attribute that means that the energy within the radiation is low. This is in contrast to ionizing radiation from something like an x-ray. Still, non-ionizing radiation has been classified as “possibly carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization.

While the direct effects of this type of radiation aren’t as obvious or immediately detrimental as something like an x-ray, the long term damage hasn’t been studied.

Cell phones have only been as pervasive as they are for about 15 years or so, and since smartphones give us access to entertainment and information, we use them now more than ever. Only time will tell what this much exposure can mean.

Health Effects Associated with RF Radiation

Close up of hands holding a mobile phone scrolling on it

Constant exposure to radiation is not healthy, no matter the type. Even if all radiofrequency radiation did was heat your body, over time that heat can and will damage cells. Once a cell is damaged, it needs to be fixed and that invites a chance for a mutation that can lead to cancer.

Additionally, using phones requires them to be in contact with your head for long periods in some cases. Epidemiological data points suggest an increased risk for acoustic neuromas, which are tumors in the audio processing center of the brain.

Additionally, there are links between cell phone use and meningiomas, tumors that occur in the nerves at the base of the brain. Finally, parotid or salivary gland tumors are also highly suspect with frequent cell phone use.

Some studies show proof that there are brain chemistry changes but did not find what those changes indicate.

One such study found that the brain’s utilization of glucose changes immediately during and after cell phone use. Multiple participants over several trials showed increased glucose metabolism on the side of the brain where the phone was used. What this means isn’t clear but there is no doubt that phones are the cause.

One particular concern is how the constant barrage of radiation affects cellular functioning, especially in the brain.

Some studies indicate that while immediate damage isn’t clear, subtle changes in the way cells behave can cause problems down the line. These beliefs and the associated studies are why there are upper limits on the amount of radiation your phone, computer, and tablets can emit.

Additional guidelines to limit exposure are suggested, but most people don’t pay attention to them or are aware that they exist.

How to Protect Yourself From Mobile Phone Radiation

Mobile phones are a fact of life and will only get more ubiquitous as time goes on.

Children, in particular, are vulnerable, as most radiation emissions are calculated for adults, but the fact is that safe radiation exposure values are based on what’s known as the specific absorption rate, or SAR.

Top down view of a young boy and young girl side by side with one holding a mobile phone and the other with a tablet

More information about phones and kids in these articles:

Is Phone Radiation Harmful to Babies?

What is a Safe Cell Phone Distance from a Baby?

This is essentially the maximum safe amount of radiation based on body size, calculated for adults. In smaller adults or children, this maximum can be lower, so it’s critical to follow these steps to limit exposure every day.

Increase the Distance Between You and Your Phone

Using an air tube headset to still talk or listen to audio, but without having the phone up to your head. This is a good rule to follow in general, as using a headset is less distracting, but the safety it affords in terms of reducing exposure to radiation is abundant.

If you’re interested in learning about the best airtube headsets on the market, check out this article.

And don’t think about a Bluetooth headset if you’re worried about EMFs. Learn more about the dangers of Bluetooth headsets here.

Use Airplane Mode

When not actively using your phone, put it on Airplane mode. This reduces the amount of wifi signal (radiofrequency radiation) that is passing through to your phone. If you’re in the way of that signal, that energy is passing through you, but on Airplane mode this connection is closed.

Opt to Turn Off Your Phone When Not in Use

This isn’t something everyone can do, but if you’re not using your phone, the best way to avoid radiation exposure is to simply not have it on.

You can practice this at bedtime and if you’re the kind of person who uses their phone as an alarm, invest in an actual alarm clock.

The convenience of the alarm on your phone is not worth the continued exposure.

Invest in a Radiation Shield

Many companies create easy-to-use radiation shields that direct the radiation away from your body and harmlessly out to the sides. These are simple to install, relatively cheap for the protection they provide, and widely available online.

This is how EMF shielding materials work.

Turn Off Wifi When You’re Not Using Your Phone

Even if you’re not using wifi data, it’s still being beamed into your phone. Though cellular data energy is all around us, wifi is a much more direct path of radiofrequency radiation through your home. If your phone is connected to wifi – even if you’re not using it – it’s still beaming through you. 

Here’s a full article on turning off wifi on many different devices.

Use Your Phone Consciously

We all need to use our phones daily, and chances are good your family does as well. A few small steps and alterations in behavior can dramatically reduce the amount of radiation you face daily, and prevent the potential long term effects of that exposure.

Keep reading: Laptop Radiation: The Potential Danger and Associated Risks