Not that you’ll be eating your cell phone anytime soon, but did you know that it’s loaded with toxins like mercury, chlorine, and cadmium? Helping to analyze cell phone dangers, the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan teamed up with ifixit.com to take apart and identify components of 36 models of cell phones. They found at least one of the following in every device:
In total, ifixit dismantled over a thousand cell phones to test for toxins by utilizing X-ray fluorescence to irradiate and measure the radiation given back by an object. Certain materials—like the toxins—are identified by the signature of radiation the object re-emits.
“Even the best phones from our study are still loaded with chemical hazards,” bemoaned Jeff Gearhart, research director of the Ecology Center. He published the results of the study on his website, HealthyStuff.org. “These chemicals [are] linked to birth defects, impaired learning, and other serious health problems.”
Cell Phone Dangers to Children and Adults
Although cell phones are extremely convenient, this convenience does not come without risk or consequence. Using a mobile device for any length of time is damaging to some degree, but new research is shedding light on just how significant of an influence extended cellphone use has on the brain. In one study, it was revealed that 10 years of cell phone use resulted in an average 290% increased risk of brain tumor development.
Similarly, researchers found that 143 proteins in the brain were negatively impacted by radio frequency radiation over a period of 8 months. A total of 3 hours of cell phone exposure were simulated over the 8 month time period, and the results showed that many neural function related proteins’ functional relationship changed the for worse. It’s no surprise that celebrity Sheryl Crow attributes her brain tumor to cell phone use.
What’s more, cell phone dangers play an even greater role on children, who have thinner skulls and younger developing brains. One report shows just how prevalent cell phone dangers are for children. Due to developing organs, lower bone density of the skull, lower body weight, and a less effective blood brain barrier, children are especially vulnerable to cell phone radiation. This is even more true for unborn children, with research showing that microwave radiation emitted by cell phones negatively influencing fetal brains.
It was also revealed in a study conducted 4 years ago that 54 percent of children born from mothers who used cell phones had behavioral issues. What’s more, the percentage jumped to 80 if the children grew up talking on cell phones frequently.
There’s a reason the World Health Organization put cell phones in the same risk category as lead, engine exhaust, and chloroform.
Toxic for the Environment
Sadly, the earth, too, suffers from the toxins in cell phones. Mining tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold for cell phone production causes groundwater contamination as well as human exploitation and brutality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Moreover, once a cell phone is discarded, it is shipped to places in the world most Americans don’t see much of, like China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where underpaid workers handle the materials and are exposed to the toxins we go to such lengths to avoid, ourselves.
“[The toxins] have been found in soils at levels 10 to 100 times higher than background levels at e-waste recycling sites in China,” says Gearhart. “We need better federal regulation of these chemicals, and we need to create incentives for the design of greener consumer electronics.”
CEO of ifixit, Kyle Wiens, says that in 2009, 2.37 million tons of electronics were discarded. “Of the digital castoffs, only 25 percent made it into recycling centers. We can’t allow the other 75 percent of our old electronics to become waste. All those toxins add up.”
What we can Do
First and foremost, we ought to consider limiting our use of the luxury items—like cell phones—in question. Buying used electronics can cut down on waste and keep items already in circulation out of landfills.
As said by Wiens, we must kee[ pushing for better regulation of harmful materials. In the meantime, recycling e-waste properly can help keep toxins out of our groundwater. Visit e-Stewards for your local e-waste recycling program or drop off unwanted electronics at a nearby Best Buy.
On a personal level to avoid cell phone dangers:
- Limit cell phone use
- Don’t allow young children to have cell phones
- Use the speaker feature more often
- Place your cell phone far away or turn it off while not in use
- Consider investing in cell phone radiation protection