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Cell Phone Dangers: Loaded with Mercury, Chlorine, Cadmium, Health Risks

Lisa Garber
October 14th, 2012
Updated 10/31/2012 at 8:57 pm
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cellphonesblur 235x147 Cell Phone Dangers: Loaded with Mercury, Chlorine, Cadmium, Health RisksNot 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 to take apart and identify components of 36 models of cell phones. They found at least one of the following in every device:

  • Bromine
  • Chlorine
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury

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, “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

Additional Sources:

Discovery News

From around the web:

  • redrocklass

    Good article. The only thing missing is how these devices use a specific mineral that is only available in select countries, such as found currently in the Congo in Africa. See

  • CDR

    Easy way to avoid exposure……don't buy one. People have jumped on the ownership bandwagon without asking themselves whether or not they really need a mobile phone. Someone like me who has a husband and son within easy reach of an ordinary landline simply doesn't need to bother with a mobile. When I'm out and about, there isn't anyone to whom I desperately need to make a phonecall.

    Of course, businesses have latched on to the "readily available" aspect of people who own the things. Years ago, businesses thrived perfectly well without them, believe it or not!

    I am often criticised for not owning one, but I'm hanged if I'm going to spend out just to join the herd, when I don't need one.

    People are unwittingly creating the waste mountains by constantly throwing away their "outdated" phones in order to buy the latest one with go-faster stripes. Corporations thrive on this type of addiction and each new phone always contains some "must-have" feature that people can't resist. It's the same as Microsoft updating Windows and then cutting off support for the old versions; people are FORCED to change by the corporations.

    As for the health effects; well, when mobiles started to come out in real numbers, our household took one look at the radiation aspect and said "no thanks". But the heavyweight sales campaigns have been all too effective in selling these things, despite the health risks; people are now addicted to their phones like they are to smoking.

    What's the answer? I don't know. Maybe I'm lucky and just highly capable of saying "no". But in the end it's up to the individual.

    • Marant

      But how much radiation giv wireless router. Good to know.