We stay in an age of regular distractions. 9-to-5 is out; 24/7 is normal. With a smartphone in hand and using it constantly, we tend to witness the phone heating up due to the radiation that emits from WiFi or cellular signal.

To further apprehend this, we need to understand electromagnetic radiation. When we introduce the word radiation, we think of X-Rays, Gamma Rays, or Nuclear explosions, but here's the truth: not all radiation is deadly.

Electromagnetic radiation is the pure energy of electrical and magnetic waves interacting and moving through space.

There are two types:

1. Ionizing Radiation
2. Non-Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing radiation contains high levels of energy that are enough to remove an electron from a molecule. In the process, it can damage DNA in cells. For example, Gamma Rays, X-Rays, etc.

Without careful use, they can lead to cancer or other harmful effects, which is why hospitals have patients put on vests for further protection.

On the contrary, Non-Ionizing Radiation is the most common type we encounter. It is of low-energy radiation that requires heating the body before causing damage. This type of radiation, commonly found in smartphones, TVs, microwaves, bananas (yes, even bananas!), and of course, our bodies.

You cannot see radiation but think of it as positive and negative charged magnets that react as radiation.

That is how our kitchen microwaves warm the food. It is also the reason why the phone begins to heat when it is in constant use.

People should not worry, as we are not enduring an extensive dose of ionizing radiation through this.

The truth of the matter is that our phones use microwave radiation. If phones expose themselves to massive radiation levels, it is a call for concern. But let's be honest, it is unlikely to occur.

Let's talk about an analogy:

One person is using their mobile phone in a lift. Another aggravated person who wound up and exasperatedly says, "Hey, don't you know you're not supposed to use your mobile phones in a lift? It can burst this place up in a matter of seconds, and we can all die!"

Now, let's further understand how mobile phones work.

When we call, a microphone hears our voice, and a processing unit converts this voice to a digital one. The digital signal must be transmitted.

Now, instead of a wire connecting the two phones, an antenna converts the digital signal of our voice into electromagnetic waves that can be transmitted wirelessly.

Towards transmitting information, the devices use the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Microwaves have a higher, effective, and powerful energy than radio waves and a weaker one than infrared.

The waves are transmitted to the closest base station and 'listen' to the microwaves sent from the phone. The waves, then, send the signal through phone cables to a base station that is closest to the receiver of the call.

The second base station converts the signal back into microwaves and sends them to the receiver's phone.

The receiver's phone antenna picks up the microwaves and converts them back into a voice signal that they can hear.

Amazingly, all this happens in a matter of milliseconds.

So, what is microwave radiation, and is it dangerous?

Microwaves are all around us.

A theory known as Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is faint microwave radiation that may have resulted from the Big Bang.

It is present throughout all of space.

So how do microwaves influence our bodies?

The leading consequence is the Thermal Effect of microwaves. When endangered to as much as necessary high-power microwave radiation, molecules start to move faster, and this generates heat.

It is the principle we see when heating food in a microwave oven - water molecules in food move faster, and the heat produced by this vibration warms the food.

We are aware that the microwave radiation from the phone is inadequate to cause significant heat generation.

A 1000W microwave oven is ~500 times powerful than the maximum power of a mobile phone.

What about the non-thermal effects? For example, when using a mobile phone, the head gets more radiation than the rest of the body.

Is it possible that mobile radiation can cause brain tumors?

We know the first step in the development of cancer is damage to our DNA.

Most studies have confirmed that microwaves cannot damage our DNA.

However, there is an experiment that exposed rats and mice to an astronomical amount of microwave radiation. There were some health effects in male rats only.

Scientists are keen that this result does not apply to humans. The good is it has made people watchful about the potential health effects of microwaves.

Scientists have been studying indirect techniques to analyze the effect of microwaves on our health.

A study in which people with and without brain tumors - were enquired about the amount of time they spend using their phone.

As this is a case-study type of survey that relies on people's memory, it isn't accurate and valid. Most of these researches have not shown a logical connection between mobile devices and brain tumors.

Another approach is to see if the number of people having brain tumors is rising. The number of people using mobile phones has increased drastically over the 20 years - so if mobile phones are the cause of cancer, we should observe an increase in people being diagnosed with brain tumors.

In November 2018, an Australian confirmed a massive increase in people using mobile phones from 1990 onwards.

Brain tumor rates have remained constant. There hasn't been any significant increase in brain tumor rates in 15 years.

The study suggests that microwaves from mobile phones do not cause brain tumors.

The essential safety mechanism that helps protect us is that there are strict international limits so that mobile phones can only emit low amounts of microwave radiation.

In regular use, mobile phones never reach the safety limit. They usually emit 35%. But there are circumstances when the radiation level from mobile phones could get to the absolute limit.

Now, this is where the elevator situation comes into the picture. When talking on the mobile phone, it is trying to reach the base station. Unfortunately, the microwaves are hampered and blocked by the metal construction of the elevator, the thick concrete that makes up the elevator shaft, and all the concrete and steel in the main building.

Hence, mobile devices increase the power of microwaves in a frantic effort to secure a connection with the base station.

Furthermore, the elevator is typically a large metal crate, so microwaves can bounce off the walls and be confined.

The above factors insinuate that microwave radiation in an elevator can increase dramatically.

The radiation value while using a phone in an elevator exceeds the safety limit by 3.8%.

It will not harm the brain, but it is more microwave radiation than the agreeable limit.

In conclusion, it is not a good idea to use our phones in an elevator. You will get terrible reception and compromised to an extensive amount of radiation - neither of these sounds like a good deal.

As a precaution:

  1. We can avoid using our phones in the sunlight.
  2. We can begin to reduce our screen time.
  3. We should avoid putting our mobile devices too close to our faces.
  4. We can use earphones or turn on the speakerphone while making or picking up calls.
  5. We should switch to Airplane mode when not using Cellular Data, WiFi, and Bluetooth or turn off our phones when not required.
  6. We should avoid holding our phones too close to us. We could put it in a bag or a small pouch.

One thing that struck me while researching for this article is why we worry so much about the theoretical effects of mobile phones. There are various risks connected to cell phone use.

We continue to witness accidents due to people texting while crossing or driving on the road.

It takes a split second of distraction for a deadly accident.

Next time while using our phones, we should be considerate and careful for ourselves and the people around us.