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Aster's avatar

Where does cell phone heat that burns your ear come from and is it radiation?

Asked by Aster (19126points) October 26th, 2010

They claim a big increase in childhood brain tumors from cell phone use. What is the heat that comes from them?

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

“All cell phones emit some amount of electromagnetic radiation. Given the close proximity of the phone to the head, it is possible for the radiation to cause some sort of harm to the 118 million cell-phone users in the United States. What is being debated in the scientific and political arenas is just how much radiation is considered unsafe, and if there are any potential long-term effects of cell-phone radiation exposure.

There are two types of electromagnetic radiation:

* Ionizing radiation – This type of radiation contains enough electromagnetic energy to strip atoms and molecules from the tissue and alter chemical reactions in the body. Gamma rays and X-rays are two forms of ionizing radiation. We know they cause damage, which is why we wear a lead vest when X-rays are taken of our bodies.

* Non-ionizing radiation – Non-ionizing radiation is typically safe. It causes some heating effect, but usually not enough to cause any type of long-term damage to tissue. Radio-frequency energy, visible light and microwave radiation are considered non-ionizing.

On its Web site, the FDA states that “the available scientific evidence does not demonstrate any adverse health effects associated with the use of mobile phones.” However, that doesn’t mean that the potential for harm doesn’t exist. Radiation can damage human tissue if it is exposed to high levels of RF radiation, according to the FCC. RF radiation has the ability to heat human tissue, much like the way microwave ovens heat food. Damage to tissue can be caused by exposure to RF radiation because the body is not equipped to dissipate excessive amounts of heat. The eyes are particularly vulnerable due to the lack of blood flow in that area.”


crisw's avatar

All heat is radiation.

And it’s probably coming from the batteries.

crisw's avatar


“They claim a big increase in childhood brain tumors from cell phone use.”

Who is “they”?

Aster's avatar

The final verdict is not in yet.
March 21, 2005 – Fox news and CNN News both report that on March 16, 2005, a federal appeals court in Maryland reinstated five class-action lawsuits that allege that the cell phone industry has failed to protect consumers from unsafe levels of radiation. Fox quotes a Dr. Henry Lai, a bioengineering professor at the University of Washington, as saying that electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones may damage DNA and cause benign brain tumors. Dr. Lai also agrees with EHSO’s recommendation to use a headset to minimize potential exposure.

Nullo's avatar

Running electricity through anything is going to generate some heat. Which will radiate into your ear.
A good rule of thumb for radiation is that you can’t feel the harmful stuff… at least not right away.

gorillapaws's avatar

Don’t you get more radiation from 3 minutes of sunlight or something? Honestly, there are so many more important things to worry about, like heart disease.

Think of it this way. If it really did cause brain cancer, there would be a MASSIVE global pandemic of brain cancer at this point wouldn’t there?

TexasDude's avatar

@Nullo is right. The heat you are feeling is radiation, technically, but not the kind you are thinking of. It is generated by the batteries. Studies about people getting brain tumors from cellphones are inconclusive. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

gasman's avatar

From Consumer Health Digest #10–36:

A major study that examined whether cell phone use increases the risk of gliomas (malignant tumors) and meningiomas (benign tumors) has found no evidence that it does. The research, conducted in 13 countries using a common protocol, involved 2,708 glioma cases, 2,409 meningioma cases, and matched controls. It is the largest case-control study of cell phones and brain tumors conducted to date, with the largest numbers of users with at least 10 years of exposure and the greatest cumulative hours of use of any study. For the small proportion of study participants who reported spending the most total time on cell phone calls, there was some association with glioma, but the researchers considered this finding inconclusive. [INTERPHONE Study Group. Brain tumor risk in relation to mobile telephone use: Results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study. International Journal of Epidemiology. 39:675–694, 2010]

The National Cancer Institute has summarized the findings of smaller studies, most of which found no overall association. [Cell phones and cancer risk. NCI Web site, May 19, 2010] A few of the studies found slight possible higher risks for certain tumors, but the most likely explanation for this is that if enough data points are studied, some may look significant even though they are not.

Many laboratory studies have found no evidence that radio waves are carcinogenic in laboratory rodents, and physicists point out that radio waves are not sufficiently energetic to cause DNA damage. All evidence considered, there is no current reason to avoid cell-phone use out of fear that it will cause tumors.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I can’t resist. Let’s do the math, shall we?
I just opend my phone. The battery is labeled 3.7V at 1000mA hr.
My phone gives me 3 hours of talk time.
How many watts is the battery putting while it is working?
Find total Watt hrs in battery and divide by hours to get rate of output.
3.7V x 1000mAhr= 3.7Whrs battery storage. 3.7Watt-hr/3 hours= 1.2 Watts
Sense check:
The heat from your phone is the same as holding a 1.2 Watt light bulb. I know what a 4 watt night light feels like. My phone is less than that. Yes. It makes sense.
The phone is only radiating about 10–30% of that in the form of radio waves or 0.12W to 0.4W.

Rarebear's avatar

Celphones can not cause cancer.
and for a slightly more technical article on why cel phones don’t cause cancer

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