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Calls more than in one ear, out the other

Joe Podelco / Photo editor

The last time I had an interminably drawn-out cellular chitchat with one of my closest friends, I found that upon setting down my phone, my right ear seemed to ring — the aftereffects of a prolonged phone session.

Imprudently, I hastily shrugged off this foreboding sensation and went about my day. Had I been more attuned to my body’s sensible warnings, I could have predicted that our bodies do indeed have a direct physical response to cell phone usage, as the researchers at the National Institutes of Health recently proved.

Using Samsung flip phones, which trendy techies would deem considerably passé phone models, these researchers tested the effects of cell phone exposure on the brain. The researchers linked the radio frequency emitted by cell phones to a higher brain glucose metabolism and published their findings in the Feb. 23 volume of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

In their report, they said the 47 participants in the study had “significantly higher” brain metabolic activity only in the “region of the brain closest to the antenna.” However, their study fails to account for the varying antenna placement in cell phones. Since antenna placement in phones differs, model-specific studies might need to be conducted to determine if the degree of brain metabolic activity changes in response to the location of the antenna on the cellular device.

In the report’s conclusion, the NIH researchers said this study is currently of “unknown clinical significance.” Cell phone radiation has been found only to cause intensified brain activity and that too, only in specific regions — the area closest to where the phone was held. The actual meaning of this, in regards to our health, is still unclear. Higher brain metabolic activity does not immediately indicate detrimental health effects.

Though, personally, knowing that my brain activity is involuntarily altered because of my cell phone is a little unsettling. Perhaps the repercussions from this radiation cause only negligible health impacts, but until concrete evidence proves this negligibility, my worrisome ways have taken over. As one whose ear is permanently affixed to my cell phone, I have noticeably conserved more phone minutes after learning of this study. Although I have abstained from my usually garrulous gabber in favor of more succinct speech, there are possibly more effective ways to limit the physiological effects of cell phones.

For example, investing in a Bluetooth headset might do the trick. Business Week claims the radiation emitted from a headset is “far lower than even that from a cell phone.” Aside from the fact that a headset is a comparatively safer solution for the car than simply the cell, the headset allows your cell phone to be “positioned much farther from your body — and especially your brain — than when holding the phone up to your ear.”  

Even in face of things, such as pollution, certain drugs and insufficient diets that cause more definite health impacts, the study of such a standard globally utilized device is worthwhile. While researchers further investigate cell phone safety and find more conclusive results, I expect the most cautious individuals will start easing off their cell phone use; presumably, this will be the most difficult practice to embrace, seeing that ceaseless texting and calling are de rigueur in our supremely connected generation.

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