Getting a phone call from a friend when you’re sick can act just like a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It feels good just to know that someone cares. But if your phone is a cell phone, it’s possible that all the chitchat may itself cause some health problems.
Normal phones are harmless because they transmit sound as electrical pulses through those wires that hang from poles or snake through pipes or tunnels underground. Cell phones use a different strategy. Every word you speak into a cell phone becomes a digital message that gets sent out into the air as pulses of microwave radiation.
Researchers are investigating whether ordinary use of cell phones causes health problems.
Some people worry that letting all that radiation pulse across your brain can cause serious health problems, including cancer. Now, scientists in Sweden report evidence that radiation from some cell phones kills brain cells in rats.
The researchers exposed adolescent rats to low levels of cell-phone radiation for 2 hours. Fifty days later, up to 2 percent of cells in the rats’ brains were dead or dying, the scientists report.
No one’s sure what this means for people. No other studies have so far uncovered significant health effects in animals or people, and other scientists have yet to confirm the Swedish results. Just in case, however, it might be wise to keep your calls short and to use a hands-free headset to increase the distance between you and your cell phone.