Cell Phones And Headaches

Written by Rebecca Lord
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Many people who use cell phones report headaches after prolonged use. A growing source of controversy pertains to whether the cell phone itself may be a source of the malady. Specifically, some researchers have suggested that low-level radiation emissions may be responsible for cell phone headaches. Although we remain a long way from conclusive answers, it is important to be aware of the issues around which this debate swirls and to think about ways to protect yourself from potential hazards.

Research Methods 101

A tricky thing about research in this area is establishing a causal link between cell phones and headaches. It is likely that several factors contribute to headache symptoms, and there are probably several variables that mediate and moderate the relationship between cell phone use and adverse health effects. Nonetheless, it is important to understand the role that radiation exposure may play in the manifestation of headaches.

Radiation is harmful to us because it heats human tissue. In extreme cases, this heat may open channels in the blood-brain barrier and may induce chemical imbalances. It may also cause cell death that weakens the immune system. Although there is considerable research documenting the deleterious effects of high-level radiation exposure (e.g., x-rays), scientists are only beginning to understand the consequences of low-level exposure. Indeed, our understanding of these processes remains in its infancy.

Several large-scale epidemiological studies are underway to untangle the link between cell phone use and adverse health reactions. In the meantime, a more pressing issue pertains to how to take reasonable precautions to ensure cell phone safety. Thankfully, there are a number of very simple, effective devices (e.g., radiation shields, hands-free kits) that can be used as safeguards until further information is available.

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