I sold Dubbo’s first ever mobile phone on 26
July 1990 and, as you can imagine, phones have changed somewhat since then.
Regardless of whether the phone was one of the handbag-style bag-phones or a car-phone
or a super-sleek handheld phone (initially the size of a brick) there is one
question that has endured through all the years.
Does using a mobile phone cause cancer?
The first mobile phone call in Australia was
made on 9 August 1981 (with the 007 network) and the first handheld call on the
analogue cellular network was made on 23 February 1987. With more active
services in this nation than people, that is a lot of phone calls over a long
period of time to see some changes in health outcomes from the non-ionising
radiofrequency output from a mobile phone.
A new US Federal study on mobile phone
radiation, conducted in rats, has found a slight increase in brain tumours in
males. The study bombarded rats with mobile phone radiation from the womb
through the first two years of life for nine hours a day. The study found
tumours in two to three per cent of males with no impact on females. Strangely,
the control rats not exposed to radiation died at double the rate of those that
The results at this stage are only
preliminary and will form part of what will ultimately be released. With almost
forty years of mobile phone usage across the world, there has been no
detectable increase in brain tumours across the general population, and humans
are exposed to radiation from a number of sources.
There is a much higher dose of radiation in a
medical CT scan or X-ray than a phone call. Even flying involves exposure – a
seven-hour flight exposes travellers to about the same radiation as a chest
X-ray. Understanding the concerns from the community, mobile phone
manufacturers have been providing SAR values since October 2001. SAR stands for
Specific Absorption Rate which is the rate at which a user absorbs energy from
the handset. In Australia, the maximum allowable SAR for any mobile phone is
2W/kg. As a simple example, a popular phone such as the Apple iPhone 6s has a
SAR of 0.87W/kg at the head of a person – well below the maximum value.
While it is impossible to say that mobile
phones don’t cause cancer, what we can say is that there has been no evidence
found to date that the use of a mobile phone will increase the likelihood of
contracting cancer – but we’ll keep an eye on those rats anyway.
Mathew Dickerson has become a serial IT entrepreneur after
starting his first business in 1980. He has started six successful businesses
that have won numerous awards at local, national and international levels and
currently owns the technology businesses axxis and Small Business Ru!es.