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Can Cell Phones Damage Our Eyes? 429

Posted by Hemos
from the ruination-and-damnation dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "I'm sure you've read dozens of stories about how our cell phones could be dangerous to our health, causing brain tumors for example. But so far, there is not a definitive answer. But now, according to IsraCast, a team of Israeli researchers has discovered that the microwave radiation used by our cell phones could destroy our eyes by causing two kinds of damages to our visual system, including an irreversible one. If the researchers are right, and even if you only occasionally use your cell phone, the lenses in your eyes can suffer from microscopic damages that won't heal themselves over time. As this study has not been not done -- yet -- on humans, I guess the controversy can begin and that another scientific team will soon tell us that this study is not correct. In the mean time, read more for other details and references. And whether you think that cell phones can damage our eyes or not, feel free to post your comments below."
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Can Cell Phones Damage Our Eyes?

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  • Everybody hurts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fembots (753724) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:25PM (#13182350) Homepage
    There are so many researches and studies in the last 20 years, to the point that I'm starting to ignore all but a few obvious ones (like how you could get AIDS).

    In my opinion, anything you do will cause damage to your body, even reading Slashdot everyday is enough to damage my eyes to a certain degree in the next 5-10 years, this is not including hitting F5 every 2 seconds, god knows how much damage that will do!

    So this frying cell phone theory is rather pointless to me. If I have to make a phone call, I would use it, because I might just get run over by a car while trying to use that public phone booth across the street, or maybe cause a minor but irrepairable damage to my knees because of the extra travelling?
  • by ndansmith (582590) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:27PM (#13182360)
    Cell phones are not new technology. There have been enough people using them for long enough to qualify for a serious study of the adverse effects of cell phones on their users' health. We should be able to tell what cell phones do to us, without waiting another twenty years.
  • by qw0ntum (831414) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:39PM (#13182429) Journal
    No, I wouldn't think so. I think the danger of the cell phone emissions is the fact that they are so intense (seeing as they originate right next to your head). Unless you live with an AP right next to you all day, it's not going to matter, as these waves lose their intensity quickly with distance. Think light from a projector--if the wall is two inches away, it's going to be really bright, but if the wall is even ten feet away, it will be significantly less intense.
  • by phlegmofdiscontent (459470) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:41PM (#13182441)
    a week or so ago, basically saying 1/3 of all medical studies are pure bs? I know that's a horrendous paraphrase, but I still think it captures the gist of it.
    In addition, they did this experiment on lenses taken from dead cows. Of course they're not going to heal, they're from dead animals! I'd be more impressed if the study was done on live animals (I can just imagine a chimp with a cell phone strapped to its head). I mean, last time I heard, dead people don't heal themselves, but live people do.
  • by terrymaster69 (792830) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:41PM (#13182443)
    Unless you enjoy what he has to say, stop feeding money to this guy.
  • by melted (227442) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:43PM (#13182458) Homepage
    My cell phone probably caused less damage than four pints of Guinness and six shots of Vodka I've downed last Saturday. And I'm not even beginning to mention the harm caused by the food I ate this week.

    It's like saying "obese people run a higher risk of having high blood pressure and heart disease" and not mentioning their usually sedentary lifestyle, that, you know, may in itself cause higher blood pressure and heart disease.

    Same here - OMG cell phone will fry your blinkers, while at the same time disregarding that these very blinkers are used to look at the computer screen for hours on end, and they weren't designed for that. How do you tell exactly what damages one's eyes when there are so many variables at play?
  • by op12 (830015) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:44PM (#13182461) Homepage
    While true, they have evolved greatly in that timeframe, so I don't believe the results would accurately reflect the effects of use now. The nature of and amount of radiation emitted has to be quite different between the razor thin flip phones of today versus the shoebox-sized (ok, I'm exaggerating) phones of a decade (or two) ago.
  • by datafr0g (831498) <datafrog AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:45PM (#13182472) Homepage
    Cell phones are not new technology. There have been enough people using them for long enough to qualify for a serious study of the adverse effects of cell phones on their users' health.

    What about young kids - mobile phones have been popular with kids at school for only around 4-5 years now at the most. We don't know if they will be affected in 30 years time.
    Maybe the effects will worsen or become noticable after using a phone for 30 years.

    We should be able to tell what cell phones do to us, without waiting another twenty years.

    Yeah but nobody still knows for sure - *Should* is not good enough.

    Regardless of all these studies, the only sure way to know is wait - time will tell.
  • by Geancanach (652302) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:45PM (#13182480)
    Even if this is a real finding (the data given on the linked article were a little vague), it's very far from being meaningful in a medical sense.

    The bovine lenses were taken out of the animals, then given almost constant radiation for 2 weeks. And they showed more damage than the control lenses that got no irradiation. So what? What are the odds that this compares in any way to a few minutes of cell phone use a day over many years, in a living animal? We don't know, and this study doesn't really help us in answering that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:47PM (#13182489)
    I'm not saying cell phones are dangerous, or that they're safe. I don;t know. I have one so I hope they're safe.

    But taking that attitude towards any potential bad news is just self reassuring stupidity.

    Cell phones do vary widly in the amount of radiation they emit. They all emit quite a lot at the point of the antenna, and some emit far more than others.

    The decay of the radiation is obviously cubic over distance, but where most are held, right next to the eyes and brain, the radiation is quite strong. At certain times such as call initialization it's very strong, strong enough to light batteryless LED accessories popular on some phones.

    The notion that holding these close to our eyes and brains without worry of damage is pretty stupid, especially the sorts of damage which may take a decade or more to materialize in a serious manner, when cell phones have only been really popular for about a decade or less.

    People should be concerned and not take for granted that new technologies are just automagically safe. Environmental effects of new technologies are increasing exponentially and we have absolutly no experience in human history to compare it with or assume it will be safe.

    To do so is simply an unproven and rather stupid assumption.
  • by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @09:51PM (#13182513) Homepage
    Is it possible the study is right? Well, yes, we do know radiation causes biological changes, and depending on the frequency can do so at fairly low intensity levels, so it's at least certainly possible.

    Is it a large risk? Very unlikely. If there wasa substantial risk of damage, we'd seen epidemological alarms spring up already. If there is a risk, it's small.

    Do we need to actually care in practice? No.

    Why? Because we always, at every turn, balance risks with benefits. Probably the single most dangerous activity we all do is move in automobile traffic. There are many, many well-known health risks - from accidents to the exposure of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to hearing loss - but we decide that the very substantial benefits outweigh the risks.

    Arguably, mobile communications are not quite as beneficial as car transportation - though I could certainly see a case for disputing that - but then the risk downsides are also very very much smaller, this study or not.
  • Re:Everybody hurts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cagle_.25 (715952) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @10:00PM (#13182564) Journal
    Pointless or not, here are the numbers:

    According to the FDA [goaegis.com], typical cellphone exposure @ 900 MHz is around 1.3W/kg of body weight, which would be around 13mW for a 10-g calf eye.

    These eyes got 2mW @ 1.1GHz, for the equivalent of 20hrs per day. The net result was significant, irreversible damage after 4 days -- 80 hours -- of exposure.

    Seems like a study worth pursuing to me.

    Slashdot doesn't damage your eyes, BTW; it only sucks one year of your life away, although one day it might go as high as five ...*





    *Princess Bride reference for the humor-impaired.

  • by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @10:12PM (#13182631)
    Don't forget that cellphones operate in an area of the electromagnetic spectrum that's in between radio waves that go through human skin but do not have enough energy to do anything to our molecules, and infrared/visible light, waves that have enough energy to affect our molecules, but cannot penetrate our skin due to the reflective property of melanin. Effectively, it's in the same range as microwaves, which do in fact penetrate our skin and do have enough power to mess with out molecules.

    The only reason why cellphones haven't been literally cooking our brains is because they aren't powerful enough to produce any immediate noticeable effects, even after a prolonged period of use. Basically, they don't have enough power to boil the water molecules in our body. This we know for sure, and is the basis of most studies claiming no link between cell phones and physiological maladies. However, what we don't know is what the long-term effects are, and these results I wouldn't expect for at least another hundred years (massively overdosing a few rats like we do with medicine and industrial chemicals won't work in this case).

    I pretty much agree with you. What we don't know we shouldn't ignore, but attempt to find out. Nor should we be afraid of technology, but we certainly should exercise reasonable caution. The exact meaning of "reasonable" will vary from person to person, and should be debated.
  • Roland's Adblog? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @10:24PM (#13182710)
    The one where he posts a link to some article - any article, it doesn't really matter what - on his ad-laden page, then e-mails his Slashdot editor business partners, who then add a link to his page full'o'links in a bogus "story" on their page, and then they all sit back and count the cash rolling in...
  • I'm Asking Nicely (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @10:25PM (#13182714) Homepage Journal
    Roland Piquepaille writes "[. . .] feel free to post your comments below."


    Who can argue with magnanimity like that?

    Anyway, I'm begging here: Can't we please have a Roland Piquepaille section so we can filter this stuff out? I'm not saying anything negative. I'm sure he's a wonderful guy and has a tremendous singing voice. I just don't want to read his blog.

    Look, it's for your own good here guys. Do you honestly believe slashdot would still exist if we hadn't been able to un-check Jon Katz's section?

    Do it for the team, guys!

    -Peter
  • by hzero (894267) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @10:49PM (#13182822)
    But honestly, what do you think is more important to the average person, the long term health of their eyes, or their next phone call?

    None of then. The phone games are most important!
  • by tarunthegreat2 (761545) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:26AM (#13183274)
    Well there's a very simple solution to the problem - use a hands-free kit. Of course, this doesn't limit the radiation to your lower torso or chest, depending on where you keep your phone, but it sure as hell stays away from your eyes/head...
  • Re:But I do (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 28, 2005 @12:41AM (#13183316)
    Accurate? Based on what? Becuase it is loaded with techno-babble that appeals to naive people like yourself?

    Piqupaille is not a scientist or engineer. He's just some random moron with a blog who is paying Slashdot to run his mediocre (which is a compliment) stories so that he can rake in cash from ad impressions.

    If thats not enough to turn people away from him I'd think the scandal about the "Tactile Digital Assistant" that he advertised so much on Slashdot and his blog, trying to get people to order prototypes, and ripping people out of hundreds of dollars in the process by not delivering a product would be. If thats not enough to turn you off to him, then you are supporting fraud.
  • by loqi (754476) on Thursday July 28, 2005 @01:46AM (#13183516)
    Hello. You are representative of a subset of Slashdot users I would like to address this post to.

    In addition, they did this experiment on lenses taken from dead cows. Of course they're not going to heal, they're from dead animals!

    Let me start by saying that the article itself says the lenses were incubated in an organ culture. But that's somewhat beside the point. The point is this: You assumed that the study contained an incredibly obvious oversight. When you made that assumption, you clearly failed to ask yourself... "Are they really that stupid?"

    Unfortunately, sometimes the answer to that question is "Yep". But in general, when some eager beaver such as yourself gets carried away with how supremely stupid someone (presumably) much more qualified than their humble self did, they can overlook simple things (such as the actual article).

    At any rate, your offhand invocation of the "1/3 of all studies" line is complete fluff, and makes your relevant biases crystal clear. May your positive moderators burn in metamod hell.

  • You are speculating, and speculating intelligently, but there is no need for speculation. It is possible to calculate the expected effect of microwave radiation on surrounding material.

    Suppose you wanted to fry something on purpose. How much microwave energy would you need? The amount of energy in each photon is related to Planck's constant, which is a very small number: 6.62606891 x 10**-34 joule-seconds, with an uncertainty of 89 parts per billion.

    The energy of each photon is equal to Planck's constant times the frequency of the radiation. The frequency of cell phone communications is centered around 850, 900, 1800, or 1900 MHz, or millions of cycles per second, in the case of GSM phones, which are the most common. 1,000 MegaHertz is 10**9 cycles per second, or Hertz.

    The frequency of red laser light, or red LED lights, is about 4 x 10**14 Hertz. So, each unit of electromagnetic cellular phone radio energy is somewhere near 1/400,000th of the energy of one photon of red laser light.

    Heat is electromagnetic energy, too. The numbers are such that the energy of cell phone radiation after it spreads as it travels toward your head is small compared to the energy of the heat in the room and your body.

    The result is that there is no manner presently known to physics in which the energy of the phone radiation could interact sufficiently to make a difference in the chemistry of your body. Cell phone radiation cannot affect the chemistry of your body by heating the tissue, for example. Microwave ovens achieve heating using at least 600 watts focused in one direction.

    There are many, many very well-educated people in the world who would love to discover a new way that electromagnetic energy interacts with matter. Such a discovery would make any physicist or chemist instantly famous, and almost certainly earn him or her a Nobel Prize. The motivation to make such a discovery is enormous for people working in those fields. The fact that no such discovery of a new kind of interaction has been made is indicative that at least it is not easy.

    Over the years I've read several articles by people who claim to have discovered biological damage by cellular phone radiation. For example, there was a previous Slashdot story in which such damage was claimed. All the articles I've seen are examples of fraud, not physics or chemistry. Generally what the "researchers" are doing is applying enough concentrated energy that they get local heating.

    Generally the fraud in these reports is not in the reports themselves, which just detail the laboratory measurements. The fraud is in knowing that people will generalize information in the report to cell phone use, and not warning them of the incorrectness of such an conclusion. It's fraud, done for the temporary fame.

    There are many people who know more about this than I. Someone else may want give a more complete or better explanation. For example, someone may want to show how to calculate the amount of local heating caused by cell phone radiation. I did that once with a physicist friend, and the amount of heating was insignificant. Walking from the shade into the sun will heat your body much more. Standing in the sun absorbing the high-energy ultraviolet radiation is truly damaging; severe exposure can cause sores and even eventually skin cancer. The photons of ultraviolet light are more than a million times more energetic than cell phone radiation, and the sun emits far, far more energy than a cell phone.

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