One of the most common sights we see these days, is that of people with their mobile phones next to their ears. A boon for better communication, cell phone usage nonetheless has many health hazards. Various studies indicate that the emissions from a cell phone can be extremely harmful, causing genetic damage, tumors, memory loss, and increased blood pressure and weakening of the immune system. This is alarming information, and one has to take into account all these factors.. Though there is no evidence of cell phones causing cancer or any such illness, but the suspicion, or fear of the same is not baseless either. The electromagnetic radiation from cell phones does have a potential link to cancer. The fact that this radiation is invisible, intangible, and enters and leaves our bodies without our knowledge makes it even more intimidating. Possible hazards: * Two minutes of exposure to emissions from mobile phones can disable a safety barrier in blood causing proteins and toxins to leak into the brain, could increase chances of developing Alzheimer's multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's. (Scientists at Sweden's Lund University) * Scientists say exposure to the phones' low-level radiation causes red blood cells to leak hemoglobin and can lead to heart disease and kidney stones. * Recent studies suggesting a link between cell-phone use and brain tumors, and the possibility that the microwaves could ignite petroleum fumes at gas stations. * A cell phone unit, or communications tower, has so many of thee radiation emanating gadgets. This can be a problem for its immediate environment. SPECIFIC HEALTH CONCERNS Cancer / Tumors Studies have been conducted suggesting that rats that have been exposed to microwaves similar to the sort generated by mobile phones but more powerful, showed breaks in their DNA which could indicate an adverse effect. Also, mice exposed to radiation for 18 months developed brain tumors. Though of course, these studies are not concrete proof. Blood Pressure It was observed that people using cell phones were prone to high blood pressure. Again, there isn't any concrete evidence of the same. Pregnancy A study at the University of Montpellier in France was carried out on 6000 chick embryos and suggested that the heavily exposed chick eggs were five times less likely to survive than the control group. This study raised questions about possible effects on pregnant women but it has not yet appeared in peer-reviewed scientific literature or been reproduced, so its findings are difficult to assess. Headaches, Heating Effects, Fatigue A study brought out that longer the people used mobile phones, the more likely they were to report symptoms such as hot ears, burning skin, headaches and fatigue. The study did not include a control group (that is people who do not use mobile phones, to make a comparison); therefore the symptoms reported could have been caused by any number of other factors in the mobile phones users' environment, such as working with computers, stress, driving or reading. Memory There have been various studies into the connection between mobile phones and memory loss. A study looked into the effect of radiofrequency (RF) on the section of rats' brains that is linked with the memory. The results showed that RF could modify signals in the cells in a part of the brain that is responsible for learning and short term memory. Posture (holding phone between raised shoulder and ear) Some researchers claim that holding a mobile phone between the raised shoulder and the ear could have a damaging effect on muscles, bones, tendons and discs. These problems would apply equally to a cordless phone or a landline phone as to a mobile phone and are the effect of bad posture. Mobile Phones and Children Because of their smaller heads, thinner skulls and higher tissue conductivity, children may absorb more energy from a given phone than adults. PREVENTION TIPS * Cell phones should be used for emergencies, and not for long conversations. * A small chip-like cell phone microwave radiation protection device is available, which has the ability to absorb electromagnetic energy waves from your mobile phone. It helps in reducing the potential harmful effects of these emissions to the human body. * Using a mobile headset is a good idea, you don't have to hold phones next to your ears all the time * Use a hands free mobile car kit while driving, without taking your hands off the steering wheel THE WHO (World Health Organization) RULES * Mobile phone users should limit their exposure to harmful radio frequencies by cutting the length of calls. * Hands-free devices cut exposure by keeping the instrument away from the head and body. * Driving cum mobile phone talking should be banned. * Mobile phones should not be used in Intensive Care Units of hospitals as they can pose a danger to patients by interfering with the working of pacemakers and defibrillators. * People with hearing aids should not use mobile phones. * Base stations, which have low powered antennae on their terrace to communicate with cell phones, should not be located near children's schools and playgrounds. CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING Studies indicate that a lot of car accidents have happened, while the driver was on the phone. This is because while driving, one obviously needs to concentrate, and talking on a phone doesn't help. Some countries like Portugal have banned the use of cell phones, which may not be very practical, as their main use is to be reachable while you are on the move. Thus, it is important to take certain precautions while driving: * Position your phone within easy reach so that you don't have to take your eyes off the road. * Get to know the features of your cell phone - speed dial, redial, voice mail, they can be your lifesaver. But don't dial and drive at the same time. Use a hands free kit. * Avoid using a phone when road conditions are hazardous or traffic is heavy. You can let your voice mail take messages and then call back later. * Don't engage in stressful conversations that may distract your attention from the road. * Don't take notes or look up phone numbers whilst driving, wait till you can pull over. * User abbreviated speed dialing. In fact, voice activated dialing is even better. It leaves both hands free. Frequently called numbers can be programmed. * Have an answering machine installed that could take messages until you can return the calls. Let your co-passenger handle the calls if you are not traveling alone.