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Source: Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar

How cell phones can damage your brain health

Wireless devices like Bluetooth, cordless phones, TVs, smart metres, baby monitors and WiFi emit a certain amount of high frequency radiation.

As these devices are in our homes, we might wonder how it affects our overall health, particularly in areas like deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) impairment, biological effects from low level microwaves and disturbance of the blood brain barrier.

To learn more about potential side effects from electromagnetic fields, the World Health Organization (WHO) created the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project back in 1996. The purpose was to conduct a formal risk assessment of radiofrequency fields exposure by 2016 by examining studies conducted on the issue.

Apart from that, a specialised WHO agency known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the carcinogenic potential of radiofrequency fields in May 2011.

Although the WHO has stated that their examination has not turned up anything conclusive, they acknowledge that the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are possibly carcinogenic to humans, as determined by IARC.

Hence, this is probably why there is growing concern about exposure to radiation from these devices, and this isn’t always reflected in mainstream news. It may be a big surprise to many to learn that within the technical small print of tablets, phones and laptops, users are encouraged to avoid direct body contact during use.

And despite the WHO’s viewpoint, studies are being updated and new ones are carried out to further examine effects and health risks. While research is ongoing, we should know more about the potential risks of being too exposed to radiation from everyday devices.


Several studies have shown that long-term heavy cellphone users are at increased risk for brain cancer, which is why the IARC classified this radiation as a “possible human carcinogen”. Researchers found that adults who started using cell or cordless phones as teenagers had an eightfold greater risk of brain cancer on that side of their head.

“A disservice has been done in inaccurately depicting the body of science, which actually indicates that there are biological effects from the radiation emitted by wireless devices, including damage to DNA, and evidence for increased risk of cancer and other substantial health consequences.”

This is a quote from Dr Ronald B. Herberman, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and an active expert voice who speaks out candidly about the risks from cell phones.


The radiation from wireless transmitting devices has been shown to delay entry into deep non-REM sleep and reduce the amount of time spent in this stage.

Participants who were exposed to electromagnetic fields for 30 minutes before sleep instead showed an increase in REM sleep – the stage of sleep where your brain activity increases and dreams occur – which means less time spent in deep sleep.

The quality and quantity of sleep play a critical role in learning and memory. A person with poor sleep cannot focus or learn effectively. Sleep also assists in consolidating memory for new learning.

Reproductive impairment

In vitro (laboratory) and in vivo (animal) studies, along with experimental research, and epidemiological studies show that high radio frequency exposure is associated with reduced sperm count, motility, concentration, as well as DNA damage and cell structure.

Researchers have also found that rats and mice’s ovaries are damaged, while flies and birds’ eggs are altered.

Understanding the risks of high frequency radiation from your wireless devices will hopefully make you want to switch them off more often. — Freepik

Disruptions to heart function

Exposure to wireless radiation has accelerated to the point that it may be having effects on the heart. Adults and children who suffer from electrohypersensitivity (EHS) suffer from symptoms resembling those observed by radar operators during the 1940s and 1960s. Changes include arrhythmias, changes in blood pressure and increase in heart rate.


A peer reviewed study indicated that children who frequently use cell phones are more likely to develop headaches. Even those who were exposed prenatally to the radiation from wireless devices have a higher risk of developing headaches by the age of seven.

Genotoxic effects

Microwave exposure that does not cause measurable temperature changes (non-thermal) has been found to cause chromosomal instability, altered gene expression, gene mutations, DNA fragmentation and DNA structural breaks. Genetic mutations and cellular damage may contribute to cancer growth.

In stem cells, researchers found significant effects – since stem cells are more active in children, researchers believe children are at greater risk.Neurotoxic effectsAccording to experimental research, chronic exposure kills and reduces brain cells.

In 2011, research by the United States National Institutes of Health found that just 50 minutes of exposure to a wireless transmitting device (cell phone) increases glucose levels in the brain part most exposed. The electrical activity of the brain is altered by non-thermal levels of this radiation at 3G and 4G frequencies.

Hearing loss

There is also indication that the chronic use of mobile phones results in high frequency hearing loss and inner ear damage. Patients who suffer this side effect face a significant risk of developing tumours on the auditory nerve in the brain (acoustic neuromas).


Learning about all the potential risks of radiation exposure may make you feel like jumping up and getting rid of all your wireless devices. While it could be a cause for concern, there is no need to take such drastic action just yet!

Serious health risks occur when the exposure is repeated, frequent and consistently high levels, so as long as you regulate your usage and minimise exposure, you won’t be having radiation issues anytime soon.

Remember to keep your devices in places that you don’t spend as much time in and be mindful to go hands-free when chatting on the phone, and don’t keep it next to your head when not in use.

However, understanding the risks of high frequency radiation from your daily wireless device is a good reminder to turn them off more often and limit usage to certain hours per day.

By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, 31 Jul 2023

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