Over the last two decades the use of mobile devices has grown rapidly across the globe. Cell phones, in particular, have grown to become an integral part of our lives. But what about the link between cell phone use and headaches?
As of 2016, Statista estimated that about 63 percent of the world’s population owned and used a cell phone. The number of cell phone users in the world is predicted to pass the five billion mark by 2019. (1)
Cell phones communicate by sending and receiving Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR), which is a form of microwave radiation within the electromagnetic spectrum, from their antennas to a cell phone tower.
The RF radiation emitted by cell phones is supposedly harmless as long as it complies with government guidelines. Unfortunately this is simply not true. Numerous studies have found a link between cell phone radiation and a number of symptoms, including headaches, giving rise to a phenomenon known as ‘cell phone headaches'.
Cell Phone Use Significantly Associated With Headaches
A recently published Chinese study (2) has now found strong evidence linking cell phone radiation to headaches in children and adults. This 2017 study, which carried out a systematic review of some 2699 previous studies going back to 1990, also found a dose-response relationship between the risk of having a headache and duration of cell calls and frequency.
The study concluded, ‘our meta-analysis suggested that mobile phone use is significantly associated with headaches.’ The most likely explanation for how cell phone radiation causes headaches is that forwarded by Dr. Pierre Aubineau of the University of Bordeaux’s National Center for Scientific Research (3), that it causes inflammation in the meninges – the membranes that surround the brain. Earlier research came up with similar findings.
Earlier Research Links Cell Phone Radiation With Headaches And Nausea
A 2016 Korean study examined a number of variables, stress, sleep, cognitive function, and depression, but found that cell phone call duration to be the main determinant of the severity of headaches.
A major Danish study on some 52, 000 children enrolled pregnant women had similar findings. Then when their children reached the age of seven, the mothers completed a questionnaire regarding their child's health. It was found that children with cell phone exposure had higher odds of headache-related symptoms than children with no exposure.
In 2003, TNO Physics and Electronics Laboratory published the results of a study commissioned by three Dutch ministries on cell towers. (4,5) found that cell phone radiation can cause headaches and nausea. It also found a link with other symptoms such as dizziness fatigue, weakness, and muscle pain – despite a lower dose of radiation than that of cell phones being used in the study.
A ministry spokesman said: “If the test group was exposed to third generation base station signals, there was a significant impact. They felt tingling sensations, got headaches and felt nauseous.”
Many people have a hard time accepting that their cell phone could in any way cause a headache. The studies listed below explain some important ways cell phone radiation can impact our brains.
The Head and Hand Absorbs 40 Percent Of Cell Phone Radiation
According to a 1997 study 40 percent of radiated phone energy is absorbed in the hand and the head. The study found “its emission at the head surface is typically 10,000 times stronger than fields reaching the head of a user standing within 30m of the base of a typical mobile phone relay transponder mounted on a tower 30m above ground”. The distance between you and the source of the radiation, in this case your cell phone, is of fundamental importance.
Your Head Is An Antenna
A study published in the Journal Medical Hypotheses, (6) found that ‘cell phone broadcasts occur specifically at frequencies at which the head serves as an antenna and brain tissue serves as a demodulating radio receiver.’
The implication is massive. It implies that a significant amount of RF radiation emitted is absorbed and retained in brain tissue.
This is particularly serious in the case of children. Studies show that children absorb a significantly greater amount RF Radiation than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls thinner and their relative size smaller.
Many other studies (12) have shown that even minute levels of Radio Frequency Radiation have varying detrimental health effects on the brain vis-à-vis the head, consequently manifestation of headaches.
Cell Phone Radiation Linked to Brain Tumors
A common initial symptom of a brain tumor is headaches, so its important to look at the link between cell phone radiation and brain tumors. Two prominent studies (11); The IARC Interphone Study and The Hardell Group Studies in Sweden (1999–2011), provide complementary and mutually supportive evidence to show a great deal of correlation between cell phone-emitted radiation and the incidence of brain tumors.
It was largely on the basis of these two studies that the The World Health Organization's (WHO's) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to declare radio frequency radiation from mobile phones as a Class 2B (possible) carcinogen.
A 2009 Hardell study even found a higher incidence of brain tumors on the sides of heads users placed their cell phones.
Cell Phone Radiation Causes Inflammation In Cells
In a study published in 2014 in the International Brazilian Journal of Urology, (7a) researchers' wanted to understand the effect of electromagnetic waves from cell phones on the mammalian tissue. They concluded that electromagnetic waves from cell phones have a severe inflammatory effect on bladder tissue with reasons to believe that other organ tissues could be affected as well.
The implication of this study is that cell phone radiation can induce inflammatory reactions in brain tissues, thus being a potential cause of headaches. Not surprisingly, people that are sensitive to cell phone radiation often complain of headaches and an uncomfortable sensation directly where the phone is used closest to the body.
30 Minutes Cell Phone Use Alters Brain Activity
Changes in brain activity are a possible cause of headaches. According to a study published in the journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, (7b) 30 minutes short-term of exposure to Long Term Evolution (LTE) cell phone radiation affects brain activity on both hemispheres of the brain. The study showed that radio frequency radiation from LTE 4G (Forth Generation) technology affects brain activity not only in the closer brain region but also in remote regions, including the left hemisphere of the brain.The increase in brain observed activity didn't subside immediately but continued for up to one hour even after the cell phone was turned off.
These findings are in line with another study (8) which found that changes in brain activity lasted some time after 30 minutes exposure to electromagnetic radiation, as from cell phones. The study found that blood flow increased in areas of the brain on the side closest to the phone and that this effect lasted for over half an hour afterward.
Cell Phone Radiation Increases Brain Glucose Metabolism
A 2011 study (9) used imaging technology to monitor brain activity after being exposed to cell phone radiation for 50 minutes. The areas of the brain closest to the radiating antenna of a cell phone responded with significantly increased glucose metabolism. They concluded that weak cell phone emissions changed brain activity.
Cell Phone Radiation Increases Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability
Research published by Allan Frey in the 1970s showed that radio frequency radiation exposures of the type emitted by cell phones increased blood-brain barrier permeability.
Since then dozens of other independent studies have come to the same conclusion with regard to blood-brain barrier permeability, notably that of Salford in 2009 (10) which found that cell phone radiation can damage neurons in the brain.
The study found that exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones was associated with the leakage of plasma protein albumin through the blood-brain barrier into the brain as well as neuronal damage that increased with increased amount of radiation exposure. Though the study sample size was small, the researchers emphasized that the combined results were “highly significant and exhibit a clear dose-response relation.”
Cell Phone Radiation Increases Cancer Risk
Studies to date have found that cell phone radiation exposures are principally linked to two types of brain tumor, gliomas and acoustic neuromas. Gliomas, a particularly deadly form of tumor, are becoming increasingly common. The $25 million Interphone Study found that:
“regular use of a cell phone by adults can significantly increase the risk of gliomas by 40% with 1640 hours or more of use (this is about one half hour per day over ten years).”
There is a considerable body of scientific evidence pointing to the link between cell phone radiation and cancer – much of it is laid out on this page. Many brain tumor victims cite headaches as a precursor to their cancer.
Why Cell Phone Headaches Are Dangerous
Headaches can be just a nuisance or they can be extremely debilitating. I don’t want to downplay the severity of a chronic headache but often, in the case of cell phone related headaches, they are just the tip of the iceberg. More important, is what’s going on behind the scenes – the adverse biological effects.
This can be inflammation, blood brain barrier damage, modification of brain activity as outlined above or there can other biological effects. What is of real concern though, is when these headaches are the pre-cursor to serious diseases like brain tumors and cancers.
What You Need To Do
Cell phones, smart phones and similar devices have myriad detrimental health effects particularly on the head and brain- headaches are a common forerunner of these detrimental effects.
And yet public health organizations, our governments and the cell phone industry maintain the position that cell phones are safe.
Don’t delay – if you or someone you know is suffering from cell phone headaches now is the time to act.
To read my tips on cell phone radiation protection click here.
1. Number of mobile phone users worldwide. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/274774/forecast-of-mobile-phone-users-worldwide/
2. Jing Wang et.al Mobile Phone Use and The Risk of Headache: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cross-sectional Studies Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-12802-9
4. Zwamborn APM, Vossen SHJA, van Leersum BJAM, et al. Effects of global communications system radiofrequency fields on wellbeing and cognitive functions of human subjects with and without subjective complaints. TNO report, FEL-03-C148. The Hague, 2003. Available online. Retrieved From: http://milieugezondheid.be/dossiers/gsm/TNO_rapport_Nederland_sept_2003.pdf
5. Book: Silent Wireless Spring by Arthur Firstenberg Retrieved from: http://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/silent.pdf
6. Z. Weinberger, E. D. Richter; Cellular telephones and effects on the brain: The head as an antenna and brain tissue as a radio receiver Retrieved from: http://www.hese-project.org/de/emf/WissenschaftForschung/Richter_MD,%20MPH_Eli/Cellular%20telephones%20and%20effects%20on%20the%20brain.pdf
7a.Abstract: A new problem in inflammatory bladder diseases: use of mobile phones! Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25251956?dopt=Abstract
7b. Bin Lv et.al. The alteration of spontaneous low frequency oscillations caused by acute electromagnetic fields exposure. Clinical Neurophysiology. Published online 4 September 2013 Retrived from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24012322
8. PETER ACHERMANN et.al. Sleep EEG alterations: effects of pulsed magnetic fields versus pulse-modulated radio frequency electromagnetic fields. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.01025.x/full
Volkow ND et.al. Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184892/
10. Salford LG et.al. Nerve cell damage in mammalian brain after exposure to microwaves from GSM mobile phones. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12782486
11. Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlberg and David Gee Review; Mobile phone use and brain tumor risk: early warnings, early actions? Retrieved from: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2
12. Other studies: