At 42, Meena (first name changed on request) has zero hearing sensation in her right ear. Shockingly, or not, the cause has been put down to exposure due to excessive radiation and heat emitted from her cellphone.
The Delhi-based journalist discovered the damage only 18 months ago, when she first visited an ENT for what she thought were persistent air blocks in her right ear. It was too late to undo the damage, the doctor said. And it is unlikely that her hearing in that ear will improve. But rather than brood, Meena immediately started looking for ways to protect her left ear, afraid that long work calls would end up damaging it too.
That’s when her ENT first advised her to use ‘anti-radiation mobile chips’.
Today, besides Meena, her husband Srinivasan and their 18-year-old daughter Padmashree, also use these chips, which Srinivasan bought online.
“Being a journalist, Meena uses her cellphone for a long time every day. Hence, I thought of buying a chip that claims to reduce the heat and radiation emitted from the phone,” he says.
While the complete benefits of such chips are yet to be realised — for now, as awareness about problems caused by overuse of cellphones grows, the number of desi companies providing such ‘respite chips’ is growing as well.
Currently, a handful of brands produce such chips, with some having been on the market for up to five years. Cogent Anti Radiation Chip, Bioenergy Card and Radblock, to name a few, are all chips that are easily available on e-commerce websites like eBay, Amazon and Flipkart, with prices starting at Rs 150.
But how do these chips work, and are they really effective?
Doctors have their doubts.
Dr Manohar Shaan, an ENT specialist at Mumbai’s Nanavati hospital, for instance, says that he consults about three patients a month who complain of pain in the ear due to cellphone usage, but he hasn’t really been able to establish a correlation between the two.
“The link between radiation from excessive cellphone use and hearing loss has not been established. Many of these are actually cases of blocked rather than damaged ears,” says Dr Shaan. “The only problem I can foresee is when someone is using their headphones on high volume. That could potentially lead to impaired hearing.”
What the chips essentially do is harmonise or alter the nature of the electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation emitted by a device to make it more tolerable to the human body.
“Most wireless devices emit radiation that is constant,” says Pranav Poddar, director of Synergy Environics, producers of Envirochip. “Our body though is accustomed to random waves. This chip converts constant waves to random waves. It does not control emissions from the phone.”
Similarly, Radisafe claims to use a combination of minerals to harmonise radiation emitted from wireless devices. “The product adjusts the waves emitted by the gadgets to a frequency that is more suitable for the body. A test conducted using Kirlian GDV camera to record electrical discharges showed the difference,” says Radisafe’s developer Krishnamurthy Kannan.
Real deal vs tall claims
If you’re opting to use a chip with your cellphone, be careful which one you pick. Some say they can alter the nature of radiation in real time, others promise to reduce the heat radiated by a device used over long periods. You should pick a product based on which aspect you wish to address.
As to the actual efficacy, while experts such as Dr RS Sharma of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says it is hard to comment in the absence of independent scientific data, an industry-funded study conducted by the Max Institute of Health Education and Research (MIHER) found that the use of the chip significantly reduced a person’s pulse rate, which is indicative of stress.
“Pulse rate was selected as the criterion for the study as it is easy to monitor and is the earliest sign of several disorders. However, more studies are required to test the long-term effects of the chip,” says Dr Vanita Mittal, director of MIHER. “The main reason why the medical world is still in doubt about such products is that there aren’t many studies to prove their effect.”
Chips like Radisafe’s also claim to dramatically reduce heat emitted by mobile phones.
How harmful is radiation?
In 2011, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified EMF radiation as ‘possibly carcinogenic’. The report said that there was evidence to suggest that exposure to radiation could cause glioma, a type of cancer in the brain or spine, and acoustic neuroma, a slow-growing tumour that develops on the main nerve from the inner ear to the brain.
According to an Indian interministerial committee report, corneas may be affected by overheating of the head during cellphone conversations. “The brain blood circulation is capable of disposing of excess heat by increasing local blood flow. However, the cornea does not have this temperature regulation mechanism,” the report stated.
People who use cellphones for long periods have also reported symptoms like difficulty concentrating, fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory loss and headaches, the report added. However, it clearly specifies that scientific studies have not yet connected these symptoms to radiation exposure and that they could instead be stress-induced.
“A number of studies have revealed that radiation emitted from cell phones and cell phone towers can adversely affect the normal biological processes. But it isn’t clear whether these changes are hazardous,” says Dr Sharma.
It is a fear of such hazards that prompted Delhi-based Geetanjali Aiyer, 60, a media consultant at The Resources and Energy Institute (TERI), to try a chip. A few years ago, she started experiencing fatigue and a constant buzz in her right ear after using the cellphone for a long period.
So, 10 months ago, she bought Environchip on a friend’s recommendation. “We don’t really know what kind of long-term effect such chips might have, but it has definitely helped reduce the buzzing,” she says. “Plus, it is a small little thing that can be stuck onto the phone and it’s inexpensive, so why not?”
A safe call: How to use your smartphone smartly
• Text, don’t call
• While talking on the phone, keep switching between the left and right ear.
• Try and limit conversations to a few minutes.
• When not using your cellphone, try and keep it at a distance from your body.
• Allow children to use cellphones only in cases of emergency.
(Source: Indian Council of Medical Research)