Mobile Phones – Background

Cellphones are all around us and almost everyone uses them;
It seems that cellphones are here to stay!

Considering the widespread use of this device, questions regarding its use and the possible health effects of this exposure, arise.

What is cellular communication and how has it evolved over the years?


Does cellphone radiation affect our health?


What are the standards for limiting cellphone exposure and how are they established? 

Does cellphone use cause cancer?    

Is cellphone use addictive?


What are the recommendations for educated cellphone use?
Are there any specific guidelines designed for children?


Are sleep habits & sleep quality disturbed by cellphone use?


How is cellphone radiation measured?




The first conversation in the history of man conducted by mobile phone took place in.1973.  Martin Cooper, the father of mobile phones, performed this 'world premiere'.  The chosen location for this event: Sixth Avenue, in the heart of Manhattan, to the amazement of passers-by.  It is no exaggeration to state that it symbolized the breakthrough in the technological revolution that changed our lives.


The first mobile phone  developed at Motorola by Cooper's team served only for sending and receiving conversations.  The heavy phone weighed more than 1 Kg. (because of their shape and weight the commercial models were called 'bricks').  Conversations were restricted to 15 minutes, and since the device cost about $4000 (!) in the USA, it was used mainly by the 'upper decile' of the population.


Since Cooper's first mobile phone, cellular technology has advanced at a whirlwind pace.  The cost of a modern mobile phone is much lower than that of the early models, and it is found almost everywhere.


The smartphone, today's mobile phone, is actually a small portable computer that, in addition to phone conversations, enables an enormous range of applications, some in the device itself – such as an appointments diary, photographs, and a phone book – and in most of them, through the cellular network, Internet surfing, messaging and transmission of photographs.


The colossal number of mobile phone users, and the continuous striving to broaden and enhance the applications and the services provided by the device posed a serious technological challenge for the developers.  During the 1980s, following the ever- increasing number of users, a number of drawbacks in the method of analog transmission on which the first generation of mobile phones was based, were revealed. Consequently, the communication networks adopted digital transmission in the 1990s – the 'second generation' devices, which were much improved and cheaper too.  In 2001 the 'third generation' phones were first marketed, enabling rapid wireless communication for telephone and video conversations, internet connection and data transfer.  The first smartphone was introduced in 1992.  Its mass marketing began in 2007 and, as mentioned, it combines the properties of a mobile phone with the advanced capabilities of a palm computer.


Extent of use of mobile phones throughout the world

In 2003 the International Communications Union (ITU) set a goal whereby the whole world population would have access to available information communication technologies, including the mobile phone, by the year 2015. 


The global increase in the number of mobile phone subscribers, according to the ITU report:


By the end of 2010 there were about 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers - 76.2 subscribers/100 individuals.  In 2016 there were 7.5 billion subscribers (101.5 subscribers/100 individuals), and in 2017 more than 7.7 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide (103.5 subscribers/100 individuals).



Number of cellphone subscribers worldwide


Extent of use of mobile phones in Israel   

Mobile phones first reached Israel in 1986.  The devices (manufactured by Motorola) were marketed by Pelephone, the first mobile phone company in Israel.  Two years after the launching, in 1988, there were 5000 mobile phone users.  When the Israeli market was opened to competitors, Cellcom was established in the 1990s, and towards the end of that decade yet another company, Partner, was founded.


Today about nine companies in Israel operate mobile phones, some of them 'virtual' – they purchase air time from the main cellular operators.


Over the past few years there has been a tremendous increase in the rate of cellphone ownership in Israel. According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (Hebrew), in the past 2 decades the rate of cellphone ownership has increased while the rate of landline phone ownership has decreased. In 2016, 97.1% of households in Israel owned at least one cellphone, and 75.9% owned 2 or more.

According to data from the Household Expenditure Survey published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (Hebrew), in 2017, 97.3% of households in Israel owned at least one cellphone. Cellphone ownership rate had increased from 80.9% in 2003 to 97.3% in 2017. According to a survey conducted in the USA, in 2018, 98% of the adult population in Israel had cell phones and 88% had smart phones



The rate of households owning cellphones in Israel


The use of mobile phones: health effects

The wireless communication used in mobile phones is conducted through radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation. The degree of exposure of mobile phone users to radiofrequency radiation increases with the increasing use of cellular devices, and it depends, inter alia, on the way they are used.  The important question is: does the radiofrequency radiation emitted by mobile phones constitute a health hazard?


The existence of a possible relationship between exposure to non-ionizing radiation, such as is emitted by the mobile phone, and the increased risk of developing diseases has been investigated for many years.  The main public debate around this issue focuses today on the possibility that non-ionizing radiation has a-thermal effects that are not directly related to the heating effect but rather to another mechanism through which the magnetic field and the electric field operate, or to another effect of radiation on the living body.  In any case, the issue of possible health effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation is controversial among scientists, and there is no unequivocal answer regarding the degree of risk due to exposure, if any


Researchers believe that in the case of mobile phones the issue needs to be reinvestigated after a a long period of  use and 'heavy' usage of the mobile phone (at the beginning of the year 2000 the longest period of use was 10-15 years, while a study of brain tumors requires a period of 30-40 years).


Because of scientific uncertainty regarding the health effects of radiation emitted by mobile phones, a number of organizations throughout the world, including the Ministry of Health of Israel, have recommended acting according to the precautionary principle, especially in relation to children and adolescents, who constitute a population with unique characteristics.


The issues discussed above, and the precautionary principle, necessitate a comprehensive policy regarding the use of mobile phones, especially with regard to the following aspects: