We've worried about what cellphones have done to the art of conversation; we've worried about whether they cause cancer of the brain. And now, it seems, we have a new concern: their effects on our bones.
A new study suggests that electromagnetic radiation from cellular phones could cause a drop in bone density. Dr Fernando Sravi of Argentina's National University of Cuyo says he's found that men who routinely wear their cell phone on their belt on the right side have reduced bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) in their right hip.
"The different patterns of right-left asymmetry in femoral bone mineral found in mobile cell phone users and non-users are consistent with a nonthermal effect of electromagnetic radiofrequency waves not previously described," he says.
Sravi measured the BMC and BMD in the left and right hip in two groups of healthy men: 24 who didn't use cellphones and 24 who carried one in a belt pouch on the right side, for at least a year.
The average hip BMC and BMD measurements weren't significantly different for the two groups. However, the men who didn't use cellphones had a higher BMC in the right femoral neck (near the top of the thigh bone) - a normal left-right difference that was missing in the cellphone users.
In other words, the men who wore their cellphones on the right side had a lower femoral neck BMC in that hip than the men who never carried one.
The cellphone users also had reduced BMD and BMC at the right trochanter — an area at the outside top of the thigh bone, close to where the phone would be worn on the belt. There was a correlation between the reduction in bone density and the estimated total hours spent carrying a cellphone.
The study raises the possibility that long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones could adversely affect bone mineralization - although larger follow-up studies will be needed.
Sravi points out that it would be a good idea to test women, who have higher rates of osteoporosis; and children, who are likely to have more exposure to cellphones over their lifetime.