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Imagine having access to the whole world with a simple click of your finger.
That’s exactly what smartphone technology can offer – unlimited sources of information & a wide range of connections.
However, despite their convenience, cell phones (and their towers) pose a huge threat to humans and the environment.
Yes, you heard right – it’s not just our health that’s at stake, but also the welfare of mother nature.
Let’s look at how cell phones and mobile towers impact the environment, then we’ll discuss what we can do to stop it.
Mobile Tower Radiation: Its Effects on Plants and Trees
The recent decade was all about the evolution of cellphones, which also means the increase of mobile towers planted in every area.
…that can penetrate through living things and cause adverse effects.
Exposure to this radiation can lead to biochemical changes and altered morphological processes of plants and trees.
This is shown to be true in a study conducted by the Current World Environment, specifically on plants such as Pea and Fenugreek. The conclusions of this research show the exposure to radiation can significantly affect the growth of the two plants.
Specifically, the study found that radiation causes an increase in the plants’ dry weight and seed length.
However, there have been drastic decreases in fresh weight, plant height, seedling vigor, and seed germination.
With increased exposure time and radiation power, the plants have also experienced lessened biomass and decreased root length.
On top of that, it’s been observed that the plants have more enzyme activity and nodule formation.
This nodule formation is caused by bacteria from the soil.
With radiation exposure, nodules of the plants have increased in number and size.
Another study found in the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows the link between mobile tower radiation exposure and the damage of trees.
Their findings indicate that trees planted in low radiation areas with no contact to phone masts are vibrant and healthy.
On the other hand, trees that are exposed to and planted around mobile phone towers received significant damage.
Mobile Tower Radiation and Its Effects on Birds
Plants and trees aren’t the only things suffering from mobile tower radiation – even birds feel the negative effects of it.
Did you know that the number of sparrows all over the world is decreasing at an alarming rate?
In the last 23 years, the population of these birds has dropped by 75%, coinciding with the development of wireless technology and mobile phones.
But how exactly does radiation deplete the number of birds in the world?
First of all, the radiation emitted by mobile towers weakens their bodies because it easily penetrates the creatures’ exoskeletons.
Their nervous systems and immune systems are damaged over time because of this exposure.
Second, since birds sometimes live on the roofs of mobile towers, their egg-hatching tends to be delayed or unsuccessful.
Third, continuous exposure to this radiation reduces the performance of their activities such as foraging, navigation, and alertness, making them more prone to getting attacked.
Their inherent sense of direction and navigation are thwarted by the interference of wireless radiation, leading them astray from their colony.
And lastly, the simple reduction of vegetation and habitable trees (that gave way to mobile towers) may contribute to decreased birds.
It’s not just birds and plants. You’re at risk, too. Learn how to block the effects of cell tower radiation here.
Harmful Effects of Mobile Phones on the Environment
Take a minute to think about how smartphones are made:
To build the phone’s components, certain metals have to be mined from the earth. Common ones include iron, aluminum, and copper.
Iron is used for the phone’s steel frames, microphones, and speakers.
Aluminum is needed to manufacture the phone’s glass screen.
And of course, we need copper for the electric wiring. In some cases, gold and terbium are needed too.
The problem is, extracting these metals leads to tremendous amounts of mine tailings – a term that refers to the mud-like waste from mines.
While impounding structures are supposed to contain these wastes, improper safety monitoring and faults in construction methods lead to toxic mine tailing spills.
When the last catastrophic spill occurred in November 2015, local villages were destroyed and 19 people were killed.
The dam, which held 33 cubic meters of iron-rich waste, took 17 days before it reached the Atlantic ocean, spreading toxic matter along its way.
This damage not only results in ecological impact, but it ultimately comes back to affect human beings.
Apart from these toxic spills, the continuous mining of other metals such as gold causes ecosystem destruction and devastation of tropical islands around the world.
Gold is typically used for the wires and connectors of the phone, but its extraction causes highly toxic wastes rich in mercury and cyanide.
When these substances reach the water, it can poison aquatic life and contaminate our drinking water.
Tin is also harvested and manufactured into the conductive coating used for touchscreens to be functional.
Unfortunately, mining this metal can also lead to the destruction of seabeds and coral ecosystems.
Rare earth elements like dysprosium, neodymium, and praseodymium are also used to enhance the features of smartphones – with similar consequences.
Remember when phones used to be large, boxy, and heavy?
The screens were dim and they even had antennas that would look silly to us these days.
Now that most people use the slim, lightweight, and high-tech devices…
Where do all the old phones go?
When tossed into a landfill, large amounts of toxic lead, poisonous chemicals, and corrosive acids go back into the environment.
The lead coming from batteries and coatings of the phone will eventually wash into the soil or mix with the water and air.
Other models have Ni-Cd batteries in them, which contain cadmium and nickel.
These two metals are dangerous because they can harm our livers and lungs.
Even worse, cadmium is also known to be cancerous.
As of today, there are about 500 million unusable cell phones. Just imagine the amount of waste those phones produce!
Cell Phone Pollution Facts
At present, the overall environmental impact of cellular technology is worsening and continues to produce pollution.
Sometimes pollution can seem like an invisible, non-measurable entity, so let’s look at a few numbers and stats to put things in perspective:
- The carbon footprint of phones has tripled since its 1% record in 2007. By 2040, it will exceed up to 14%.
- In terms of iPhones, the latest models create far more CO2 – the iPhone 6s creates 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s.
- The iPhone 7 produces 20% more CO2 than the iPhone 6.
- Metal needs are predicted to be 3-9 times larger than the current usage of the world. This means that more raw materials will be extracted from the environment.
- Less than 1% of smartphones in the world are being recycled. Although old phones have reusable metals in them, people fail to harvest them after use.
- In the US, the amount of electronic waste stream has doubled.
- 4 phones are disposed of every second (equals roughly 140 million phones in landfills each year)
This is just a tiny peek at the not-so-pleasant side of our favorite gadgets.
Both smartphone waste and mobile tower radiation is a real threat to our environment – whether it be to the bird population, tree growth, mining practices, or anything in between.
Any thoughts on how we can combat it? Leave a comment below!