Does Switching Off Phone Data And WiFi Protect Me From Radiation From My Phone?

Table of Contents (click to expand)

Yes, switching off phone data and WiFi reduces your exposure to radiation to some extent, but not completely.

Many of us use our phones to set alarms to wake up at set times each morning. We generally keep our phones on the nightstand or within arm’s reach. Sounds normal, right?

However, have you ever considered how much radiation you expose yourself to, even while sleeping, because you keep your phone next to your bed at night? Or when you carry it around in your pocket everywhere you go?

All phones emit radiation, but the amount can vary between different phone models. This is because wireless phones use radiation to transmit signals, rather than wires.

Does switching off phone data help to reduce radiation? (Photo Credit : Ivan Smuk/Shutterstock)

If you turn off the mobile data and Wi-Fi on your phone, would it lower the amount of radiation to which you’re exposed?

To answer this, let’s examine what radiation is and how it works.

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What Is Radiation, And Is All Radiation Dangerous?

Radiation, in this context, simply refers to electromagnetic radiation. Consider this example: tossing a pebble into a lake creates ripples that spread out in every direction.

Similarly, an object, like a smartphone, laptop, WiFi router, or any electronic device that operates wirelessly, emits waves in all directions; these waves, unlike the waves formed in a lake, transport energy.

We are surrounded by electromagnetic radiation all the time. In fact, the very reason you can read this article is because of visible light, which is another type of electromagnetic wave whose wavelength falls in the visible range.

EM spectrum
Electromagnetic radiation comes in different types, depending on its wavelength. Can you spot visible light in the diagram above?(Photo Credit : Philip Ronan/Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, many people associate the word ‘radiation’ with something dangerous. However, not all radiation is harmful.

Radiation comes in two types: non-ionizing and ionizing radiation.

Non-ionizing radiation, such as radio waves, have the lowest energy levels. They are, therefore, not considered harmful to living organisms. However, there is ongoing research about some potential health effects (Read more).

On the other hand, ionizing radiation, like gamma rays and X-rays, is highly energetic and can cause cell damage to living beings, including plants, animals, and human beings.

Do Smartphones Emit Ionizing Or Non-ionizing Radiation?

Smartphones use radio waves to communicate with nearby towers and electronic devices. As we just discussed, radio waves do not possess enough energy to cause significant molecular changes in the human body. These waves do not have high penetrative power and fall into the category of non-ionizing radiation.

Also Read: Do Phone Towers Cause Cancer?

What Happens When You Switch Off Your Phone Data?

To access the internet on your phone, you need to be wirelessly connected to some network (either your WiFi router or cell phone tower). Therefore, if you switch off the wifi or mobile data on your phone (i.e., go into airplane mode), are you being exposed to less radiation?

The answer is yes. If you switch off these internet-connectivity features on your phone, theoretically, you will be exposed to less radiation.

The concept of full protection of the mobile phone from personal data leakage. Secure internet connection, vpn, encryption, anti virus software.
Many apps on the modern smartphone rely on a stable internet connection. (Photo Credit : SergeyBitos/Shutterstock)

However, it is important to note that whenever you send or receive calls, texts, or any other notification from the internet on your phone, your phone transmits/receives RF (radio frequency) signals. These signals are non-ionizing, so they are generally not considered harmful to humans.

That said, it must also be pointed out that this is an area of ongoing research;  there are a number of studies that discuss the potentially harmful effects of prolonged exposure to non-ionizing radiation emitted by smartphones.

Also Read: Will Turning Off Wifi And Bluetooth Expose You To Less Radiation?

Does Switching Off Just The Phone Data Help In Reducing Your Overall Radiation Exposure?

Yes, at least to some extent.

Simply switching off your phone data won’t completely eliminate radio wave emissions, even when your phone is on standby mode. This is because the phone needs to be connected to a nearby cell tower to be online and available for calls and messages. Therefore, radio waves will still be emitted to maintain the phone’s connectivity.

In addition, there are other passive features, like Bluetooth, which will still emit radiation to remain connected to nearby devices, like Bluetooth speakers, headphones and TVs.

Therefore, turning off your phone’s data or WiFi can lower your exposure to radiation, but it won’t completely eliminate it.

4 Ways To Reduce Exposure To Phone Radiation

You will be exposed to some electromagnetic radiation from your phone or nearby phones in our phone-obsessed modern world… that is just unavoidable.

A simple yet effective way to block some phone radiation. (Source: Viktoriya Pavliuk/Shutterstock)

While you cannot completely eliminate your exposure to phone radiation, you can reduce it significantly using these methods:

  1. Consider using speakerphone during calls. That way, you will limit the time that your head is closely exposed to phone radiation.
  2. Carry your phone in a bag instead of your pocket.
  3. Switch off your phone data and WiFi when you don’t need them. Although this sounds like a difficult thing to do, switching off your connection to the internet and Bluetooth is not really that bad, once you overcome the initial “Oh no, I can’t live without my phone” phase. Many apps on your phone work in the background and therefore constantly use up phone data; setting your phone completely offline will not only reduce your radiation exposure, but will also save your phone data.
  4. Switch to airplane mode on your phone when you sleep or when you don’t need to use your phone. This may sound extreme to some people, but it’s totally doable. Simply set your phone to airplane mode and your exposure to phone radiation will drop to negligible levels.

References (click to expand)
  1. Belpomme, D., Hardell, L., Belyaev, I., Burgio, E., & Carpenter, D. O. (2018, November). Thermal and non-thermal health effects of low intensity non-ionizing radiation: An international perspective. Environmental Pollution. Elsevier BV.
  2. International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. (2020). Principles for non-ionizing radiation protection. Health physics, 118(5), 477-482.
  3. Non-Ionizing Radiation.
  4. Tuieng, R. J., Cartmell, S. H., Kirwan, C. C., & Sherratt, M. J. (2021, November 5). The Effects of Ionising and Non-Ionising Electromagnetic Radiation on Extracellular Matrix Proteins. Cells. MDPI AG.
About the Author

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spearheads the content and editorial wing of ScienceABC and manages its official Youtube channel. He’s a Harry Potter fan and tries, in vain, to use spells and charms (Accio! [insert object name]) in real life to get things done. He totally gets why JRR Tolkien would create, from scratch, a language spoken by elves, and tries to bring the same passion in everything he does. A big admirer of Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla, he obsesses over how thoroughly science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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