Cell phones have only been around for a few short years, but their use has grown by leaps and bounds. Cellular technology is constantly evolving, and most of us consider a mobile phone a necessity. But as with many technologies that have grown quickly, the cell phone harbors some dangers that have not been properly addressed.
Hazards of Cell Phone Manufacturing
From the time it goes into production, a cell phone has a direct impact on the earth. Numerous natural resources are used in making a cell phone. Elements such as copper, gold, palladium and silicon are used to make the phone’s chips, wiring and circuits. These must be extracted from the earth, and that requires a great deal of energy and water. It also generates a substantial amount of waste, some of which is hazardous.
The impact of manufacturing one phone isn’t so bad. But people around the world go through millions of cell phones each year. Some have multiple phones, and most only use a phone for a year or two before replacing it with a new one due to rapidly advancing technology. Making all of those phones uses up valuable resources and creates a great deal of pollution.
Cell Phone Disposal
Most of the time, when we replace an old product with a new one, we toss the old one in the trash. And that’s exactly where many of those old cell phones end up. But many of the materials present in cell phones and their batteries, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, are toxic.
When cell phones end up in the landfill, they contribute to the hazardous waste problem. Even if the landfill is properly maintained, these hazardous materials will likely end up in the environment eventually. And that contributes to the poisoning of our soil, water and food supply.
Recycling cell phones is one answer to this problem, but consumers have little incentive to do so. Most localities have no laws mandating the recycling of cell phones or the treatment of the hazardous wastes they contain. In fact, those who do choose to recycle their phones sometimes have to pay to do so. It’s cheaper and easier to just throw them away.
Effects of Cell Towers
With the booming popularity of cell phones, cell towers have begun to pop up everywhere. Construction of a cell tower also requires substantial natural resources, and it takes up precious land. But there may be additional environmental impacts that are not as obvious.
Cell towers emit radio frequencies, and the effects of those frequencies are not fully understood. There have been reports of birds flying into cell towers, and some believe that this is due to a disorienting effect from the radio frequencies. Farmers have also reported that those cows that graze near cell towers have an increased incidence of reproductive and behavioral problems and overall health. These phenomena have not been adequately studied, so it is unclear just how much of an impact radio frequencies make.
Cellular phone technology has made it easier for us to stay in touch with one another. But the convenience has come at a hefty price for the environment.
To learn more: