I first began receiving submissions about this factually dubious "health warning" message in late 2005. The warning, which travels via email, blogs and online forum posts, claims that mobile phone users should only use the left ear for making calls, supposedly to lessen the effects of exposure to cell phone radiation. The message attempts to convince readers that using the right ear for mobile calls can directly damage the brain and it is therefore wiser to favour the left ear. Like other such warnings, the message does not include any external references to support its claims.
Not surprisingly, I have found no evidence to confirm the claims outlined in the message. The message includes a diagrammatical image apparently intended to add a degree of credibility to the information. Ironically however, the diagram has no direct relevance to the spurious claim that using the left ear is preferable to using the right. Although the subject matter of this infographic does relate to possible dangers from mobile phone radiation, a closer examination reveals that it makes no reference at all to using the left ear in preference to the right.
A small amount of web research based on the source information included on the graphic revealed that it was first published in June 2002 by the Graphics News website. The diagram simply summarizes in graphical form the findings of a study (see reference list for for pdf link) by scientists at Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. A 2002 BBC news report offers more information about this study. The report notes that:
Scientists from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority found that exposing human cells to mobile phone radiation damaged the blood-brain barrier - a safety barrier in the body that stops harmful substances in blood from entering the brain.
However, the report makes clear that the tests were carried out on human cells under precise laboratory conditions and at the time the report was published it was not known if the findings actually equated to genuine health concerns for phone users. Moreover, neither the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority study nor the BBC report mention anything about which ear, if any, is the safest to use.
Almost since the invention of the devices, there has been a long running debate about the possible health effects of mobile phone use. A number of reports have raised authentic concerns about possible health risks from mobile phone radiation. However, no credible information that I have seen mentions any correlation between increased health risks and the habitual use of the right ear for mobile calls.
The message claims that the information is "a true fact from Apollo medical team" (as opposed, apparently, to a "false fact" ). However, I could find no information about an "Apollo medical team" other than references to the hoax message itself. If the information in the message had any validity, then the group that conducted the research would undoubtedly have published its findings via credible media such as scientific journals and medical websites. Thus, if the "Apollo medical team" was a real entity that actually did conduct a study about mobile phone radiation, then research should reveal at least some information about the team and its work. I suspect that the "Apollo medical team" reference was added to falsely imply some measure of endorsement from the Apollo Hospitals Group in India.
This message possibly originated as some foolish individual's idea of a prank. Or, as with many other hoaxes, it may have been a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation and unnecessarily raise fear and alarm. Whatever the reason, it seems obvious that the perpetrator has used a blatant falsehood as the core claim in the message and then made a rather lame attempt to back it up by tacking on unrelated information stolen from another source.
Thus, forwarding this misleading "warning" message will serve no useful purpose. While there are real concerns about possible health risks related to mobile phone use, there is no evidence to suggest that using the left ear will in any way decrease such risks.