Cell phones have become ubiquitous in today’s society. It’s almost as if you don’t have one, then you’re not living in the 21st century.
The great thing about cell phones is that they enable us to stay connected with other people nearly all the time. Cell phones happen to be handy in an emergency. They also come in handy when we are traveling.
Today, the traditional landline has begun to go the way of the dinosaur, as many people have now canceled their landlines and rely only on cell phones.
But cell phones do have drawbacks — the most significant being that they emit radiation and can therefore negatively impact our health.
“All cell phones emit radiation by definition because they talk to or connect to a local tower,” said Erik Peper, Ph.D., professor of holistic health at San Francisco State University. As long as a cell phone is being used for talking, texting, streaming data, or audiovisual data, it is communicating with the tower and therefore emitting radiation.
A radiation level of 0.2 watts per kilogram up to 1.6 watts per kilogram is considered safe by the Federal Communications Commission — FCC. If a cell phone has a radiation level above 1.6 watts per kilogram, it is illegal to sell it.
Radiation is a concern especially for groups of people who are constantly on their cell phones. A 2012 survey conducted by Peper and others revealed that the average college student uses their cell phone and tablet/iPad for at least 118 minutes per day, including 40 minutes right before they go to sleep. This equates to 19.7 days per year of talking and texting on their smartphones, “and high school students use their cell phones even more,” Peper pointed out.
The World Health Organization has classified mobile phones — and any wireless devices that use microwaves to communicate — as a group 2b risk — which means that they are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Mobile phones are in the same category as automotive fuel exhaust, according to Peper.
It has been reported in research studies that adults who have used mobile phones for at least 10 years experience an increase in brain cancer, salivary gland cancer, and even rare eye cancers on the side of the head where the cell phone was predominantly held, according to Peper.
Recently, women who habitually stored their cell phone in their bra have been diagnosed with a rare breast cancer located beneath the area of the breast where they stored their cell phone, Peper additionally noted. Further, some men diagnosed with testicular cancer had the cancer occur in the testicle that was closest to the pants pocket where they kept their cell phone.
Stan Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco — UCSF — and director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Education, compared the cell phone situation right now to the cigarette situation in the 1950s.
“There was enough evidence to be concerned [about cigarettes in the 1950s], but the details were not really nailed,” Glantz said. “Cell phone companies have learned from cigarette companies how to contest science, and they’re doing it.”
Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California at Berkeley, has launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about the risk of cell phones, encourage safe cell phone use and promote better regulation and more research on the subject.
“We don’t want to engage in scare tactics but safe cell phone use,” Moskowitz said. “We’re not telling anybody to give up their cell phone or ditch their cell phone carrier.”
What are the best ways to reduce radiation from your cell phone?
- Do not put it against your body. Put it in your purse, your backpack, or your case.
- Always try to keep it a few inches away from your body. The further away it is from your body, the less power of the antenna signal reaches you.
- Use the speaker phone feature.
- Plug in earphones while talking.
- Keep the antenna away as much as possible.
- Use the hands-free device.
- Keep it away from your head.
- Do not keep your cell phone in your pocket.
- Do not sleep with it under your pillow.
- Put your cell phone in airplane mode.
Ellie Marks — who founded the California Brain Tumor Association with her son Zack in 2009 — knows first-hand about the effects of cell phone radiation. Her husband, Alan, a realtor, developed a brain tumor that was attributed to his cell phone use. Marks said that he still uses a cell phone, but now he never holds it next to his body.
“We’ve learned the hard way how to eliminate risks without giving up technology,” Marks stated. “It has just devastated our family.”
In 2008, just a few months after her husband’s surgery, Marks testified to the U.S. Congress in a hearing on cell phones and health risks. She said that her husband’s story has been told on such shows as Dr. Oz, The View, Larry King Live and Sanjay Gupta.
Marks was extremely disappointed in May when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a plan to repeal the Cell Phone Right to Know ordinance.
The ordinance — approved by the Board in 2010 and amended in 2011 — sought to require cell phone retailers to provide customer with information about alleged possible dangers associated with radiation from the devices and ways that users could reduce their exposure.
“Cell phone companies have won,” Marks said. “It was very sad. Many of us have worked on this for years. It was such a sad day. It felt like the politics in San Francisco has changed considerably, and no one was standing up for public health. It just didn’t seem like the Supervisors had the backbone that they used to have.”
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. More information can also be found at http://www.sfsu.edu/~ihhs/
[For more on cell phones and safety of use, see the following links:] http://www.scribd.com/doc/104230961/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-letter-to-the-FCC
[Overview by Dr. David Katz of Yale Prevention Research Center:] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/cell-phone-health-risks_b_869241.html