Are Cell Phones Dangerous?
You can’t get away from them can you – the cell phone that is? The cell phone seems to have replaced face to face talking as the preferred mode of communication. But, are they safe? Or, are cell phones dangerous to our health?
This news report published in the New York Daily News indicates that cell phones are dangerous and increase certain health problems notably cancer. There are few things that are neutral when it comes to our health. Something typically is either healthy or unhealthy – rarely indifferent or neutral to our health.
Without looking at any science I think most of us would conclude that cell phone usage cannot possibly be good for our health. That seems intuitive. How can putting something the emits radiation close to our brains possibly be good for us, right? So, we are left with the two alternatives. Are cell phones health neutral? Or, do they raise the risk of health problems and specifically cancer?
Cell Phone Radiation
Cell phones use radiofrequency which is a type of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in the microwave range. It is a non-ionizing type of EMR which is certainly less health damaging than ionizing radiation such as that used in radiation therapy. Radiofrequency produces heat like the microwave oven and most of us probably have felt our ears get warm from using a cell phone.
Here’s a link to the National Cancer Institute that discusses the health risk of cell phones. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies radiofrequency as “possibly being carcinogenic.”
Radiofrequency is not to felt to damage DNA which is a requisite in the development of cancer, but studies using radiofrequency in the range of cell phones have shown radiofrequency to cause DNA damage in rats.
Dr. Henry Lai has been researching the health effects of radiofrequency for 35 years. He has reviewed over 300 studies published in peer review scientific journals related to radiofrequency. Here are his findings. Thirty percent of the studies are published by the wireless industry and 70% of the studies have been independently funded. Of the studies that show an adverse health effect of radiofrequency, 14% are industry funded and 86% are independently funded. In industry funded studies 27% show a radiofrequeny effect with independently funded studies showing a health effect 68% of the time. Overall, 56% of the studies show some adverse health effect.
So we can say the research appears bias with studies being funded by the wireless industry showing far less of a health risk compared to independent studies. Interesting, the FDA exclusively looks at studies done by pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of drug approval. Makes you wonder if that is such a good idea if the studies on cell phone risks by independent researchers is more reliable and accurate.
So what are these potential cell phone dangers resulting from radiofrequency emission.
Potential Dangers of Cell Phones
The dangers related to radiofrequency shown in studies reviewed by Dr. Lai include:
- cellular and molecular alterations of central nervous system
- damage to DNA
- alterations in neural conduction and nerve to nerve communication
- physiologic and behavioral changes (impairment of vision, dizziness, or headache for instance)
Here’s the latest opinion from the FDA on the potential dangers of cell phones:
…the available scientific evidence does not show that any health problems are associated with using wireless phones. There is no proof, however, that wireless phones are absolutely safe. However…
The Health Protection Agency (HPA), the equivalent of the FDA in the United Kingdom, has placed a moratorium on marketing cell phones to children as a precaution. And….
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) does not permit cell phone antennas on fire houses based on the review of the science by its union.
Common Sense: Play it Safe with Cell Phones
My father died of brain tumor at age 53. He worked for the phone company and spent much of his career climbing telephone poles being subjected to electromagnetic radiation up close and personal. And, there is a documented increased risk of brain cancer in individuals working in such occupations.
Consequently, I’ve been skittish to use a cell phone and was rather slow to buy and use one. In fact, I don’t think I got one until 2003 or 2004 and used it sparingly, but it was nice to have in a pinch. Smartphones have made the cell phone more “indispensable” and I now use one probably as much as the next person but rarely for calls.
I do limit my time on the cell phone (usually less than a minute and keep the phone as far as way from my head as possible) if not using a hands free device – but even then I limit my time on a call which is easy for me as I’m not one to talk on a phone anyway. Get on, say what you need to say, and get off is pretty much my motto especially on a cell phone.
Cell phones are here to stay and whether they cause an increase risk of cancers or other health concerns is almost irrelevant because we are not going to stop using them. But, I think it is safe and prudent to assume they portend an increased health risk and we should each be careful how we use our cell or mobile phone.
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