A Practical Guide To Healthy Living
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Mobile Mania

smartphone editorial image full size

Cell phone safety is all over the news in the last few weeks.  It began after a group called the International EMF Collaborative issued a report warning that cell phones may be more dangerous than users have been led to believe by health authorities.  Last week, the Environmental Working Group released their online guide to cellphone radiation.  And yesterday, Pennsylvania senator and brain cancer survivor Arlen Specter held a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing to focus on whether cellular phone use causes health problems. At the same time and also in the nation’s capital, attendees at an international conference examined the potential cancer risks of radiation generated by cell phones. 

What is going on?  The EMF Collaborative report, titled “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern,” says the latest research indicates that regular use of cell phones can result in a “significant” risk of brain tumors.  It also says kids are at greater risk than adults because their still-developing brain cells are more vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation.  This study adds to the mounting evidence which indicates we should reduce our exposures while research continues on this question.  Consider this:  Americans’ use of cell phones increased 50% last year – fueled in large part by the “smartphone” craze.  If cell phone radiation is indeed a problem, it’s going to be a really huge problem in the coming years.

Last week the Environmental Working Group received a lot of attention when it released its comprehensive online consumer guide to cell phone radiation, which rates more than 1,000 cell phones marketed in the U.S.  The guide is the culmination of a 10-month research review to understand the risks of cell phone usage. The EWG also found that cell phones emit radiation – enough so that scientists are concerned about potential cancer risks. Using their guide, you can:

What else can you do now to limit your exposure?  If you need a new mobile phone, it’s smart to buy phones with lower radiation emissions – use the EWG guide to figure out which is best for you.  Whichever phone you have, it’s a good idea to keep it as far away from your body as possible.  Researchers say using the speaker, sending text messages or talking on a headset all cut down on radiation exposure.  Opinions differ on whether a wireless Bluetooth headset poses a risk – some scientists at Monday’s hearing said it could be a problem, while others did not. But they all agreed a wired headset is best.  And using any headset means less radiation than if you’re holding the phone directly to your ear.  Also try making calls when the signal is high so that the phone doesn’t have to work as hard. 

What about your kids?  Talk to them about these findings, and help them to limit their exposure:  kids actually can absorb twice as much radiation as an adult from the same cell phone.  If your kids give you flak, let them know that advisories to limit cell phone use have already been issued by numerous countries and advisory boards including: the UK; Germany; France; Russia; India; Israel; Belgium; Japan; the Toronto Board of Health; and the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Dr. Devra Davis, Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh has said “Children under the age of 12 should not use cell phones unless in an emergency situation. If they must use cell phones, make sure they connect using a headset.”

Read more in the L.A. Times, Wired, Green Living Online, and at CNET.com.

© 2009, Sarah. All rights reserved.

  • Nicole

    I’ll look forward to your post…though, I’m sure I’ll start thinking that Montana’s looking pretty good. I can’t even tell you how many hours o phone time–against my ear!!–I’ve logged. Does it seem like I’m correct in thinking that airplane mode is safe for the kids? I did buy child #1 real Farkle for Rosh Hashanah (I know, any excuse), though I’m sure nothing’s as cool as iPhone Farkle.

    Anyway, I await information as to whether we need to go back to dial-up…thanks for such great, informative posts!

  • Semi-Sweet Sarah

    Nicole . . . wifi’s not great, either – I actually have a draft post going on electromagnetic fields, generally . . . . I’ll get that up soon. For me, the EMF/radiation falls into the category of “I’ll do what I can” but if we were going to avoid all this stuff, we’d have to move to the middle of Montana and live in one of those souped-up hypo-allergenic AirStream trailers or somethin’. The bad stuff is everywhere!! Stay tuned . . . .

  • Nicole

    Thanks for posting!

    Ok, just ordered two corded headsets for our iPhones, and hope that we haven’t killed our kids by letting them talk to Grandma and Grandpa and play iPhone games. They still get the games, but in airplane mode. (That should be ok, right?) The last place I read this offered a link to their “radiation shield”, so it felt a bit bogus. Here is the same information, still scary, but not asking me to buy some shield. Just a headset or two. The kids are never getting cellphones now. Unless we pay for 911 and text only.

    The next step is ordering new phones and dumping the cordless phones. How about wireless networks within the house? Do we have to get rid of that, too? I’m not sure what I’d do with myself without constant internet access. (Perhaps WLANs are different, though–our computers certainly aren’t networked; I’d have no idea how to do that.)

  • Lindsay

    Hey – that’s my Blackberry! I guess I shouldn’t let my kids chew on it… (just kidding!). Interesting article – I don’t use my phone much since I email all the time, but I will definitely use speaker phone for my kids from now on.