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Cell Phone Controversy Has Some Safe Over Sorry

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, July 24, 2008 11:57 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Cell Phones, Brain Cancer, Head Injury, Dangerous Devices, Electromagnetic Radiation

Cellphone warning issued to 3,000 employees by cancer expert.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ cellphone image/ author: Mnoon  


Almost every child in America who can occasionally be away from his mother’s side has a cell phone.

So the warning is particularly disturbing that cell phone use, especially in young, still developing brains, could be linked to a cancer risk.

The head of a prominent cancer research institute, has sent out 3,000 letters to staff warning them away from cell phone use for themselves and especially their children.

We shouldn’t wait to err on the side of “safe over sorry”, that from Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, who directs the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. His warning is based on a growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to adverse health effects, including cancer.   

“Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use,” he wrote in his memo.

“Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.”

Dr. Herberman says that you should use your cell phone only to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes. The biological effects are linked to the length of exposure, he says in the memo.

For children and teenagers, cell phones should be used strictly for emergencies, he says.  “The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.” “Whenever possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call” he suggests.
Dr. Herberman is echoing three well-known brain surgeons who last month told CNN’s Larry King that they do not hold cell phones next to their ears. Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said that a microwave antenna away from the brain is a safer alternative.

Dr. Vini Khurana, a neurosurgeon from Australian National University, also does not hold the cell phone to his ear. He uses the speaker phone only.  And CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also a neurosurgeon said he too uses an earpiece.

They too had concerns about observed cell phone use and cancers specifically glioma; cancer of the parotid, which is a gland near the ear; and an acoustic neurola, which is an area where the ear meets the brain.   They are reported to be rare tumors. 

Dr. Herberman admits the evidence about cell phones and cancer is still unclear.

Bloggers, some with some science background, are pretty well divided on the New York Times Health blog and on ABC News.

The FDA has reiterated there is no health problem with the regular use of cell phones, however there are also no long-term studies. At the same time the agency says there is no proof they are safe.  Three large epidemiological studies have shown no harmful effects.

The problem may be radiation emitting from cell phones, but there is no knowledge how that non-ionizing radiation might be connected to cancer, if at all. The concern for children and young adults is that the electromagnet fields may be more able to penetrate the brain of a child than an adult. 

In June, CNET an online technology site, compiled two lists that show which cell phones give off what amount of radiation.  The Motorola V195s is at the top of the list with 1.6W/kg (watts per kilogram).   

The Federal Communications Commission says that a phones’ maximum SAR (specific absorption rate) level should be less than 1.6 W/kg. The lowest is the Motorola Razr V3x at 0.135 W/kg.  

Dr. Herberman  concludes in his memo:

 “ In anticipation of release of the WHO report, the attached prudent and simple precautions, intended to promote precautionary efforts to reduce exposures to cell phone electromagnetic radiation, have been reviewed by UPCI experts in neuro-oncology, epidemiology, neurosurgery and the Center for Environmental Oncology.

"For more in-depth information on this subject, please see the complete article (pdf file, 100kb)

"Practical Advice to Limit Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted from Cell Phones

  1. Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
  2. While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless Bluetooth headset, which has less than 1/100th of the electromagnetic emission of a normal cell phone. Use of a hands-free ear piece attachment may also reduce exposures.
  3. Avoid using your cell phone in places, like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone's electromagnetic fields.
  4. Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.
  5. If you must carry your cell phone on you, make sure that the keypad is positioned toward your body and the back is positioned toward the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from your rather than through you.
  6. Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure.
    For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.
  7. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.
  8. Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
  9. When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.
  10. Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” on the internet. #

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