What You Should Do To Minimize Cell Phone Health Risks

For years debate has raged as to whether or not cell phones pose a health risk. Specifically, some health experts worry that prolonged cell phone use might cause cancer.

Cell phone manufacturers and other cell phone proponents scoff at such worries, pointing to a number of large scale studies that have found no connection between cell phone use and cancer. Other health officials, however, counter these assurances by pointing to different studies that do indicate an increased risk of cancer among cell phone users.

So what are we to believe? Are cell phones safe or not?

The answer is that neither side of the debate can claim with absolute certainty that they are right. Cell phones may indeed be perfectly safe, or they may not be. We simply won't know until more research is conducted.

In the meantime, however, a warning about cell phones issued last month (July 2008) by the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute suggests that we would be wise to take precautions when we use cell phones. In fact, Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of both the Institute and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cancer Centers, issued an advisory to all faculty and staff members of both institutions about possible health risks associated with cell phone use.

In his memorandum to them, he wrote, "Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible 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." And in an interview, he cited the fact that public health officials in other countries, including Canada, also recommend limiting cell phone use, especially children and teenagers.

Dr. Herberman has also joined more than 20 other international experts in signing a document calling for precautions with regard to cell phone use. Also signing the document were Dr. Devra Davis, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Center for Environmental Oncology, and Dr. Servan-Schreiber, a brain cancer survivor.

The concerns Dr. Herberman and his colleagues have about cell phone use stem, in part, from preliminary data from a 13-country study of cell phone use and tumors known as the Interphone study. Although release of the study's overall findings has been delayed for more than two years, according to Dr. Slesin, a number of European countries have already reported an elevated risk for certain brain tumors among long-term cell phone users, particularly on the side of the head where the phone is used. Dr. Slesin adds that a separate group of Swedish researchers reported similar findings.

"From a public health perspective, it makes sense to limit risks," advises Dr. Dan Wartenberg, director of environmental epidemiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and another of the international experts calling for precautions when using cell phones.

In addition to the document they signed, the group of experts is also calling on cell phone manufacturers to provide phones "with the lowest possible risk" and is encouraging cell phone users to operate cell phones "in a way that is most compatible with preserving their health." This include taking measures to limit exposure to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the cell phones, such as shortening the length of conversations and keeping cell phones away from the head by text messaging or using headsets or speaker phone options. The group also recommends that children not use cell phones except in emergencies because a child's developing organs "are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure."

Reducing Your Risk

In light of the group's call for such precautions, it makes sense to implement their suggestions. After all, as the old saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry. Here are some steps you can take to continue to use cell phones while at the same time protecting your health:

  1. Use your cell phone's speakerphone
    Most health experts suggest this as the best safety precaution. They recommend that cell phones should be held no closer than a few inches from the head, and ideally a foot or more. This can significantly reduce the amount of electromagnetic radiation you are exposed to, and can easily be accomplished by using your cell phone's speakerphone.

  2. Use a wired headset with a ferrite bead
    A ferrite bead is a clip you put on the wire of your cell phone's headset. Such beads are designed to absorb the radiation that headset wires themselves emit into your ear. They are also inexpensive and available at most cell phone store. According to Lawrie Challis, physicist and former chair of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, a British government panel, tests conducted at the University of York found that "under even the worst conditions" when ferrite beads were used, they virtually eliminated radiation emitted from headset wires.

  3. Keep your cell phone away from your body
    Cells phones carried in your pocket or clipped to your belt emit radiation directly into your body. According to Dr. Davis, this is equivalent to "roasting your bone marrow" with radiation. Therefore, it's advisable that you keep your cell phone as far away from your body as possible, and to also make sure that its headset wire doesn't touch your body either.

  4. Use an earpiece with a hollow tube
    Hollow tube earpieces act just like regular wired earpieces. Unlike regular earpieces, though, the part next to your ear ends in a hollow tube with no wire under the plastic. This means that they substantially cut down on the radiation that is emitted into your ear.

  5. Use cell phones that emit less radiation
    Cell phone radiation is measured in what is known as specific absorption rate, or SAR. The lower SAR is, the safer the cell phone. You can look up the SAR for your phone on this page of the FCC Web site.

  6. Reduce the time you spend talking on cell phones
    In addition to the above safety precautions, try to reduce the amount of time that you use your cell phone each day. Not only will you be protecting your health, in many cases you will also be reducing your cell phone bill.

  7. Keep cell phones away from your children
    If you have children, including teenagers, try to keep them away from cell phones until they are adults. That's because all of the studies indicating cell phone health risks also show that children and teens are most susceptible to developing possible brain tumors due to their use. As mentioned above, the reason for this fact is because children and teens are still growing and, as a result, their organs, including their brains, are still in a vulnerable state of development.


Read more feature articles...

All material © 2010 WellnessWatchersMD. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of WellnessWatchersMD's terms of use and privacy policy. The information provided in this Web site is intended for your general knowledge only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please see your personal physician immediately if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness regimen.