By Dr. Mercola
In the video above you can listen to my powerful interview with Dr. Devra Davis, who is one of the most well-respected and credentialed researchers on the dangers of cell phones, among a number of other things.
Dr. Davis truly has an impressive background, which only adds to the authority of what she has to say... one of her accomplishments was acting as the founding director at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, on the Board of Environmental Studies and Toxicology, which is the board that reviewed studies and data on such things as, "Is passive smoke harmful for you?," or "Is asbestos in the environment a bad thing?"
Imagine her surprise when she started to dig deeper into the issue In 2004, just as cell phone technology was beginning to take off, even Dr. Davis assumed they were safe:
"When I worked at the academy, we brought together groups to evaluate whether or not we had enough evidence to say X, Y, or Z. Having been in that position where I would convene expert scientists around the world, I thought I knew. If there was a problem, I would know about it. And I figured that cellphones had to be safe. At that time, I owned three of them."
The History of Tobacco and Asbestos Were the First Clues
"...the cellphone itself has always been assumed to be safe," Dr. Davis said. "I assumed it was safe. And I assumed that if there was a problem, I'd know about it, because after all, I worked with the best scientists in the world, and we were all using these devices. Well, I was really shocked when I started to look into it. I looked into it because I understood the history of tobacco and asbestos, and I had been part of that history."
You may be familiar with some of the history that she speaks of, but likely some of it will be new to you. As Dr. Davis explained, it's often assumed that no one knew about tobacco's dangers until the 1950s, but the first case-control study on tobacco and lung cancer was actually done in Germany in 1939. In the 1930s, Argentina also had a national institute to study tobacco dangers. And even though the U.S. Surgeon General announced in 1964 that tobacco causes cancer, this was not widely appreciated or accepted until decades later.
Asbestos followed a similar pattern of deception, as there were reports from the 19th century detailing young women dying from lung diseases after working in asbestos-containing factories as teenagers.
Despite this, asbestos was widely used as an insulator in the United States for decades. "Only when deaths from asbestos became irrefutable and undeniable and lawsuits were filed and won was action taken to control it," Dr. Davis pointed out. Knowing these sordid histories, Dr. Davis decided to dig a little deeper into whether or not cell phones really are safe. Wouldn't you know it, the first "canary in the coal mine" had already been issued back in 2000.
Cell Phone Warning Issued in 2000
When Dr. Davis started to dig, she found out that a fellow named William Stewart, who had been Margaret Thatcher's chief science advisor, had issued a warning for the Royal College of Physicians, advising that teenagers not use cell phones. He did this in the year 2000. Dr. Davis realized that if there was indeed a danger, it was imperative that action be taken now... not decades later:
"If we wait for proof of harm – and that proof is brain cancer... What we know about brain cancer is this: it can take 40 years to develop. We know that from when the bombs fell toward the end of World War II – there was no increase in brain cancer at all until 40 years after. And we know that there is an increase in brain cancer from ionizing radiation associated with that bomb.
If brain cancers have 40-year latency in a population, and we wait for evidence as we did with tobacco and asbestos and population increases of cancer, we will be in huge trouble.
More importantly, we have evidence that cellphone radiation interferes with sperm production, sperm quality, and sperm vitality. We know that there are millions – in fact, billions – of young people growing up, keeping phones in their front pockets. The fine print warning that comes with the Android says, 'Keep it 2.54 centimeters from the pregnant abdomen or the abdomen of a teenager.' ...Nobody reads it. The iPhone 4S has fine print warnings also to not to put it in your pocket.1"
World Health Organization Rules Cell Phone and Other Wireless Radiation a Possible Carcinogen
Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), reviewed relevant studies and declared that cell phones are possible cancer-causing agents, in the same category as diesel engine exhaust, some pesticides, and some heavy metals. The expert panel ruled that there was some evidence that regular cell phone use increased the risk of two types of tumors – brain tumors (gliomas) and acoustic neuromas.
Dr. Davis notes that the phrase used to describe cell phone radiation-radiofrequency energy – is misleading. Cell phones do not produce energy, she notes. They do emit radiation at about the same frequency as a microwave oven. While cell phone microwave radiation is much weaker than an oven, cell phone radiation is pulsed and digital. Its erratic signal may well account for its biological impact.
"In fact, a cellphone is a two-way microwave radio," Dr. Davis points out. "Industry has fought successfully to use the phrase 'radiofrequency energy' instead of microwave radiation. Because they know radiofrequency energy sounds fine. We listen to music with radios. Everybody needs more energy. What could be better than that?
But radiofrequency energy is another word for microwave radiation. If people understood that they were holding a two-way microwave-radiating device next to their brain or next to their reproductive organs, they might think differently about it."
Why the SAR Value is Not a Good Measure of a Phone's Safety
The SAR ("Specific Absorption Rate") value is a measure of the maximum tested power of the cell phone and its potential for heating tissues. The SAR rating itself is nothing new. In fact, the SAR values of phones have been available for some time, typically listed in fine print somewhere in your owner's manual, on the manufacturer's website, and in the FCC's databases.
But the SAR level only measures the power density of a phone, estimating the radiation penetration into the head using a plexiglass head of a simulated 200-pound man. This is just an estimate, and it is only an estimate of one of the components of risk from cell phones. It does not gauge the risk from the frequencies of the cell phone, the erratic pulsing and modulation of the signals, or the magnetic fields from batteries.
The actual SAR exposure can also be greatly impacted by the manner in which you hold the phone, whether you use a headset, how strong the signal is going into and out of the phone, and your physical location in relation to nearby cell towers. In fact, the weaker the signal – the fewer bars it shows – the harder the phone has to work to reach the tower, so the more radiation will be released into your brain or body. The SAR has a very limited use, and only as a comparative measure between phones on this one risk variable, and is not in any way a measure of cell phone safety.
Dr. Davis explains:
"The assumption has been that the only effect of microwave radiation on the brain is to cause a change in temperature. Now as you know, the brain actually can't perceive heat at all. That's why you can do awake brain surgery. The brain does not perceive pain or heat. So, you can operate on people when they are awake, once you drill onto their skull by anesthetizing the skull, that can feel the pain. The brain itself doesn't feel pain or heat. You can have a device on the outside and... by the time you feel heat in your ear, your brain is much hotter.
The cellphones have only been tested for heat. They have never been tested for the biological impact of microwave radiation aside from heat.
Studies that I talk about in my book 'Disconnect,' and that we show on our website, EnvironmentalHealthTurst.org, clearly indicate that pulse digital signals from cellphone radiation can alter membranes, weaken membranes, increase reactive oxygen species, which produce free radicals (which, as you know, are very damaging and go around wherever they find us, lose electron, knock it off, and can cause havoc within cells). Cellphone radiation, it does those things.
We don't understand the long-term biological effects, but I'm really concerned that the major damage from cellphone radiation is to our reproductive organs. People keeping phones in their pockets – the fine print warnings say don't do that."
Cell Phone Radiation Weakens Cell Membranes
Dr. Davis also explained the work of Allan Frey from the Office of Naval Research, who did some pioneering research in the 1960s that is very applicable to cell phone use today.
Dr. Davis continues:
"Cellphone radiation weakens membranes everywhere. It weakens the blood-brain barrier. I discussed in my book 'Disconnect' the pioneering research of Allan Frey... [who] did research with pulse digital signals from microwaves. What he was able to do was show that that signal allowed blue dye (that was yellow) that he injected into the animals to get into the brains. Animals that were not exposed to this pulse digital signal, their brain stayed naturally pink (the normal color of the brain). The animals that were exposed to cellphone-like radiation, their brains were dyed fluorescent yellow. Then he concluded that this radiation was clearly weakening the blood-brain barrier.
Now, the interesting thing is that when he did this study, there were no cellphones. He was just studying weak pulse digital signals. Because at that point the issue was what is the effect of radar and what might be the effects of microwaves later on. This is an issue of some controversy.
...This means you're holding a cellphone next to your brain, you're weakening the blood-brain barrier, and any toxic material that's in your blood (because you live in the modern world) is going to be more deeply absorbed into your brain and into the cells of your body, just because you have cellphone radiation next to you."
Did Cell Phone Use Kill the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch?
Adam Yauch, co-founder of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, died earlier this year at the age of 47 from a parotid gland tumor of his left cheek. Last year, an Israeli research group reported a sharp increase in the incidence of parotid gland tumors over the last 30 years, with the steepest increase happening after 2001. Your parotid gland is a type of salivary gland, located closest to your cheek – the same area where most people typically hold their cell phones. The researchers found a four-fold increase in parotid gland cancers from 1970 to 2006, while rates of other salivary gland cancers remained stable.2
That same year, Dr. Siegal Sadetzki, the principal investigator of a 2008 study, testified at a U.S. Senate Hearing that cell phones were identified as a contributor to salivary gland tumors. The report stated that your risk of getting a parotid tumor on the same side of your head that you use for listening to the mobile phone increases by:
- 34 percent if you are a regular cell phone user and have used a mobile phone for 5 years.
- 58 percent if you had more than about 5,500 calls in your lifetime.
- 49 percent if you have spoken on the phone for more than 266.3 hours during your lifetime.
Dr. Davis continues:
"Adam Yauch, formerly 'MCA' of the Beastie Boys, died of a malignant parotid gland tumor of his left cheek. I believe he was left-handed. We need to find that out. But if he was, then the cellphones and wireless devices that he used all the time in his music business could explain this. Because the average case of a parotid gland tumor is diagnosed in their late 50s; he [was diagnosed at age 43 or 44].
In Israel, one in five cases now is under the age of 20. This is a very rare tumor, but it is occurring in young people. That is why the Israeli government has issued warnings about children using cellphones. The Israeli Dental Association has issued a warning as well, because of the dramatic increase in a very rare and malignant tumor of the cheek."
Children Shouldn't Use Cell Phones... and Other Safe Phone Tips
Cell phone safety is one of the fastest growing and strongest global industries in the world today and is even stronger than the pharmaceutical industry. As a multi-trillion dollar industry that funds media around the world today they are capable of making sizable political donations and persistent lobbying efforts that dictate government policies.
So while cell phone dangers will one day likely be as well known as tobacco dangers, there's going to be a window when people are extremely vulnerable. And that window is right now. Children are especially vulnerable to damage from cell phone radiation, and should not use them at all (or only for very limited amounts). Men and women who want to have healthy children need to take special precautions to protect their reproductive organs and should not keep phones in their front pockets or close to their abdomens – just as some fine print warnings advise.
"The brain is actually protected in part by the skull, because bone is more dense than brain, which contains fluid. The brain of a child, the head of a child is particularly vulnerable because their skulls are thinner and their brains contain more fluid. It's the fluid in fat which can absorb more microwave radiation," Dr. Davis states.
If you DO give a child or a toddler a cell phone to play with, be sure it is at least set to "Airplane Mode" so that the wireless connections are disabled. Dr. Davis is hopeful that safer technology is underway, however:
"Patents do exist on designing antennas and on designing phone cases to make them safer."
One phone case Dr. Davis mentioned is the Pong case, which she states can reduce radiation exposure by 60-80 percent. It works by deflecting the radiation away from your head, out the back of the phone, so obviously you would not want to use one with a toddler standing nearby. Even with such a case, it's important to regularly use headsets or speakerphones
"Practicing safe phone use is very simple. It means distance is your friend. Keep the phone off your body. Use an air tube headset if you can find one, or any headset will do, so long as it's not dripping down the front of your body and conducting it right back into you. Never keep a phone on in your pocket or on your body."
Additionally, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the town council issued a proclamation on cell phone safety. The local pediatricians have issued a report, and they are handing out cards to people telling them (if you come to their office) how to practice safe phone use. The dermatologists and orthopedics are also handing out these cards of information. You, too, can download this important brochure, print it out, and hand it out to people you care about to inform them about cell phone dangers, and how to use a cell phone more cautiously.