By Dr. Mercola
Mounting research raises tremendously important questions about the long-term safety of saturating ourselves in electromagnetic frequencies. As a result, at least a dozen countries around the world have begun to adopt a precautionary approach toward cell phone use and other wireless technologies.
For example, two years ago, a Council of Europe committee concluded that “immediate action was required to protect children” after examining the evidence.1 Russian officials have issued the recommendation that all children under the age of 18 should avoid using cell phones entirely. And the UK, Israel, Germany, India and Finland also urge citizens to err on the side of caution with respect to their children’s use of cell phones.
Most recently, Belgium adopted new cell phone regulations2 prohibiting the sale of mobile phones designed for, and marketed to children under the age of seven.3 The regulations take effect in March 2014. Retailers and internet marketers will also be required to disclose the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the phones they sell, and must display posters with recommendations for safer cell phone use.
Qualifying the new regulations, officials said, “But it is not the intention to use it for hours at a time: the way in which you use your mobile phone also determines your exposure.”
Such measures, while not going far enough to ensure safety, are at least a step in the right direction. I firmly believe the health ramifications of our modern technologies need to be properly assessed before coming to market—and addressed, the sooner the better. Pre-market testing and post-market surveillance should be the norm for any technology with biological consequences.
With Whom Does Responsibility of Safety Reside?
Alas, in the US, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) have chosen to ignore the evidence of health risks associated with cell phones. As noted by the Environmental Working Group in a recent guide4 to safer cell phone usage:
“The FCC adopted radiation standards developed by the cell phone industry 17 years ago. These standards, still in use, allow 20 times more radiation to reach the head than the rest of the body. They do not account for risks to children.”
Camilla Rees, MBA of ElectromagneticHealth.org says clarification is also needed about where exactly responsibility and accountability reside on this subject between the FCC and FDA:
“If the FCC says it relies on the safety expertise of the FDA, and states it considered opinions from the FDA in setting its safety guidelines, but the FDA officially does not review the safety of radiation-emitting consumer products such as cell phones and PDAs before they can be sold, as it does with new drugs or medical devices, then where is the responsibility for assuring safety actually domiciled?”
She asks, in a long piece on this subject:
"On what basis does the FCC, a communications commission charged with regulating interstate and international communications, not a health agency, have authority to ascertain safety and establish safety guidelines, such as the SAR limit for cell phones, in the first place? On what basis has the FCC assumed this responsibility?"
No Regulatory Agency Currently Looks at Biological Effects...
If the SAR value is a measure of the power or heating effects from a phone, and is a physics measure unrelated to biology, what regulatory agency is looking at the biological effects? This would include biological effects from all forms of radiation being emitted by a cell phone, including
- The heating effects (that the SAR attempts to reflect)
- Non-heating effects from the frequencies and modulation, and
- Low frequency (ELF) fields emitted by the devices.
Has responsibility and accountability on this issue conveniently fallen through the cracks? Parallels can and have been drawn between the tobacco industry’s longstanding efforts to hide the truth about the health effects of smoking, and the wireless industry’s denial’s of harm without evidence of safety—and despite a plethora of scientific evidence of harm!
Frequent Cell Phone Use Promotes Anxiety and Poor Academic Performance
In one recent study, researchers from the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University in Ohio reported that frequent cell phone use appears to be associated with reduced academic performance, anxiety and unhappiness in college students. As reported by Medical News Today:5
“Not decrying the usefulness of the smartphone to today's college students, which allows them to stay in touch with family and friends and easily browse the Internet, the researchers suggest there is merit in considering what potential harms they may pose.”
The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior6 surveyed more than 500 college students to assess their cell phone usage and then compared it to their grades and clinical anxiety- and life-satisfaction tests. Cell phone usage levels were linked to both GPA scores and anxiety levels in a “dose” dependent manner. The higher a student’s cell phone use, the lower their grades and the higher their reported anxiety level.
While it could be argued that perhaps people who are more anxious tend to spend more time on their smartphones, or that fiddling around on your phone too much will have a more or less obvious adverse effect on your academic performance, the authors urge students to consider the impact their cell phone use may be having on their grades, mental health and well-being.
This includes negative effects on activity levels. Earlier this year, researchers from the same University found that higher cell phone use was linked with reduced physical activity and fitness.7 Apparently, portability does not mean that people actually use them while staying active... According to the authors, “their findings suggest that cell phone use may be able to gauge a person's risk for a multitude of health issues related to an inactive lifestyle.”
Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer?
While still lagging behind many other countries, local authorities around the US are starting to pay more attention to these issues. For example, in November, 2012 the city of Pembroke Pines, Florida passed a resolution to warn its residents about the potential risk of cancer related to cell phone radiation. As reported by WCSH68 at the time:
“The resolution, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, encourages residents to keep their cellphones at least one-inch away from their bodies, use a headset or speakerphone and send messages by text or email... The resolution was passed after resident Jimmy Gonzalez told the commission about his brush with cancer, which he believes was caused by his cell phone.
Gonzalez had a cancerous tumor above his left ear removed in August 2011, a year after he'd had another tumor removed from his left hand. Gonzalez, an attorney who used to use his cellphone for several hours a day, is now cancer-free. "Do I have 100 percent scientific study that can say well this is what caused it?" Gonzalez said. "No, but I can't think of anything that would explain this otherwise.”
I believe such concerns are valid. While the reporter of that story did not mention any of the evidence supporting Gonzalez’ suspicion, mounting research indeed suggests there is such a link. For example, a review of 11 long-term epidemiologic studies published in the journal Surgical Neurology9 by leading international brain surgeons and scientists revealed that using a cell phone for 10 years or longer approximately doubles your risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same side of the head where the cell phone is typically held.
Professor Mild, lead researcher of that particular study, cautioned that the danger may be even greater than what they found because cancers need a minimum of 10 years to develop. Children and teens are at greatest risk, as their thinner skulls allow more radiation to penetrate into their brains.10 Lloyd Morgan, Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Health Trust, says,
“There are many studies which have significant risks for brain cancer, acoustic neuroma, parotid gland cancer, and leukemia from wireless (cell and cordless) phone use. In totality, there is strong evidence for each of these tumors. I am convinced that this will lead to a pandemic of wireless phone induced tumors. While there is a decades long average latency time (30-40 years for brain cancer), we have already seen a doubled risk of glioblastoma in Australia, Denmark, and the United States in the previous 10 years.
“Assuming that long-time use of wireless devices affects 10% of the users with one of more of these cancers (similar to long-term smokers and lung cancer). It would mean, at minimum, 10% of such users will be diagnosed with one or more of these tumors. Thus, possibly 30% of such users would have at least one of these 4 cancers.
“Should this occur it would create a calamity like the world has not seen since the black plagues of the 13th century. Maybe it will only be 5% or even 1%. No matter the assumption, the result will have profound ramifications for our society.”
At the ElectromagneticHealth.org program on “Cell Phones & WiFi: Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk” in June, leading NY State public health physician, Dr. David Carpenter, MD, said, “The strongest evidence for EMF effects are the science showing the connection between cell phone use and brain cancer. Brain cancer rates are double for people who’ve been using cell phones for 10 years or more, appearing on the side of the head where they hold their phones, and risks are 5x greater for children using cell phones under the age of 20 compared to those over the age of 50.”
Radiofrequency Fields Currently Classified as “Possibly Carcinogenic”
More importantly—and I cannot fathom how WCSH6 news station missed this one—the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Class 2B) in May of 2011.11 The classification—which also covers lead and chloroform—came in part in response to research showing wireless telephones increase the risk for brain cancer. According to the press release:12
“Dr Jonathan Samet (University of Southern California, USA), overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that "the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."
"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," said IARC Director Christopher Wild, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting. "
Since then, additional research has further strengthened the link between cancer and radiofrequency (RF) fields. According to Dr. Anthony Miller, who was on the IARC committee, the accumulated evidence is now strong enough to suggest RF fields really should be classified as a 2A or “probable carcinogen.”
A study published in September 2013, “Case-control study of the association between malignant brain tumors diagnosed between 2007 and 2009 and mobile and cordless phone use” by Hardell et al also confirmed previously reported results showing an association between cell phones and malignant brain tumors, suggesting RFs from cell phones may play a role in both the initiation and promotion of cancer.
And another study by Hardell et al, published in December 2013, using the Bradford Hill criteria for establishing causality in long-term users of cell phones, showed that the evidence available suggests that RF-EMF exposure from mobile (and cordless) phones should be regarded as an IARC class 1 human carcinogen. Alasdair Philips of Powerwatch (U.K.) says, “The criteria on strength, consistency, specificity, temporality, and biologic gradient for evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma were fulfilled.”
To learn more, I highly recommend listening to the excellent Media Teleclass on Cellphones and Brain Tumors moderated by Camilla Rees, MBA of www.ElectromagneticHealth.org. Listen for yourself to experts who are independent of the telecom industry and close to the science. The teleclass features Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, David Carpenter, MD, Lloyd Morgan, BS and Joel Moskowitz, PhD.
Other Health Hazards Linked to Cell Phone Use
Experts in the area of the biological effects of electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) and wireless technologies believe there’s virtually no doubt that cell phones and related gadgets are capable of causing not only cancer but contributing to a wide variety of other conditions, from depression and diabetes to heart irregularities and impaired fertility. For example, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health13 (ANSES) recently published an expert appraisal and risk assessment of radiofrequencies, linking cell phone use to:
- Sleep disturbances
- Male infertility
- Cognitive problems
- Brain Tumors
In their 2-year review of the RF science (10/15/13), where they warn the public to reduce exposure to mobile phone radiation, they say:
“…Against a background of rapid development of technologies and practices, ANSES recommends limiting the population's exposure to radiofrequencies – in particular from mobile phones - especially for children and intensive users, and controlling the overall exposure that results from mobile phone masts."
Regarding wireless devices, ANSES says:
- For intensive adult mobile phone users (in talk mode): use of hands-free kits and more generally, for all users, favoring the purchase of phones with the lowest SAR values
- That all common devices emitting electromagnetic fields intended for use near the body (DECT telephones, tablet computers, baby monitors, etc.) display the maximum level of exposure generated (SAR, for example), as is already the case for mobile phones.
Regarding ambient fields, ANSES has recommended:
- Reducing the exposure of children by encouraging only moderate use of mobile phones
- Continuing to improve characterization of population exposure in outdoor and indoor environments through the use of measurement campaigns
- New mobile phone network infrastructures be subject to prior studies concerning the characterzation of exposures
- Study of consequences of multiplying the number of relay antennas in order to reduce levels of environmental exposure
- Documenting existing installations causing the highest exposure to the public and investigating how these exposures can be reduced by technical means
One 2008 study 14 linked cell phone use to an 80 percent increased risk of emotional problems and hyperactivity in children. Scientists have also found that microwaves transmitted by cell phones and other wireless devices can:
How is all of this possible? In a nutshell, human beings are influenced by all kinds of electromagnetic fields. Energy, frequencies, sounds, and vibrations are all around us, even if you can’t hear them, see them or sense them in any way, and they can have a profound impact on your health. Those found in nature can be profoundly healing. But today, these natural frequencies and rhythms are being drowned out by wholly unnatural wireless transmissions and emissions. Michael Gilbert, a leading New York integrative health practitioner, explains, from a nervous system perspective, why the energy from wireless devices is harmful, how we can actively work with our nervous systems to modulate this unnatural energy, and why cultivating variability in our lives is essential in a wireless age:
This video may not be available in all countries.
The Spectrum of Frequencies that Surround You
Dr. Martin Blank, PhD—an experienced researcher of the cellular and molecular effects of electromagnetic fields at Columbia University—gave an informative speech in which he explains how electromagnetic fields affect your DNA. His explanation sheds light on the truly profound implications of our current situation. When looking at a spectrum chart of frequencies, you’ll find that cell phones operate in the middle of the spectrum, in the microwave section of the Radiofrequency range. Below it are radio frequencies from radio and tv, and at the bottom of the spectrum you have Extremely Low Frequencies known as ELF, which include fields from electrical wiring and household appliances, for example. All of these frequencies are within the non-ionizing radiation range.
Above that is infrared and frequencies in the ionizing range, which include ultraviolet (UV) rays, x-rays, gamma rays and cosmic radiation. Some of these frequencies exist in nature while others are man-made.
Just one of the many reasons why we need to thoroughly investigate the biological repercussions of broadcasting a range of these frequencies is that technologies keep shifting upward, using higher and higher frequencies.The reason for this is because the higher the frequency, the more information you can transmit, but also potentially, in some cases, the more biologically active.
It’s quite clear that ionizing radiation causes significant damage to your body, but scientists are wrong when they claim you cannot get any kind of biological reaction as long as you stay within the non-ionizing range of frequencies as the radiation is not hot enough to heat tissues. The claim has been that non-ionizing radiation cannot cause harm because there’s not enough energy in this range to knock an electron out of an atom.
It’s true that there’s an insufficient amount of energy to dislodge an electron, “but boy, you can get a lot of biological reactions in the non-ionizing range!” Dr. Blank says. To learn more, I highly recommend reviewing my previous article The Hardcore Science of How Cell Phones and Other EMF Damages You.
One of the core issues is use of the SAR, a measure of power, as a measure of safety. The SAR is anything but a measure of safety as there are many other risks besides heating, and even the way one uses the phone can impact the SAR exposure. (See previous Mercola article by Camilla Rees, “Top Safe Cell Phones that Aren’t Safe”) But even the means of measuring the SAR, or heating, are inadequate and misleading, as has been demonstrated by Memorial Sloan-Kettering scientist, David Gultekin, PhD., in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Gultekin, using NMR or nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, shows effects on brain tissue are not uniform, but instead there are hot spots in the brain tissue where the temperature can increase up to 5 degrees C in about 12 minutes. Importantly, Gultekin says “The volume of the hot spot generated by absorbed cell phone radiation depends on the antenna power level and the irradiation time”. Thus, the very basis for determining SAR levels are ‘safe’, from the thermal perspective, may not, as it turns out, be safe at all. This research was conducted on animal brain tissue. Human in vivo studies are expected to prove the inadequacy of current means of measuring SAR for assessing thermal effects and safety.
Please remember, also, that there are very important new risks from ‘wearable wireless’ devices. These include eyewear, like Google Glass, smart watches, wireless pedometers, etc. This category, according to Wall Street analysts, is projected to grow from $2-3 billion today to $50 billion in 2-3 years. Unlike a cell phone against the head, for example, radiation impacting the eye has no skull to even partly shield the wireless radiation, and both the radiation and heating levels can be substantial.
See “Does Wearable Technology on Holiday Shopping List Pose Health Risks?,” with comments from Dr. Gultekin, Hugh Taylor, MD from Yale University, Joel Moskowitz, PhD from University of California, Berkeley and Martin Blank, PhD from Columbia University, all weighing in on wireless and wearable wireless risks.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself and Your Family
In the end, all the evidence points to the fact that our current safety standards are completely inadequate. Our rapidly expanding wireless technologies must be properly evaluated, first of all, the ALARA principle (“As Low As Reasonably Achievable”) should be invoked in development of RF technologies, and the Precautionary Principle must be invoked, protecting the public from exposure to harm, as a matter of social responsibility, when scientific investigation has found possible risks. While you can’t completely avoid radiation in today’s wireless world, if you’re ready to give up your cell phone, you can virtually eliminate that one hazard, at least. If you’re not prepared to take that step, you can minimize your exposure by heeding the following advice:
- Children Should Never Use Cell Phones: Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults, because of their thinner skull bones. See “Children’s Health Expert Panel: Cell Phones & WiFi—Are Children Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?” for an overview of the risks to children.
- Reduce Your Cell Phone Use: Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call.
- Use a Land Line at Home and at Work: Although more and more people are switching to using cell phones as their exclusive phone contact, it is a dangerous trend and you can choose to opt out of the madness.
- Reduce or Eliminate Your Use of Other Wireless Devices: You would be wise to cut down your use of these devices. Just as with cell phones, it is important to ask yourself whether or not you really need to use them every single time, and be on alert for addiction.
If you must use a portable home phone, use the older kind that operates at 900 MHz. They are no safer during calls, but at least many of them do not broadcast constantly even when no call is being made. Note the only way to truly be sure if there is an exposure from your cordless phone is to measure with an electrosmog meter, and it must be one that goes up to the frequency of your portable phone (so old meters won’t help much). See meters at emfsafetystore.com.16 You can pretty much be sure your portable phone is a problem if the technology is DECT, or digitally enhanced cordless technology.
- Use Your Cell Phone Only Where Reception is Good: The weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit, and the more power it uses, the more radiation it emits, and the deeper the dangerous radio waves penetrate into your body. Ideally, you should only use your phone with full bars and good reception. Also seek to avoid carrying your phone on your body as that merely maximizes any potential exposure. Ideally put it in your purse or carrying bag.
- Don’t Assume One Cell Phone is Safer Than Another.There’s no such thing as a “safe” cell phone, and rankings by SAR are misleading people into thinking some phones are safe.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Away From Your Body When it is On: The most dangerous place to be, in terms of radiation exposure, is within about six inches of the emitting antenna. You do not want any part of your body within that area.
- Use Safer Headset Technology: Wired headsets will certainly allow you to keep the cell phone farther away from your body. However, if a wired headset is not well-shielded -- and some of them are not -- the wire itself acts as an antenna attracting ambient information carrying radio waves and transmitting radiation directly to your brain.
Make sure that the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded. The best kind of headset to use is a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the information to your head as an actual sound wave; although there are wires that still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.
- Respect Others Who are More Sensitive: Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others' cell phones, iPads, and other gadgets in the same room, even when it is on but not being used. If you are in a meeting, on public transportation, in a courtroom or other public places, such as a doctor's office, keep your cell phone turned off out of consideration for the 'second hand radiation' effects. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.