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45 Healthy Adults Used a Cell Phone for 50 Minutes - What Happened?

Man Using CellphoneFor several years, doctors, scientists and activists have been raising concerns about the possible connection between cell phones and brain cancer.

And recent research by scientists at NIH and the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory conclusively determined that a cell phone's electromagnetic field can indeed cause changes in brain activity.

CNN reports:

"Brain activity means that the cells are using glucose to create energy ... Compared with subjects whose phones were turned off, the group whose phones were on had 'significantly higher' brain activity in the area closest to the telephone antenna."

Time Magazine lists five simple ways to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation:

Use a wired headset

This keeps the antenna far away from your skull.

Get used to texting

Texting also keeps the handset away from your brain, reducing the radiation risk.

Don't use your cell phone as an alarm clock

If you use your phone as your wake-up call, you'll likely need to keep it close to your head; there's still radiation being emitted even when it's not taking calls.

Don't carry your phone in your pocket

There's preliminary research to indicate that men who carry a phone in their pocket all day could be putting their fertility at risk, and women who carry their phones in their bra could be increasing their risk of breast cancer.

Use a radiation-blocking case

These can reduce cell phone radiation by two-thirds.

These are all important precautions, especially since the recent study by leading brain imaging researcher Nora D. Volkow, MD et al— one funded by the US government and led by one of "Top 100 People Who Shape Our World" (2007) according to Time —has found that cell phone use does affect your brain.

After just 50 minutes on a cell phone, the emitted radiation increases the activity in your brain cells, the study found.  The exact effects of that brain activity are as of yet unknown. But the study in effect has debunked the myth that cell phone radiation at non-thermal levels does not cause biological changes, as the SAR exposure involved was only .901 W/Kg, well under the FCC limit of 1.6 W/Kg for cell phones. The study has also raised the specter that if acute cell phone radiation is impacting glucose in the brain, an established marker of brain activity, might it also be impacting neurotransmitters and other brain biochemistry?

Chronic elevated glucose levels in the brain is, of course, also of concern, and is currently being investigated by Volkow.

Scientists are now calling for urgent research on effects on the brain from cell phone radiation, previously believed in orthodox circles to have no effect. They are also calling for reinstatement of federal funding for bioelectromagnetics research, which dried up in the mid-1990s as government facilitated the roll out of cellular infrastructure across the country.

Dr. Ronald Herberman, former Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, says,

"We know that increased glucose also occurs with infections and other inflammatory processes, and leads to the production of potentially damaging reactive oxygen radicals that can alter the ways that cells and genes work. This important finding should stimulate many biologists to perform in-depth studies to determine the consequences of such changes in nerve cells or other bodily cells in the region of the radiation. We need to develop a better understanding of how radiofrequency radiation might contribute to increased risk for brain tumors as well as other alterations in brain functions."

David Carpenter, MD, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, University of Albany, has called the NIH study 'dynamite'.  He says it will now be hard to deny that cell phones alter nervous system activity.

However, Louis Slesin of Microwave News cautions,

"For decades, the microwave community has been awash with reports that low-level radiation can lead to numerous neurological effects, such as leakage through the blood-brain barrier, changes in calcium in and around brain cells and DNA breaks in the brains of exposed animals. But in each case skeptics have countered that they could not repeat the experiments and therefore the original work must have been flawed and should be repudiated. Volkow's new study will no doubt face a similar barrage of criticism."

Slesin, a long time, well-respected expert in this field, also noted he learned, "The closing sentence of original version of the JAMA paper advised cell phone users to keep the antenna away from the brain by using a wired earpiece. This was edited out in the review/revision process." So, while it is encouraging a respected journal such as JAMA has published on this topic, and also issued a press release about the research, we must all realize there could still be interests wanting to downplay the importance of the finding for cell phone users.

The Volkow study was the first to look at how electromagnetic radiation from cell phones affects glucose metabolism in the brain.  When glucose metabolism goes up, it activates cells. Many scientists believe this may provide insight into the biochemical process leading to increased incidence of brain tumors in heavy cell phone users.

Based on the NIH research, Mayor Mark Barron and the City Council of Jackson, WY last week initiated a cell phone safety awareness program in schools for students in grades K-12. Jackson is the first town in America to take specific action to protect schoolchildren from microwave radiation.

Mayor Barron states

"Given the extraordinary acceleration of cell phone use by our school children and the seeming social acceptance of placing this powerful tool next to our head, it is only prudent to address the issue at this time."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I have been talking about this for a very long time, and the mounting evidence continues to support my early health warnings. This study clearly adds to the growing evidence that we simply MUST invoke the precautionary principle with regards to cell phone use, as well as other wireless technologies.

There's No More Denying it—Cell Phone Radiation DOES Affect Your Brain

Here, in a US government-funded study published in JAMA, researchers measured the brain activity of 47 healthy adults while using a cell phone for 50 minutes, to determine if and how cell phone radiation affects glucose metabolism in the brain.

The levels were measured while the phone was transmitting and placed against the ear, and when the phone was kept against the head but turned off.

As reported by CNN:

"Compared with subjects whose phones were turned off, the group whose phones were on had "significantly higher" brain activity in the area closest to the telephone antenna.

The findings of the study, which examined the subjects during just one 50-minute exposure, raise a key question, the researchers said: What, if any, are the long-term consequences of repeated increased brain activity due to exposure to cell phone radiation?

"We need to rule out that there is a not long-lasting effect in healthy people," Volkow said. "We don't know what repeated exposure and artificial activation of the glucose will have on the brain."

One thing we know is that glucose metabolism equates to cell activation. So the findings indicate that radiation from your cell phone radiation clearly has a well-defined measureable influence on your brain. Normally, your brain produces just enough glucose it needs for proper function, so you're artificially activating your brain cells when you're putting a cell phone against your head.

What this excess glucose production ultimately means for your brain health is still unknown.

However, contrary to industry propaganda, there's plenty of peer-reviewed published hard-core evidence showing that cell phone radiation has a detrimental impact on cellular and DNA function, as well as on the integrity of the blood brain barrier and on cognitive function,  aside from increased glucose metabolism.

What is notable about the recent study is that it was actually accepted in and publicized by JAMA. Over 10 years ago, in December 2000, when JAMA published a CTIA-funded study showing increased risk for neuroepithelial brain tumors by Muscat et al, controversy arose because when the peer reviewed results were shown at the June 1999 Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting it was statistically significant (OR=2.6, 95% CI=1.2-5.4), yet the published study reported a non-significant result (OR=2.1, 95% CI= 0.9-4.7). In spite of direct communication with the JAMA editors by Dr. George Carlo who was head of the CTIA "research" project, no explanation for this change was made.

Cell Phone Safety Spin is Based on Flawed Research

When the CTIA (the wireless industry trade group) states that "no research has found cell phones to be a danger to health," they're misinterpreting and misrepresenting certain studies while ignoring a large portion of the published research showing harm.

For example, according to CNN, John Walls, the CTIA vice president for public affairs, claims that the 2010 Interphone project "found that 'overall, no increase in risk was observed with the use of mobile phones."

But not so fast!

Remember, I wrote about the serious flaws of this study when it was first released. The International EMF Collaborative found that the study seriously underestimates the brain cancer risk from cell phone use. They found 11 key design flaws, including:

  • Results were only provided for brain cancers (gliomas) and meningiomas, but not tumors within the 20 percent of the brain's volume irradiated by cell phones
  • Risk was not broken down by gender, which may have obfuscated even higher risk of meningiomas in women
  • The 5-year old results are woefully inadequate as a gauge of risk today, as adults and children now speak on cell phones many hours a day compared to only 2 to 2 ½ hours a month at that time
  • Categorizing subjects who used portable phones (which emit the same microwave radiation as cell phones) as 'unexposed', thus comparing subjects who were actually 'exposed' with others who were 'exposed' as a means to gauge risk
  • Excluding people who had died, or were too ill to be interviewed as a consequence of their brain tumor
  • Excluding children and young adults, who are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation and who now use cell phones heavily

Also ignored by the CTIA and the media is the fact that the Interphone Study Group did eventually acknowledge that there is an increased risk of brain cancer among "long-term, heavy users" of cell phones—which is MOST people today, including children and teens. This was not the headline, or what most media picked up on, though it should have been.

Interphone Study DID Find Increased Risk of Brain Cancer!

While certain media outlets continue to claim that regular cell phone use is unlikely to cause brain cancer, you should know that Interphone found "heavy users" of cell phones were found to have an approximately doubled risk of glioma, a life threatening and often-fatal brain tumor, after 10 years of cell phone use.

While certain media outlets continue to claim that regular cell phone use is unlikely to cause brain cancer based on the 'overall' results of the study, you should know that Interphone found "heavy users" of cell phones to have an approximately doubled risk of glioma, a life threatening and often-fatal brain tumor, after 10 years of cell phone use.

The kicker here is that their definition of a "heavy user" was someone using a cell phone for about two hours per month, because when the Interphone study was conducted (1999-2004), cell phone use had not yet exploded to the extent it has today!

How could any rational objective scientist claim that this study proved cell phones safe? I mean, how many people do you know that uses their phone less than two hours a month these days?  The only way they would make this conclusion is if they had some massive conflict of interest involved.

For more information about the Interphone study, I highly recommend reading the report, "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone." After closely reviewing the facts and the flaws of the Interphone study, the report concluded:

  • There is a risk of brain tumors from cell phone use
  • Telecom-funded studies underestimate the risk of brain tumors
  • Children have larger risks than adults for brain tumors

Also, see the letter published January 24, 2011 in the U.K. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine by the lead scientist on the Interphone study, Elizabeth Cardis, and Siegal Sadetzki, who led the Israeli component of the study. Post publication of the Interphone study, these two world class female scientists unexpectedly released a startling message clarifying the Interphone study results and communicating that the cell phone-brain tumor data is troubling.

According Powerwatch UK, the researchers stated in the prestigious British JOEM:

"Simple and low-cost measures, such as the use of text messages, hands-free kits and/or the loudspeaker mode of the phone could substantially reduce exposure to the brain from mobile phones.

"Therefore, until definitive scientific answers are available, the adoption of such precautions, particularly among young people, is advisable.

"While more studies are needed, indications of an increased risk (of gliomas - a particularly dangerous form of brain tumour) in high and long-term users from Interphone and other studies are of concern. ... Even a small risk at the individual level could eventually result in a considerable number of tumours and become an important public-health issue."

Camilla Rees of www.ElectromagneticHealth.org says,

"It is very important these two scientists are now independently and personally taking such a strong stand, particularly in light of the Interphone study group's own Press Release, which avoided highlighting the risks of brain tumors the study indeed did find.This gives us faith more scientists may inform the public about what the science is really telling us on this very important public health issue."

Why We Must Think Long-Term when Evaluating Risks

Another common problem with studies showing "no risk" is that they're focused on the short term—too short to predict the real heath outcome for heavy users who start using the technology at an early age.

For example, Devra Davis, PhD, of the Environmental Health Trust , has also pointed out the danger of believing the media spin of a European study published in 2009 that proclaimed cell phones safe.

In that study, researchers analyzed annual incidence rates of two types of brain tumors -- glioma and meningioma -- among adults aged 20 to 79 from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden from 1974 to 2003. But they did NOT tie these trends in any way to actual patterns of use of cell phones!

"In Sweden, Norway and Finland, about half of all persons had cell phones in 2000," Davis said. "It would be unreasonable to expect to see any general population effect from such phone use in such a short period of time. Scientists know that brain cancer can take a decade or longer to develop in adults."

Latency Period for Brain Tumors May be Three to Four Decades!

Other examples of long-term latency include:

  • The Hiroshima bombing that ended World War Two. Brain cancers associated with that one time massive exposure to radiation did not become evident until 40 years later.
  • Likewise, a study in Radiation Research showed a 30-year latency for brain tumors in a study of patients treated for ringworm with x-rays.

This places most of the risk on today's children, as even toddlers are now exposed to portable phones and cell phones on a regular basis.

Professor Lennart Hardell of Sweden has found that those who begin using cell phones heavily as teenagers have 4 to 5 times more brain cancer as young adults!

In contrast, very few of those included in that European study were likely to have been heavy users of cell phones for more than a decade, and even fewer would have used cell phones since early adolescence. So to conclude that the absence of a clear trend of increased brain tumors in Scandinavia means there will be no such trend in the future is simply wishful thinking that endangers us all—especially your children.

Lloyd Morgan, lead author of Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, was also outraged by the media's misleading portrayal of that European study, pointing out that the induction period for brain tumors is at least 30 years. He said:

"It continues to amaze me how easily the media is manipulated. The authors KNOW that no solid tumor, particularly brain tumors, has such a short latency time. And, it is not until nearly the end of the paper where they qualify what is said in the abstract."

Industry Simply Ignores Published Research Showing Harm

These are but two examples of studies the wireless industry falls back on to convince you there's nothing to worry about. Please, don't make the mistake of swallowing industry's misleading safety statements hook line and sinker...

Because not only are they misrepresenting the findings from flawed studies, they're also ignoring the multitude of studies showing harm. In fact, if you believed their statements you'd think there wasn't a single study linking cell phone radiation to any kind of biological damage...

Nothing could be further from the truth!

There are plenty of peer-reviewed published studies showing harm. For a great overview of the latest research that helps explain the mechanism that causes damage to cells and DNA, please see this recent article featuring Martin Blank, PhD of Columbia University. And for a more comprehensive summary of the science see the Electrosensitivity Primer, developed for physicians by Michael Bevington in the U.K., which documents hundreds of studies , or the legendary Ecolog Report, commissioned by T-Mobile and Deutsche Telecom MobilNet GmbH . This report offers an extensive, well-organized summary of the known biological effects from microwave radiation, as does the BioInitiave Report, much of which was later published in Pathophysiology.

Who's at Greatest Risk?

As CNN reports,

"The Federal Communications Commission's safety guidelines for radiofrequency exposure do not differentiate healthy individuals from children or those with brain disorders. However, Volkow says different levels of protection may be in order.

"If someone already has brain damage and then stimulates it with electromagnetic exposure from a cell phone, it could trigger something dangerous," Volkow said. "We cannot say with certainty that for a person with a vulnerability in the brain that radiation from a cell phone would not make it worse."

This is a very important issue, and research has already shown that children are FAR more susceptible to damage from cell phone use than adults, due to the fact that their skulls are both thinner and smaller in volume. Hence radiation penetrates far deeper into their brains. Their cells also divide at a faster rate, making the potential impact of cell phone radiation exponentially larger.

Please Protect Yourself, and Your Family, Starting Today

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, and the precautionary principle must be invoked when new technologies emerge.

While you can't completely avoid radiation in today's wireless world, you can at least minimize your exposure by heeding the following advice:

Children Should Always Avoid Using 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.

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.

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). As many portable phones are 5.8 Gigahertz, we recommend you look for RF meters that go up to 8 Gigahertz, the highest range now available in a meter suitable for consumers.

Alternatively you can be very careful with the base station placement as that causes the bulk of the problem since it transmits signals 24/7, even when you aren't talking. So if you can keep the base station at least three rooms away from where you spend most of your time, and especially your bedroom, they may not be as damaging to your health. Another option is to just simply turn the portable phone off, only using it when you specifically need the convenience of moving about while on a call.

Ideally it would be helpful to turn off your base station every night before you go to bed.

You can find RF meters as well as remediation supplies at www.emfsafetystore.com. But 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. Placing a cell phone in a shirt pocket over the heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man's pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility.(See ElectromagneticHealth.org's Letter to Parents on Fertility and Other Risks to Children from Wireless Technologies)

Don't Assume One Cell Phone is Safer Than Another.There's no such thing as a "safe" cell phone.

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.

Respect Others Who are More Sensitive: Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others' cell phones 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.

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 most 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.

I strongly urge you to take the above precautions to reduce your risk and the risk to your children, who are even more vulnerable to long-term damage. I also invite you to help raise awareness by sharing this information with your loved ones.

More Information

For further information, I highly recommend listening to this excellent Media Teleclass on Cellphones and Brain Tumors.

Listen for yourself to experts who are independent of the telecom industry and close to the science, as well as to the questions the media posed of them. Moderated by Camilla Rees, MBA of www.ElectromagneticHealth.org, the teleclass features Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, David Carpenter, MD, Lloyd Morgan, BS and Joel Moskowitz, PhD.