EMF Controversy Exposed

EMF Health Risks

Story at-a-glance

  • In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted “We recommend caution in cellphone use,” on their website
  • Within weeks of posting their cell phone caution online, the passage was removed, along with a section that addressed potential risks of cell phone use for children
  • More than 500 pages of internal records suggest controversy at the agency over how to address cell phone risks, including disagreements about such risks among its scientists


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

Cell phones were first introduced in the 1980s, became widely available in the U.S. during the 1990s, and today we're living in a society where cellphone-only households are no longer the exception; they're the norm.1

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which classified cell phones as possible carcinogens in 2011, suggested during the late '90s that a study looking into the relationship between cell phones and cancer made sense. In 2000, the Interphone study was initiated.

When its results were finally released (years behind its scheduled completion date), there was controversy over the results.

However, the Interphone Study Group did eventually acknowledge that "heavy users" of cell phones had an approximately doubled risk of glioma, a life threatening and often-fatal brain tumor, after 10 years of cell phone use.

The most shocking part of their finding is their definition of a "heavy user" —someone using a cell phone for two to two and a half hours per month!

I would suggest it's not unusual for Americans to spend that long on their cell phones every day in 2016, although a 2014 Nielsen study put average usage at about 34 hours a month.2

Suffice to say, people are using their cell phones a lot and starting at ever-younger ages. Meanwhile, increasing research suggests cell phones are linked to health consequences that are just now beginning to be understood.

At the very least, caution is warranted in their use. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) echoed this in 2014, stating, "We recommend caution in cellphone use."3 Except, if you were to look for this language from the CDC today, it would be nowhere to be found.

CDC Backpedaled on Their Cell Phone Warning

Within weeks of posting their cell phone caution online, the passage was removed, along with a section that addressed potential risks of cell phone use for children. As of January 2016, the CDC only notes:4

"Some organizations recommend caution in cell phone use. More research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects."

Their about-face generated enough attention and confusion, however, that their site now includes a sidebar panel attempting to vaguely explain why the information on their FAQs page was changed (including, they say, to present the information in "easy-to-understand language").

Internal Records Show Debate Among CDC Officials

The New York Times obtained more than 500 pages of internal records that suggest there's far more to the story than this, including disagreements about cell phone risks among its scientists and agency officials.

When the CDC warning was first made public, government and health officials wondered whether it represented a policy change (and whether schools could be liable for allowing cell phones on their premises).

The CDC then began to regret their choice of words, and internal emails show officials debating how to best backpedal, including stating that other countries such as the UK and Canada (but apparently not the U.S.) recommended caution.

Not all officials agreed that a revision was necessary, however. The New York Times reported:5

"Christopher J. Portier, former director of the National Center for Environmental Health, the C.D.C. division that made the changes, disagreed with the decision to pull back the revised version. 'I would not have removed it,' he said in an interview.

'I would have been in support of a recommendation that parents look carefully at whether their children need cellphones or not.'

Dr. Portier, who led the center when the revision process was initiated, said he believed parents should have been presented 'with enough information to say caution isn't ill advised, because we really don't know, and there are enough indicators to say we should be cautious.'"

Some Organizations Urge Caution in Cell Phone Use, But Not the CDC

Ultimately, the CDC spent years debating how to best address the risks of cell phones to the U.S. public. They even tested drafts of new language on focus groups, but the end result stops short of implying cell phones may indeed be risky. According to The New York Times:6

"The C.D.C.'s internal email traffic shows a lengthy revision process for the agency's recommendations. After the announcement by the I.A.R.C. in 2011 [categorizing cell phones as possible carcinogens], one agency official wrote that there was 'outdated information on our current website.'

Some changes were made within days, though they did not mention the I.A.R.C. determination.

That would take another three years. It coincided with the C.D.C.'s effort to use clearer language on its website, a bureaucratic process that led to tension between the communications staff and the agency's Radiation Studies Branch …

In emails, Robert C. Whitcomb Jr., head of the Radiation Studies Branch, began assuring colleagues at other agencies and universities that the new guidelines were 'not an official policy.'

Another C.D.C. official called it 'a teachable moment,' while a third said she had 'an incredible guilt complex' for her role in the guidelines published in June 2014.

… 'Some organizations recommend caution in cellphone use,' the agency's guidelines now say. But the C.D.C. is not one of them."

Cell Phone Use Is Associated with Brain Tumors, DNA Damage and More

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 cellphones, among a number of other things.

" … [A] cellphone is a two-way microwave radio,' Dr. Davis pointed 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."

Consider research by Dr. Lennart Hardell, a professor of Oncology at University of Örebro in Sweden, and statistician Michael Carlberg from the same university. The pair looked at data from two previous case-controlled studies on Swedish patients diagnosed with malignant brain tumors during the periods of 1997 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009.

Using regression analysis, adjusted for gender, age, year of diagnosis, and socioeconomic index, the odds of developing a malignant and highly lethal brain cancer called glioma rose concurrently with increased cell phone use. The more hours spent with a cell phone pressed to their ear, and the more years they'd spent using a mobile phone, the higher the odds were.

  • Those who logged the most amount of hours on their cell phones were twice as likely to develop glioma compared to those who used them the least
  • Those who used either a cell phone or cordless house phone for more than 25 years had triple the risk of glioma, compared to those who had used wireless telephones for less than one year

Dangers to Fertility, Pregnant Women and Children

Dr. Davis has warned, in particular, about the risks to pregnant women and their unborn children, noting that prenatal animal studies have shown exposure to radiation from cell phones:

  • Altered DNA
  • Altered brain metabolism
  • Compromised spinal cords
  • Affected learning abilities

Children's brains contain more liquid than adults', which impacts the amount of radiation absorbed (children absorb far more). Among teens who use cell phones from a young age, the risk of brain cancer is about four to five times higher than that of teens who didn't use cellphones.

Dr. Elisabeth Cardis, Interphone's principal investigator, is now conducting research in Europe to examine the risks of cell phone use among children. She told The New York Times:7

"If there's a risk, it's likely to be greater for exposures at younger ages simply because the skull is thinner and the ears are thinner in children than in adults. Basically your phone is closer to your brain."

Meanwhile, a systematic review and meta-analysis showed that exposure to low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from cell phones lowered sperm motility by 8 percent and sperm viability by 9 percent.8 Previous studies have also found that cell phone radiation can affect men's sperm count and the quality and motility of their sperm.9

During the 2013 discussion "Cell Phones & Wi-Fi — Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?," leading experts from top universities further reported:10

"There is a direct relationship between duration of cell phone use and sperm count decline. Sperm count is reduced by half in men who carry cell phones in their pants pockets for four hours per day. The motility of the sperm is also impaired.

The testicular barrier, that protects sperm, is the most sensitive of tissues in the body, and is 100x more absorbent. Besides sperm count and function, the mitochondrial DNA of sperm are damaged 3x more if exposed to cell phone radiation.

… DNA mutations have been linked more to damage on the male side in research from Iceland, the assumption being that male sperm is more vulnerable than female eggs, which are more protected. Mutations increase with the age of the father, and more autism and schizophrenia increase with the age of the father."

Cell Phones Represent Only One EMF Risk – Dirty Electricity Is Another

Your body is a complex communication device where cells, tissues, and organs "talk" to each other to perform basic functions. At each of these levels, the communication includes finely tuned bio-electrical transmitters and receivers, which are tuned like tuning into a radio station.

What happens when you expose a radio antenna to a significant amount of external noise? You get static from the noise — and that is what is happening to your body in today's "electrosmog" environment. It's not only cell phones that pose a problem; all form of dirty electricity have the potential to harm human health.

Magda Havas, PhD, associate professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University explained:11

"'Dirty Electricity' can … be used to describe electric power that has become corrupted by our use of modern appliances.

Items such as CFL bulbs, cell phone transmission antennas, power supplies for portable computers, cell phone chargers, dimmer switches, variable speed fans and many other electronic devices that require a transformer to convert the voltage will 'dirty' the electricity that enters your home.

This form of dirty electro-magnetic fields (EMF) is invisible to the eye, but has a biological effect on the human body and has been associated with a wide variety of illnesses."

In "Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization," epidemiologist Sam Milham, MD also points out that the major diseases plaguing modern man — heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. — may also be triggered by dirty electricity.

Dr. Milham showed that populations without electrification experienced less disease than those in urban areas with electrification, and that rural death rates correlated with levels of electrical service for most causes examined.12 Conditions linked to electrification included cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and suicide. Camilla Rees of ElectromagneticHealth.org said:

"Dr. Milham's work suggests society may have overlooked one of the most important underlying root causes of illness. The health sector's focus on lifestyle, chemical pollutants, genetics and the like, may have missed the role of every day electromagnetic fields from electrification.

It is now clear we must assess all sources of electromagnetic radiation in our midst, not just wireless communication technologies, but also electric and magnetic fields, and high frequency transients on electrical wiring, known as 'dirty electricity.'

How to Minimize Your EMF Risks

People living in most cities and suburbs are literally bathed in a variety of electromagnetic fields, microwave radiation and dirty electricity 24/7. From my perspective, the evidence clearly indicates that we need to invoke the precautionary principle with regards to cell phone use, as well as other wireless technologies.

Until the industry starts taking this matter seriously, the responsibility to keep children safe falls on the parents. To minimize the risk to your brain, and that of your child, pay heed to the following advice:

Don't let your child use a cell phone. 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.

Keep your cell phone use to a minimum. 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.

Reduce or eliminate your use of other wireless 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 some 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.

You can find RF meters at EMFSafetyStore.com. Even without an RF meter, you can be fairly certain your portable phone is problematic if the technology is labeled DECT, or digitally enhanced cordless technology. 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.

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

Limit cell phone use to areas with excellent reception. 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.

Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body, and do not sleep with it under your pillow or near your head. Ideally, put it in your purse or carrying bag. Placing a cell phone in your bra or in a shirt pocket over your heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man's pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility.

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 while the phone is on.

Don't assume one cell phone is safer than another. There's no such thing as a "safe" cell phone.

Respect others; many are highly sensitive to EMF. 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 "secondhand radiation" effects. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.

Use a well-shielded wired headset: 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 can act as an antenna attracting and transmitting radiation directly to your brain.

So make sure the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded. One of the best kinds of headsets use a combination of shielded wire and air-tube. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the sound 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.

Tips for Avoiding Dirty Electricity Risks

Additional options to minimize your risks from dirty electricity, compiled by Paula Owens, M.S. for the Ahwatukee Foothill News, include:13

  • "Avoid using laptop computers on your lap.
  • Switch out compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs for incandescent light bulbs.
  • Consider replacing Wi-Fi routers with Ethernet cables.
  • Avoid electric water beds, blankets and heating pads.
  • Remove electrical devices from your sleeping area. If you must use an electric alarm clock, keep it at least five inches from your body when sleeping. Or, opt for a battery-operated clock.
  • Move power strips at least three inches away from your feet.
  • Switch to flat-screen TVs and computer monitors as these emit less EMFs than the older styles.
  • If you live in close vicinity to or underneath electrical wires, power lines or cell phone towers, you may want to consider moving.
  • Stand three to four feet away from microwave ovens when in use [or stop using them altogether].
  • Consider shielding devices to reduce EMFs from cell phones, cordless phones and landline speaker phones.
  • Ask your electric utility provider to remove wireless smart meters and replace them with a wired smart meter.
  • Walk barefoot on the sand, grass or dirt. This common practice known as earthing or grounding allows the healing negative ions from the ground to flow into our body and have been shown to reduce stress hormones and inflammation.
  • Use 100 percent beeswax candles and Himalayan salt lamps in your home and office to absorb EMFs from the air. Salt lamps serve as natural room ionizers, emitting negative ions into the environment that effectively bind with all the excess positive ions, reducing EMFs, killing bacteria and purifying the air."


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