I'm not usually dialed into the goings-on at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but a couple of weeks ago something disconcerting happened. Suddenly and without any warning or explanation, the agency changed the advice it offers consumers about cell phone safety and removed its previous recommendation that consumers worried about potential cell phone-related health issues purchase phones that emit lower amounts of radiation.
The crucial edit to the agency's consumer fact sheet comes as the cell phone safety controversy is heating up. This past June, for example, San Francisco put into effect a new ordinance requiring retailers to list the radiation emission levels of the mobile phones they sell, and the debate about a possible relationship between cell phone usage and things like brain and salivary gland tumors is growing in the medical community.
In light of the glaring lack of justification for the move, consumer advocates have accused the FCC of a lack of transparency, and reasoned opinion has to ask whose interests the FCC is more concerned about protecting: ours or cell phone makers? Because the jury is still very much out on the issue of whether or not cell phones cause cancer. The truth is we just don't know at this point. But there's enough evidence to suggest that they might. And if they do, it's going to be the radiation they emit that's the culprit, which would make choosing models that emit the lowest levels of radiation the best possible precautionary advice at this point. That the FCC no longer offers this suggestion is a serious public disservice. Since they won't advise consumers responsibly, we will with these tips:
- First and foremost, choose a cell phone model with the lowest possible radiation emission levels! Consult this database for all the latest ratings.
- Use a headset when you make cell calls and equip it with a small clip-on ferrite bead, which will block the radiation your headset would otherwise direct into your head.
- Use the speakerphone function if a headset is not available. Holding your phone two inches away drops radiation exposure by a factor of four. Hold it out four inches, and radiation falls by a factor of 16.
- Save the non-essential chit chat for a land line and keep your cell phone calls short and to the important point.
- Don't keep your cell phone in a pocket or on a belt clip. Stash yours away from your body.
- Don't make calls when signal strength is one bar or less -- phones emit more radiation to overcome poor signals.
- Resist your kids' cries for cell phone ownership and limit their use of the technology to emergencies.