If you’re a cell phone user (and who isn’t?), you’ve no doubt been reading along for several years as we’ve reported various studies addressing the safety of this technology. Some have said that cell phones are safe to use. Some have suggested they might not be. For our part, we’ve urged precaution until more is known. Now a new examination of the available evidence says that was wise advice.
The new study, Mobile Phones and Brain Tumors – A Public Health Concern, was conducted by noted Australian brain surgeon Dr. Vini Gautam Khurana. Dr. Khurana analyzed more than 100 separate studies, both pro and con, on the potential health effects of cellular phone usage and concluded that the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted by cell phones will likely lead to an epidemic of brain cancers within the next decade.
Among the points the new research phones home:
• There is a “significant and increasing body of evidence” that demonstrates a link between “excessive and/or prolonged” cell phone usage and certain brain tumors.
• This link should be taken seriously and no longer regarded as a myth.
• The time between the start of regular cell phone usage and the diagnosis of a brain tumor in susceptible individuals can be anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Thus, a statistically significant spike in brain cancer rates should be seen sometime in the next four years (assuming the mid-90s marks the moment cell phone adoption became widespread).
• Enough evidence currently exists to compel government and the cell phone industry to take immediate action to alert consumers to the hazards posed by cell phone EMR.
• This evidence suggests that cell phone radiation will eventually pose a larger threat to public health than asbestos or smoking.
Among the many studies examined by Dr. Khurana was a Swedish review of existing literature that concluded that “present studies on use of mobile phones for 10 or more years give a consistent pattern of increased risk for (several types of brain cancer).” Other studies cited include a 2000 study by the same Swedish team that found that the brain tumors of patients who used cell phones tended to be located on the same side of the head favored for making calls and a 2006 German study, which found that the risk of certain brain cancers more than doubled in cell phone users.
Authorities in Europe have already begun to take positive action. Recently, the French government warned the public against overdoing it with cell phones, especially where children are concerned. German has also advised its citizens to restrict cell phone usage, and the European Environment Agency has also said that people should reduce their usage.
Here in the U.S., such proactive government initiatives to protect public health are unlikely to be forthcoming any time soon. However, there are plenty of things consumers can do for themselves. Here’s our list of suggestions:
• Choose a phone with a low SAR value. SAR stands for Specific Energy Absorption. It’s a measure of the rate at which radio energies are absorbed by bodily tissues. Cell phones typically emit radiation that has SAR levels of between 0.5 and 1.0 W/kg. Ask about the radiation emitted by the models you’re considering and select the one with the lowest levels.
• Use a shielded headset to keep your phone away from your head and greatly reduce your exposure to the radiation it emits. Note that new evidence finds that unshielded headsets can concentrate and channel EMR through their cords and turn your head into a remote antenna. (Bluetooth cordless technology is even worse.) Shielded headsets prevent this. If you own an unshielded headset, use adaptors like those manufactured by Aegis.
• If you’re without a headset, use your phone on speaker mode keeping it at least eight inches away from your body.
• If possible, use text messaging instead of calling. Like a shielded headset, this keeps the radiation emitting portions of your phone away from your head.
• Save your cell phone for emergencies and calls you absolutely have to make on the move. Save non-essential conversations for a land line.
• Don’t give up your land line! Maintain non-radiating phone in the place where you make most of your calls.
• Don’t let kids and teenagers have or use cell phones. Their growing brains lack the fully-developed defenses adults possess. Remember: generations of kids grew up without cell phones and many calls made by young people are non-essential. For teens that require cell phones, prepaid calling plans and programs with limited minutes can reduce or eliminate unnecessary usage.
• Never use your cell phone while driving. This rule not only protects you from radiation hazards, but helps keep you safe in other ways!