Sunday, March 20, 2011

Talking Dangerously

"A truth spoken before its time is dangerous."—Greek Proverb

I recently had lunch with a friend who made an interesting comment. He said: “Cell phones, today, are like the cigarettes of yesterday.”  What he meant, I suppose, was that there are many health hazards connected to our stylish cell phones that have not yet surfaced.

Health hazards?  Even people in remote Third World countries can be seen urbanely clutching cell phones. So how harmful could something that common actually be?

More harmful than we would all like to believe, according to Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology. Yes, I know you didn’t want to hear that. Neither did I.

Here is their basic position on cell phones:

“A considerable body of evidence proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that microwave radiation from mobile phones and cordless phones cause a significantly increased risk for brain tumors. In addition, increasing evidence is indicating that it causes disturbed brain function, damage to the genes and other disturbances.”

Okay. Buzzkill. What crackpots are claiming this, anyway? Well, one of them is Olle Johansson, MD, professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and a Nobel Prize winner in medicine. He has studied the effects of mobile phones, Wifi and other devices on human health for more than 20 years and finds the evidence related to serious hazards convincing. Surprisingly, he believes that the brain tumor issue is a minor one compared to many other harmful effects. While brain tumors affect a small percentage of phone users, other serious effects are impacting the whole population, including genetic damage, sleep disturbances, reduced learning capacity, concentration difficulties and psychological problems. Watch the news and this becomes fairly easy to believe.

My beloved iPhone may be bringing me closer to my next incarnation.
Due to the 24-hour bombardment on our bodies of Wifi and other microwave broadcasts, Dr. Johansson points out that the level of electromagnetic exposure we are receiving is huge compared with Earth's background radiation. He reasons that if microwave radiation is not dangerous, then a large number of quality scientific papers reporting  its hazardous effects must be wrong. He adds, however, that such a scenario is highly unlikely.

Professor Lennart Hardell, also of Sweden, studied more than 1251 cases of cell phone users with brain tumors as well as more than 2000 controls. Researchers reported increased brain tumor risk of 170 percent with cell phone use and 80 percent with cordless phone use after 10 years. In a separate analysis, the highest risk for brain tumors was among those who began using mobile phones before the age of 20.  For this group, the risk increased by 390 percent for cell phone use and 290 percent for cordless phone use. The moral of this and many other studies: The more years and the more hours per year a cell phone is used, the higher the risk of cancer.

“A Eurobarometer survey of almost 1,000 children in 29 countries found most had telephones after age 9.”New York Times

But let's not rely solely on those crazy Swedes.

U.S. government-funded research has proven that cell phones influence the activity of the brain to a significant extent. After 50 minutes of exposure to a cell phone, the metabolism of the brain has been shown to increase in the areas close to the phone. The research was conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Lead author of the study, Dr. Nora Volkow, is quoted as saying, “I must admit that after seeing the results I changed my way of using the mobile phone and always use a loudspeaker or handsfree.”

A recent, well-publicized Interphone study published in 2010 claimed to prove that cell phones have no effect on cancer development. However, two scientists participating in that study noted that most of the subjects in the study had used cell phones for far too short a time for brain tumors to appear. It takes ten years or more. Apparently, when researchers recalculated risk excluding people whose exposure had been too brief, they found that the Interphone study actually showed a significant risk for developing a severe form of malignant brain tumor—aka, a glioma.

By now, you've read just about enough about cancer and could probably use a drink. Me, too. So let’s steer away from that dark subject and talk briefly about cardiovascular disease. Professor Magda Havas of Trent University, Canada, did a study to measure the effect of cordless phone radiation at an intensity of exposure that was 200 times lower than approved Canadian safety norms. The study found that immediately at the start of radiation exposure, a person’s pulse almost doubled. It immediately returned to normal when the phone was turned off. She points out that this study is relevant to cell phone use as well, as cordless phone radiation is in the same range of intensity and frequency.

What about the unborn? Does cell phone use affect them? We return to Scandinavia for that one, where researchers found that cell phone use by pregnant women may affect the future behavior of the unborn child. A study of 28,000 Danish children followed up from pregnancy to age seven found that children exposed to mobile phones while in the womb were 40 percent more likely to show abnormal behavior than those who were not exposed to mobile phone calls by the mother.

“Children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use mobile phones.”Independent

So what devices are we talking about? All of the following emit the same types of microwaves:
  • Mobile phones also called cell phones, cellular phones, cellulars
  • Cordless phones
  • Wi-Fi devices (wireless internet connection and wireless networking).
Oft-forsaken landlines may be a healthier choice.
According to Hardell, things do not bode well for the young generation of cell phone users. "Unfortunately, this radiation permeates our society and those who use a cell phone are contributing to second-hand radiation such that anyone near cell phone antennas is also exposed to this radiation." Sounds like second-hand smoke all over again, but where is the U.S. Surgeon General on this one?

“In the committee [that sets the standards], one co-chair is from Motorola and the other is from the Navy, the military-industrial establishment.”—Dr. O. Gandhi

Hold on a minute. Why would the cell phone industry put us in harm’s way? Cell phone corporations reap multibillion-dollar profits, and would suffer billion-dollar losses from research proving harmful effects.

If cell phone technology keeps rolling along, business-as-usual, what is at stake? Based on the above studies and many more, the proven effects of cell phone use include brain tumors, genetic damage, sleep disturbances, reduced learning capacity, concentration difficulties and psychological and/or behavioral problems. It may also double pulse rates and some studies indicate that it causes clumping of brain cells similar to that found in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Are telecommunications companies too big to be influenced by the average person? Well, decades ago, it was generally thought that the tobacco industry was invincible. But as smoking-related health data began mounting, people got upset about losing loved ones to preventable cancers, banded together in a grassroots effort and pushed tobacco out of the mainstream. 

“Studies show there has been a 40% across-the-board increase in the number of brain tumors in the past 20 years.” —Australia Senator Lyn Allison, after brain tumors became the leading cause of death in children under 15

What can we do about this? The Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology offer the following practical tips on their website:
  • Minimize your use of mobile phones and cordless phones to very few and brief calls. Instead, use landlines as much as possible.
  • People younger than 20 should use mobile phones that allow SMS messages only, but no talking, because the risks are far higher in young people.
  • Fight to change cell phone technology so it is safe, just as a previous generation fought to move tobacco out of the mainstream of our culture.
  • Pray. (I added that one.)
For more stomach-churning information about cell phones, visit: No one wants to believe that cell phones are harmful because we are all so dependent on them. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that our governments and cell phone corporations have given us all a wrong number.

1 comment:

  1. two scientists participating in that study noted that most of the subjects in the study had used cell phones for far too short a time for brain tumors to appear.