Cell Phone Radiation FAQ’s
Dr. Devra Davis at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club of California in which Dr. Devra Davis and her medical colleagues show why cell phones and other wireless devices pose serious health risks to you, your ovaries, your sperm, your breasts, your brain and your babies.
EHT gets a lot of questions about cell phones and radiation. Are cell phones actually dangerous? Can wireless signals significantly affect the body? Why haven’t I heard about this before? Should I be worried? What can I do to protect myself?
Here are your questions about wireless radiation, answered.
A: A growing body of evidence shows that cell phone and wireless radiation – at even very low levels- could harm our health in a number of different ways. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already listed cell phones as a Class 2 B Carcinogen “possibly carcinogenic to humans”—in the same category as lead, engine exhaust, DDT, and jet fuel. Studies in Europe show that people who used cell phone heavily for over ten years have a doubled risk of brain cancer, and those who begin using cell phones as teenagers have a four to five times higher chance of being diagnosed with brain cancer.
Wireless radiation could harm the reproductive system as well. Many experiments have been conducted on wireless radiation and sperm. Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic and major research centers around the world have repeatedly found that sperm from healthy men that are exposed to cell phone radiation die three times more quickly and develop three times more damage to mitochondrial DNA than sperm from the same men that are not exposed.
Case studies show young women who stored their cell phones in their bra for years developed unusual tumors right below the location of the antennas where they kept their phone. These women had no history of breast cancer or genetic predisposition to the disease. Learn more about cell phones and breast cancer at our webpage dedicated to the topic here.
A. In addition to brain cancer, health concerns from cell phone wireless radiation include increased oxidative stress, altered brain activity, hearing loss, fertility issues and impacts on brain neuron maturation.
Experimental research shows that animals exposed prenatally to cell phone radiation develop more damage to critical parts of the brain involved in thinking and impulse control–the hippocampus and cerebellum. Dr. Hugh Taylor Chief of OB GYN at Yale has shown that pregnant mice exposed to this radiation have offspring with increased hyperactivity, decreased memory and altered brain development.
EHT has convened several expert conference where scientists have presented their research. For example at the Commonwealth Club in 2013, scientists detailed the science showing brain, breast cancer and reproductive organ impacts. At this conference Dr. Suleyman Kaplan presented his research showing significant changes in brain neuron development after exposure to this radiation. You can read his letter to the FCC on his research here. Please watch the 2015 lecture at George Washington University with Indian Government expert Dr. R. S. Sharma reviewing research here.
Scientists in Korea have additionally found something called Digital Dementia in children. They reported that children who are heavy technology users have brains that underdeveloped on the right side. This has been characterized by memory loss, attention disorders, lack of eye contact, lack of empathy, and difficulty feeling or showing emotions. As a result the Korean government is instituting programs to reduce uses and exposures especially to young children.
Furthermore, cell phone use has been shown to result in increased production of glucose in the brain in a major NIH study. This shows that even very low levels of microwave radiation can change brain function. A recent study on 4G technology showed that the radiation affected brain neural activity not only in the closer brain region but also in the remote region, including the left hemisphere of the brain.
Recent research also demonstrates a wide-variety of cellular damage experimentally including increased oxidative stress from cell phone and wireless radiation. Oxidative stress is important to the development of cancer, among other things, because it essentially disrupts the normal redox state of cells, damaging cells and their DNA through the production of peroxides and free radicals. A 2015 research review showed that peer reviewed research that looked at oxidative stress showed effects in 93 out of 100 studies.
It is also important to note that there is a growing body of evidence connecting a myriad of illnesses to proximity to cell phone towers. In densely populated cities, there are often a great number of people living close to cell phone towers, and research is documenting that these people are reporting a variety of ailments, including difficulty sleeping, nausea, and more.
See the research studies and their conclusions on our webpage dedicated to the science here.
A: On July 12, 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the FCC to open a formal inquiry into radiation standards for cell phones and other wireless products because children are more vulnerable to wireless radiation. They state that, “The FCC has not assessed the standards for cell phone radiation since 1996” and “children are… disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation”
Current standards were not developed with children’s vulnerabilities in mind. Federal standards are based on an adult male model. Keeping wireless devices close to the pregnant abdomen is potentially dangerous because the developing fetus is especially susceptible to radiation. This is why many Doctors and Obstetricians recommend reducing cell phone and wireless exposures for pregnant women. See the BabySafe Project for more information about a public awareness program developed by Doctors including Dr. Hugh Taylor.
Keep in mind that the brain does not complete development until the mid-twenties. This means children deserve an additional level of precaution. Small insults on the developing brain can result in large impacts later in life. Their skulls are softer and thinner than an adult’s skull, and they also have more fluid content than an adult. The radiation is absorbed more deeply into children’s brains and therefore, children need greater protections in place.
A: It is unethical to experiment on children. However specialized computer modeling can detail how the radiation is absorbed into children’s bodies.
Recent research continues to show that children absorb microwave radiation deeper into their brains. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2013 Monograph on Radio frequency fields details the research showing how “the average RF energy deposition is twice as high in certain regions of children’s brains and up to 10 times higher in the bone marrow of children’s skulls, compared to energy deposition in adult brains and skulls.”
Please see examples of the accumulated research on EHT’s Science page found here.
In 2008 the National Research Council (NRC) issued a report, The IDENTIFICATION OF RESEARCH NEEDS RELATING TO POTENTIAL BIOLOGICAL OR ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS OF WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES calling for “investigation of the potential effects of RF fields in the development of childhood brain tumor” observed that “with the rapid advances in technologies and communications utilizing [radiation in the range of cell phone frequencies], children are increasingly exposed… at earlier ages (starting at age 6 or before)” and “Children will be exposed to cell phone radiation for more years and therefore in greater total amounts than the current generation of adults”.
To this date, the necessary comprehensive research necessary to understand the full myriad of risks to children has simply not been done. However, the accumulated research showing effects on the developing brain and immune system are more than enough to show that children are more vulnerable and face far greater risks than adults.
A: The World Health Organization has a detailed research agenda which has as a high priority “prospective cohort studies of children and adolescents with outcomes including behavioural and neurological disorders and cancer” and “effects of early-life and prenatal RF exposure on development and behaviour”. However, such research has been minimally funded.
MOBI-KIDS is an ongoing 14 country study looking at the risk of brain cancer from exposure to radiofrequency fields in childhood and adolescence. Results will not be available until 2016.
The U.S. National Toxicology Program is completing a large rodent study looking at hours of exposure every day and this study will be completed in 2016.
A: Often-cited studies seem to imply that no health effects are found; however, much of this research was done or funded by the cell phone companies, which has led to biased results. This bias ultimately misinforms people about how wireless radiation can affect our body. In addition, many often-cited studies minimize possible health risks from this radiation because the studies did not look at impacts over the long term. For example, it is the research that looked at impacts over ten years of cell phone use (30 min a day) that showed increased brain cancer. On the other hand, studies that looked only at 5 years to 7 years of use did not show health effects.
Some studies are put forward that seem to show “no risk”. Then a deeper analysis of the study shows serious methodological flaws. For example, concerning the often referred to Danish Cohort study please see the published Commentary on the flawed Danish Cohort Study Conclusions here. It is notable that the World Health Organization explicitly rejected this widely publicized study from Denmark on brain cancer and cell phones in the British Medical Journal because it lacked detailed information on phone use and the power to find any change in risk. Yet governments continue to cite as support for “no risk”.
As another example, take the often cited 2011 CEFALO study , an international multicenter case–control study which concluded that there was an “absence of an exposure–response relationship” regarding brain tumors and mobile phone use. However, this research only looked at 7 years and brain tumors can take at least 10 years to develop. The study has been highly criticized by experts who analyzed a subset of the data and found a highly significant association between time since first subscription and brain tumor risk. In other words, the study’s own data contradicts the conclusion that states there is “no evidence”. Please see the Commentary The JNCI Study by Aydin et al on Risk of Childhood Brain Cancer from Cell Phone Use Reveals Serious Health Problems. The EHHI Expert group also commented on the limits of the CEFALO study in their Cell Phone Report found HERE. The studies data actually shows an increased risk in the heavy cell users in this study and a shortened latency period for the development of brain cancer from cell phone radiation in children.
A: Buried in cell phone manuals, cell phone companies specifically instruct us that phones should not be held close to the body. For example, the iPhone 5 manual states “Carry iPhone at least 10mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as tested levels. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.” The Blackberry Bold states, “eep the BlackBerry device at least 0.59 in. (15 mm) from your body (including the abdomen of pregnant women and the lower abdomen of teenagers) when the BlackBerry device is turned on and connected to the wireless network”. Read it here.
Watch a short news video here where Dr. Davis discusses these fine print warnings:
Without following these instructions, we risk being exposed to levels of radiation that are too high- higher than radiation limits set by our federal government. The reality is that radiation emissions from devices are tested before going on the market- with a space between the device and your body. For cell phones the distance varies depending on the manufacturer and is under an inch. For laptops, routers and baby monitor, the distance is about 8 inches. Did you know this?
Read Time Magazine’s 2010 (yes 2010) article Cell-Phone Safety: What the FCC Didn’t Test FCC guidelines on the safety of cell phones assumed that there would be a buffer between the device and your body. Gulp
Read all about fine print instructions at the Show The Fine Print Website.
A: All devices that are wirelessly enabled will emit microwave radiation when the networks settings are on. These include DECT home cordless phones, the cordless home phone base, cordless baby monitors, Wi-Fi routers, wireless computers, gaming devices, iPads and tablets, wireless speakers, iPods that connect to the internet and even Fitbit.
If it is wireless, it is a two way microwave radio and has microwave emissions. In the world we live in now people are exposed to microwave radiation from multiple devices in their home, school and work every day. Federal regulations were developed decades ago before such scenarios could even be imagined. We recommend reducing exposures whenever possible.
A Special Note: There is currently a huge push from school boards and local governments to make elementary schools entirely wireless. EHT has developed a webpage that looks specifically at this issue of wireless exposures in schools here.
A. Cancer and other chronic diseases take years to develop. Technology is moving faster than research can keep up. When dealing with environmental health risks that have been recently introduced to our culture, it is always better to err on the side of caution in order to avoid waiting for the body count that may result if we assume that these devices are completely safe.
The Environmental Health Trust along with many Doctors and health organizations has developed resources so people can understand the precautions they can take to reduce exposure to cell phone radiation. Please see our webpage on 10 Steps to Reduce Cell Phone Exposure.
A: Currently, government regulations for wireless radiation need to change. They do not protect us from biological effects nor from long term cumulative exposures. For example, cell phone radiation levels are thousands of times lower than federal guidelines. Yet researchers are finding that these very low levels may not be safe for the human body because research shows damaging effects even at these very low levels.
Most governments rely on outdated guidelines that were set to apply to short-term thermal or heating only effects from RF/microwave Radiation. Remember that cell phone radiation is microwave radiation. Microwaves can cook food at high levels. At low levels (no cooking, non heating) microwaves are used to send data between cell phones.
Take for example the U.S. National Institutes of Health research study that found that 50 minutes of exposure to cell phone radiation changed the energy metabolism in the human brain. The cell phone radiation actually increased the metabolism of glucose in the brain areas closest to the antenna. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the brain imaging scientist who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse and led this groundbreaking research stated (of this research that), “Even though the radio frequencies that are emitted from current cell phone technologies are very weak they are able to activate the human brain to have an effect.”
Furthermore, federal guidelines are based on research that does not consider the special vulnerabilities of various population cohorts such as children or pregnant mothers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Federal health and safety agencies have not yet developed policies concerning possible risk from long-term, non thermal exposures.” This quote is from a Letter by Robert Hankin of the EPA’s Radiation Protection Division.
How can cell phones be safe if low levels alter brain activity? How can they be safe if there is significant research showing brain cancer in the heavy cell phone users? What about research showing sperm damage and brain damage at levels of microwave radiation thousands of times lower than government regulations?
The reality is that most government regulations on allowable public exposures are set tens of thousands of times too high to protect the public.
A: In short, the industry was given a free pass decades ago that allow the exclusion of devices that emitted low levels of microwave radiation from proper safety testing. Cell phones and wireless devices are not safety tested like new drugs or medical devices are coming on the market. If a cell phone or a drug it would be taken off the market by now.
Several books have been written on the subject. Click here to see Dr. Devra Davis’s book Disconnect that details how the wireless industry “wargamed” the science. Click here to hear the history from expert scientist Dr. George Carlo of how industry was able to get this technology to market before it was properly tested and how research findings have been suppressed since. His book Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in a Wireless Age (Avalon, 2001) details industry corruption and how research has been suppressed. Dr. Carlo chaired $28 million dollars in research with the wireless industry. When his research found troubling effects, the wireless industry treated it like a public relations problem rather than a public health problem. Katie Singer’s book, Electronic Silent Spring also explains the complex history of the issue. www.electronicsilentspring.com
A: Research has not yet identified a “safe level”of cell phone or wireless radiation. The United States provides us with an example of a common problem. Their expert scientific federal regulatory agencies the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not do pre-market safety testing nor did they perform research to determine a safe level of Wireless Radiation.
Instead, they adopted guidelines put out by wireless industry led groups. We do not know what a safe level of this radiation is at this time.
A: The government needs to create awareness about the risks of cellphones and wireless devices and act to protect public health. Several national authorities are taking steps now to do that. India has major research underway and has recommended limiting personal exposures. Israel has a National Institute for Non-Ionizing Radiation Safety, while the Canadian Parliament just issued a great example of government recommendations. Please see their 2015 Recommendations on Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Radiation which include updating guidelines, introducing policy measures to reduce exposure and educating the public. Watch a video of Dr. R.S. Sharma, top Indian government scientists discuss the precautionary policies that the Indian government is taking such as educating consumers on safer ways to use cell phones, lowering the allowable RF emissions from cell towers and funding critical research at this 2015 lecture at George Washington University.
Governments can start looking at the larger cost/benefit picture and the high monetary costs they could incur without immediate action. Consider that we now know the financial cost from lead poisoning is estimated at over 43 Billion per year.
Nobody can tell us what will the cost of the hidden health damages from wireless will be. “Given that treatment for a single case of brain cancer can cost between $100,000 for radiation therapy alone and up to $1 million depending on drug costs, resources to address this illness are already in short supply and not universally available in either developing or developed countries. Significant additional shortages in oncology services are expected at the current growth of cancer. No other environmental carcinogen has produced evidence of an increased risk in just one decade.” Please see this published analysis by EHT Scientists that considered such costs.
The growing body of evidence shows that there are biological effects of prolonged exposure to wireless radiation. The government can use this information wisely to protect public health. EHT has developed a webpage specifically with recommendations and resources for policy makers on this issue. Please click here to read more.
Next Steps for Government and Policy
Many governments are taking clear directed action to protect their citizens. Governments can enact protective policy to 1. Educate their citizens on safer ways to use technology and 2. Reduce environmental exposures. 3. Work with industry to mandate and develop advances in software and hardware.
France, Finland, Israel, and the European Environmental Agency advise on cell phone precautions. Russia, the UK, Canada, and many other countries discourage the use of cell phones by children, and France and Belgium have actually banned the sale of phones to children. Toronto, Canada limits Wi-Fi in public parks. France and Israel have banned Wi-Fi in Schools for young children. This list is quite long and we hope you will take the time to understand the global action on our webpage dedicated to policy action here.
The Environmental Health Trust has developed resources specifically for government officials and policymakers on this page.
A: There are simple ways we can minimize exposure:
- Get a corded landline so you can minimize cell phone use at home and in your office.
- Minimize cell phone radiation to the head by using a headset or speakerphone and keep the cell phone away from your body, bra or pockets.
- Choose hard-wired Internet connections for home phones and tech devices.
Special advice for pregnant women:
- Do not store Cell Phone or wireless devices against your body
- Do not rest Cell phone or Wireless Device on belly while in use.
- Men wishing to father healthy children should be aware that this radiation has been shown to damage sperm. Men should avoid placing their cell phone in their pocket.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO REDUCE YOUR RISK
Top Ten Steps to Safe Technology: Learn ways to reduce exposures from the technology you use at home, school and work. This includes, computers, printers, baby monitors and speakers.
10 Things You Can Do to Reduce the Health Risk from Cell Phones: This page looks specifically at how you use your cell phone and shares ways you can decrease your risk.
Check out Dr. Joel Moskowitz’s Blog on Wireless Radiation
Read the EHHI Report on Cellphones, by a group that includes prominent Yale Doctors
What the Cellphone Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About Radiation Concerns: A leading expert on health effects from cellphone radiation goes to battle against a multi-trillion-dollar industry. Alternet
The Green American Issue 82. The January/February 2011 issue featuring the dangers of prolonged cell phone usage and ways to protect yourself.
Non-thermal effects and mechanisms of interaction between electromagnetic fields and living matter. This paper, written by the world’s top experts in brain modeling and microwave radiation exposure to the brain (several of whom have worked for industry), shows that on average a child’s brain will absorb about twice as much microwave radiation from a cell phone as does an adult. Yet, all cell phones today are tested in terms of a very large adult male– who falls at the top 3% of all U.S. men.
FLASH FROM THE PAST
2009 EHT Washington Research Agenda. This research agenda was developed after the Washington DC Expert conference on Cell Phones and Health and is a wealth of information on what we knew in 2009.