The industry says there's no connection, but experts are raising the alarm. Here's how to play it safe.
We rely on them to connect us to the people we love, to help us stay organized, and, in an emergency, to keep us safe. But more and more experts are saying that cell phones may pose a very serious health risk - increasing your chance of developing a brain tumor.
That means that over 270 million Americans may be playing Russian roulette with their cell phones every day. Each year, more than 21,000 adults and 1,500 children are diagnosed with brain tumors, and researchers believe some of them may have been caused by talking on a mobile phone.
A new study examined a decade's worth of research and concluded that people who use cell phones for more than 10 years are up to 30% more likely to develop brain tumors than people who rarely use them.
What Cell Phones Do
Every time we call to say we're late for a meeting or to ask if we can pick something up at the store, the cell phones we use are emitting radiofrequency radiation. While not as damaging as the radiation from X-rays, it can still affect our DNA. In fact, animal studies have shown that the radiation from cell phones can change the cells inside their brain. Whether those changes will cause serious damage is still up for debate. But because cell phone use is a relatively recent phenomenon, and brain cancer can take many years to develop, some scientists warn we will not see the results until it is too late.
What the New Research Found
A group of researchers from South Korea and California analyzed 23 studies that looked at the association between tumors and mobile phone use. As a group, the studies did not show an increased risk, but when the researchers focused on the higher quality studies and the longer-term use studies, they discovered about a 30 percent increased risk of tumors.
Who is Most at Risk
Children's brains are thinner and contain more fluid than adult brains, which means they can more readily absorb electricity. Mathematical models show that when children hold a mobile phone up to their ears, the brain surface they expose to radiation is more than double that of adults. Some countries, including Finland and Israel, have already issued warnings that children not use cell phones, and Maine recently passed an emergency bill mandating warning labels about children and cell phones.
5 Steps to Staying Safe
- Put it on speaker. Because your exposure drops exponentially as you move the phone away from your head, you don't have to keep the phone very far away to reduce your exposure by 1,000 to 10,000 times.
- Go wired. In crowded, noisy areas, use a wired headset instead. If you must use a wireless headset, turn it off when you're not using it.
- Store it. Unless you're on it, stow the phone in your purse or bag. If you keep it on your waist, keep it turned off. Studies have shown that keeping a cell phone in your pocket can decrease sperm count.
- Save it for a strong signal. When reception is bad (such as in a rural areas or when you're driving) use your phone for emergencies only. The weaker the signal, the more the radio frequency has to boost itself to get connected, increasing your exposure.
- Protect the kids. Do not let children use cell phones next to their heads. For older kids, it shouldn't take much encouragement to get them to text more than they chat.