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The Dangers of Cell Phones: FAQ

Why should I be worried about using my cell phone?

Manufacturers report that cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation that can penetrate the brain. It can take a decade or more for brain cancer and other serious diseases to develop.  Ten years ago about 1 in 4 people used cell phones; today nearly 9 out of every ten do.  At this time, we can not say definitively whether cell phones are safe or not. However, a growing body of evidence from countries where phones have been used for a long time suggests that decade-long use may increase the risk of serious health problems like cancer.

I have to carry my cell phone with me at all times, what should I do to limit my exposure?

Make sure the keypad is facing your body and that the back of the phone, where the antenna is located, is positioned away from your body.  You can also put the phone on "off-line" mode which stops the electromagnetic field and remove it from your body and turn it on when you need to use it..

In addition, avoid keeping your phone near your body at night (like under a pillow or on a bedside table). Be especially cautious if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Is there anything I can do to help reduce the risk of electromagnetic fields when I'm talking on the phone?

Yes. Try to keep the phone away from your body. Whenever possible, use the speaker phone mode, or a hands-free kit equipped with an air tube in last few inches nearest your ear piece. A wireless Bluetooth earpiece-using an infra-red signal-- produces only 1/100th of the electromagnetic signal/?field of a normal cell phone.

How far from the body should I hold the phone?

The farther the phone is from the head, the weaker the signal that reaches the brain. If you hold it 2" away, the signal has 1/4 the strength. At 4" away, the signal is 1/16 as strong--this is because the strength of the signal drops off with the square of the distance. 

Is text messaging a safer alternative to talking on the phone?

Yes. Texting will limit the duration of your exposure as well as increase the distance between yourself and the phone. Both of these actions reduce the strength of electromagnetic radiation you receive.  However, only choose text messaging when it is safe to do so. Never text message while driving.

Is it safe for my child to use a cell phone?

You should not allow children to use a cell phone except in emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or a child are the most sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. Also, because a child's brain doubles in the first years of life, the  electromagnetic field reaches much more deeply into a child's brain than an adult's.  


Figure 1. Estimation of the absorption of electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone based on age (Frequency GSM 900 Mhz) (On the right, a scale showing the Specific Absorption Rate at different depths, in W/kg) [ ]

As you can see, because of the brain's smaller size and thinner skull, significantly more of the brain is effected by radiation in the five year old compared to a fully developed adult sized brain.

If cell phones are so dangerous, why hasn't the government banned their use?

In the U.S., the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended placing more distance between your body and your phone or using a headset to reduce your expose to electromagnetic radiation.

In fact, the governments of other nations, including France, India and Canada, have all issued warnings about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones.

Is there anything I can do to limit my exposure if I have to have the phone next to my ear?

You should switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure.  Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.

Do all phones emit the same amount of electromagnetic radiation?

No, not all phones are the same. You should choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which measures the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for "SAR ratings cell phones" on the internet.

Why isn't there more definitive proof of whether cell phones cause harmful effects on our bodies?

Human epidemiological studies on cell phones conducted to date cannot be conclusive. Due to their recently increased use, we are not yet able to evaluate their long term impact on health. We are calling on the cell phone companies to provide independent access of records to scientists to evaluate cell phone use so that appropriate studies can be carried out.

What are the scientific grounds for suspecting that radio-frequency signals can be harmful to living systems?

More than 500 studies have been conducted to explore the biological effects of cell phone radiations on biological tissue, particularly in animals. Scientists do not dispute that microwave radiation emitted by cell phones is absorbed into the brain -- dramatically more so in children than in adults. In studies in experimental animals, this invisible radiation eases the ability of toxins to cross from the blood into the brain. They also produce free radicals and subtle changes in proteins that are tell-tale signs that cells have been damaged. (http://www.bioinitiative.org/)

Gandhi, O.P.G. Lazzi, and C.M. Furse, Electromagnetic Absorption in the Human Head and Neck for Cell Telephones at 835 and 1900 MHz. IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, 1996. 44(10): p. 1884-1897.

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    * These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using this product.
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