march 17, 2008 by michael 6 comments
I have reduced my cell phone usage by about 96% since I started researching its health consequences. I went from one hour per day on my cell, to less than one hour per month.
Am I overreacting?
You might have a different answer after reading the articles in this series.
Each article in this series will go into at least one of the seven disadvantages of cell phones. The 7 disadvantages of cell phones that will be covered are:
An Unsafe Safety Standard (see below)
Negative Health Effects
The Effect on Children
Cell Phones and Driving
Increased Stress Level
The Effect on the Environment
I am thinking of adding ‘Cell Phones and Privacy’. The last part of the series will provide actions you can take to reduce the health risks.
All articles will be posted in the coming few weeks.
A Short History – The exponential use of cell phones
Almost every adult has a cell phone, and so do many children. Prof. Kenneth J. Rothman, one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, states the following:
Within only a few years a substantial proportion of the world’s population has adopted a new technology that involves placing a small radio transmitter up against the head, in some instances for hours a day.
The explosion of cell phone use in the last few decades has been astounding: In 1988 there were approximately 500,000 cell phone subscribers in the US, by 1993 this had grown to 13,000,000.  By 2006 there were 223 million cell phone users. 
Cell phones transmit and receive Radio Frequency (RF) signals in order to communicate. The RF signals from cell phones fall within the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This radiation is also referred to as microwave radiation or electromagnetic radiation. In short: Cell phones use microwave radiation to communicate.
Consequently, our landscapes and cities are covered by ‘base stations’ that relay the microwave signals used for communication. Both the base stations and the cell phones emit microwave radiation.
In the last twenty years, the US has adopted cell phones as a integral part of everyday life; 223 million people have started using personal cell devices that emit microwave radiation. In order to make this work, there are at least 126,000 cell phone towers that also emit microwave radiation.
Could this microwave radiation have a negative impact on our health?
Cell Phone Disadvantage #1 – An Unsafe Safety Standard
RadiationCell_thumb1Microwaves can be harmful to humans, the most obvious harmful effect is heating: warming up your food in the microwave is an everyday example of heating through microwaves.
Consequently, safety standards have been established to limit the microwave radiation exposure from cell phones and base stations. This section will explain why the established safety standards are limited and do not protect your health.
One of the first organizations to look to would be the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has an interesting take on Radio Frequency standards, it states on the FCC website:
The FCC is required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to evaluate the effect of emissions from FCC-regulated transmitters on the quality of the human environment. At the present time there is no federally-mandated radio frequency (RF) exposure standard.
The FCC does have a standard that defines the maximum RF energy allowed to be absorbed through the head when using a cell phone, measured through a value called the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR):
The SAR is a value that corresponds to the relative amount of RF energy absorbed in the head of a user of a wireless handset. The FCC limit for public exposure from cellular telephones is an SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg).
However, the safety standards only protect from the heating effect of the microwave radiation, also called the ‘thermal effect’. If the microwave radiation does not cause a temperature increase in your head of more than one degree, the microwave exposure is deemed to be safe. The underlying assumption is that there cannot be cell damage without heating. And without cell damage, there is no health risk.
The ‘no damage without heating’-theory can be considered old and backward. Many research studies have shown that non-heating, or non-thermal, microwave radiation has a profoundly negative effect on the human body.
A 2003 study by Prof. Salford et al for example, established for the first time evidence for neurological damage caused by non-thermal microwave exposure.
Dr G.J Hyland, an authority on the potential health effects of non-thermal microwave radiation, states that:
there is thus absolutely no justification for claiming that Mobile Telecommunication Technology is safe and does not constitute a risk (both directly and indirectly) to public health.
The popular belief that adverse health effects can be induced only by the heating effect of [cell phone] radiation is a fallacy.
Furthermore, cell phones are not allowed in hospitals and on airplanes due to the concern that the microwave radiation might interfere with the electronics.
It does not make sense to acknowledge that there might be interference on sensitive electronic equipment due to the microwaves, but exclude the possibility that these same microwaves might have an impact on our body. After all, the human body is an extremely sensitive electrochemical instrument that uses various wave-based electrical processes (e.g. brain waves), each characterized by a specific frequency.
Concluding, the current safety standards for microwave radiation emitted by cell phones only take thermal heating into account: microwave radiation is considered to be safe if your body temperature does not increase by more than one degree. The non-thermal effects are not taken into account, making the ‘safety standards’ a mockery of public health.
New standards should be developed in order to protect the public from the possible health consequences of exposure to microwave radiation.
The next article in this series will look into the second disadvantage on cell phones:
Next: Cell Phone Disadvantage #2 – Negative Health Effects
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^ Rothman, Kenneth. “Epidemiological Evidence on Health Risks of Cellular Telephones.” The Lancet 356 (2000): 1837-1840.
^ Farley, Tom. “Mobile Telephone History.” Privateline.Com. <http://www.privateline.com/PCS/history11.htm>.
^ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook – United States. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html>.
^ Hardell, L, A Hallquist, K Hansson Mild, M Carlberg, A Pahlson, and A Lilja. “Cellular and Cordless Telephones and the Risk for Brain Tumours.” European Journal of Cancer Prevention 11(2002): 377-386.
^ “Cell Phone Carriers.” Mobiledia. <http://www.cellreception.com/>.
^ United States. Office of Engineering and Technology (OET). Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Radio Frequency Safety – FCC Policy on Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields.<http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety/>.
^ United States. Office of Engineering and Technology (OET). Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Radio Frequency Safety – Cellular Telephone Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). <http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety/sar.html>.
^ Salford, Leif G., Arne E. Brun, Jacob L. Eberhardt, Lars Malmgren, and Bertil R. Persson. “Nerve Cell Damage in Mammalian Brain After Exposure to Microwaves From GSM Mobile Phones.” Environmental Health Perspectives 111 (2003): 881-883. <http://www.ehponline.org/members/2003/6039/6039.html>.
^ Hyland, G J. “How Exposure to Mobile Phone Base-Station Signals Can Adversely Affect Humans.” (2005). <http://www.tetrawatch.net/papers/hyland_2005.pdf>.
^ Hyland, G.J. The Physiological and Environmental Effects of Non-Ionising Electromagnetic Radiation. <http://www.whale.to/b/hyland1.html>.
^ Hyland, G.J. “Physics and Biology of Mobile Telephony.” The Lancet 356 (2000): 1833-1836.
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filed under: cell phone tagged with: cell phone, electromagnetic radiation, microwave radiation, safety standard
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By 2006 there were 223 million cell phone users in the US. Cell phones use microwave radiation to communicate, could this microwave radiation have a negative impact on our health?…