Cellphones a Risk? Still Maybe, Maybe Not.

Text Instead

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported this week that the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by cellphones may possibly cause cancer. WHO’s International Agency on Cancer Research reviewed nearly 1,000 studies, including some recently completed and not yet published. The review led WHO to give the radiation emitted by cellphones a “2B” classification — possibly carcinogenic to humans — “based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.”

For the past 14 years health officials have been going back and forth on the dangers of cellphones.

An NIH study published earlier this year concluded that cellphone use can speed up brain activity. Researchers recommended further study to determine just what the results might mean for our health.

Last year, another study found no clear link between cellphones and cancer, but did show a possible connection between heavy use and glioma. Again, researchers recommended further study of the possible effects of long-term heavy use of cellphones.

Cancer experts react to the WHO findings

Yesterday the National Cancer Institute reacted to the WHO report by emphasizing the importance of continued monitoring and risk assessment. The NCI also recommended that people take “specific actions to reduce exposure as further studies are undertaken.”

The American Cancer Society also released a statement from its chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley: “Given that the evidence remains uncertain, it is up to each individual to determine what changes they wish to make, if any, after weighing the potential benefits and risks of using a cell phone. If some feel the potential risk outweighs the benefit, they can take actions, including limiting cell phone use, or using a headset. Limiting use among children also seems reasonable in light of this uncertainty. On the other hand, if someone is of the opinion that the absence of strong scientific evidence on the harms of cell phone use is reassuring, they may take different actions, and it would be hard to criticize that.”

My husband ALWAYS either uses a headset or the speakerphone. ALWAYS.

I was curious to find out if other people were as cautious or if they would change their habits because of the latest information. I was at the bus terminal saying farewell to my brother and nephew (after a wonderful visit, I might add) and got permission to conduct a few interviews.

What people on the street have to say

“I’ve heard some reports, but nothing credible. I have an iPhone and I put it to my ear because otherwise people can hear your conversations. I guess if there were credible reports I would change because I’m always on my phone.”

“I have a low-tech phone now and the speaker sucks so I have put the phone to my ear. I’ll be getting a smart phone next week and then I’ll probably use the speaker, but I don’t really ever think about health concerns.”

“I text more than I talk, but I’m not going to change the way I use it. I just don’t listen to the reports. If you’re gonna go, you’re gonna go.”

“I tend to put my phone on the speaker because it’s more convenient. It frees up my hands to do other things. Besides my phone has a touch screen and when I have it to my ear, the screen touches my cheek and it’s very annoying. I believe the reports are true. I think they make sense, but I don’t think about it so much. Anyway I text more than call.”

“I pretty much text all day long. I only make phone calls once in a while. I’m not too worried about the reports. Everything is bad for you! And I don’t hold it up to my head all day long, so I’m not worried.”

” When I heard the latest report, I said ‘What else? I drink coffee, I talk on the phone. What’s the next thing?’ I’m not going to change my habits. I put it to my ear because it’s more convenient and I hear better. It’s also what I’m used to. I only use the speaker if I want someone else to hear the conversation.”

Personally, I try to use the speaker phone as often as possible, but old habits die hard and I still put my cellphone to my ear sometimes. When I discussed the latest study with my husband his response was,  “The jury remains out. Common sense should prevail.”

Common sense tips to lower your risk of cellphone radiation exposure

  • Use the speakerphone. Hold the phone at least a foot away if you can, but every inch counts.
  • Use a headset.
  • Limit calls to two minutes
  • Don’t put the phone to your ear while waiting for the other person to answer. That’s when the phone is sending out its strongest signal.
  • Don’t use the cellphone in a weak signal area because the phone has to work harder to get a signal to the tower and emits more radiation.
  • Text, don’t talk. Cellphones emit more radiation when a call is being made.
  • Limit your child’s use of a cellphone. Experts say while the brain is still developing it will absorb more radiation.
  • Research which phones have the lowest radiation levels.