Healing Path magazine assigned me this piece, coincidentally at a time when I was seeking anything that could help reverse a rash of poor health my family was experiencing. Our health did improve, possibly in part by the awareness and lifestyle adjustments brought by my research. It is published in the Jan-Feb ‘09 issue.
It’s easy to agree that cell phones are exceptionally useful devices, and most of us use them at least occasionally. The American Cancer Society and the FDA continue to tell us that no evidence has been found linking the electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) of phones and other electronic devices to cancer. In 2004, a spokeswoman for the Mobile Operators Association said, “…the weight of scientific evidence to date suggests that exposure to radio waves from mobile phone handsets and base stations… do not cause adverse health effects.”
Then why have Germany, France, Sweden, Ontario and Israel issued warnings to their citizens about exposure to EMFs?
On September 25, 2008, a domestic policy subcommittee of our own government hosted a panel of interested parties to consider the veracity and urgency of this public health threat. At that meeting, Dr. David Carpenter, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Albany, said that the expansion of wireless technology is enormous in its implications. He believes the FCC (in charge of regulating this technology) is unduly conservative in the favor of the industries they represent, and fails to protect public health. Chief of the FCC’s office of Technology, Julius Knapp, was also present at the meeting. Knapp admitted that the FCC is comprised of engineers, not biologists, and that he knows of no studies being done by the FCC with collaboration of the FDA. Committee Chair Rep. Dennis Kucinich vowed that the committee will not let this issue of public safety rest.
While Dr. Carpenter and others claim EMFs are implicated in numerous health effects like fatigue, headaches and learning disabilities — diverse symptoms for which the causes are difficult to ferret out — the data most strongly points to a link between mobile device radiation and 3 types of rare tumors:
• Glioma (Senator Ted Kennedy was recently diagnosed with this)
• cancer of the parotid (a salivary gland near the ear) and
• acoustic neuroma (a non-cancerous growth where the ear meets the brain, sometimes called a “schwannoma”).
The risk of these cancers seemed to double after 10 years of heavy use. The FDA admits that the average length of previous studies was only 3 years, and cumulative effects over such long periods have not been exhaustively researched. With more than 3 billion cell phone users worldwide and growing, a steady increase of wireless technologies, and length of exposure growing with each passing year, even a miniscule risk is a significant public health issue.
That risk is the worst menace to children. A study in July 2008 by Devia Davis at the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh points to the fact that children absorb more radiation from their phones because their skulls are thinner, and the protective myelin sheath of a brain isn’t fully developed until age 20. Images from the study show how cell phone radiation reaches a small portion of an adult brain, but penetrates nearly the entire head of a child.
In 2006, The New York Times reported that the mobile industry had begun super sizing marketing efforts toward tweens, and was introducing darling phone products to be cuddled by the 5-year-old age group. Parents perceive a safety benefit of their kids carrying cell phones, while perhaps overlooking the potential threat to the health of their child. Children of the world are now raging toward cell phones in numbers that shame Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch dolls. What is the outlook for a child who may well face 70 years of cell phone usage?
Because cell phone technology is one of the most lucrative and powerful businesses on the planet, some consumer advocates are labeling this a communication conspiracy: “Big Tobacco 2.0”. The consequences may dim statistics associated with public health disasters like asbestos and cigarettes. In June 2008, the New York Times reported that an association with cancer does exist. The report cites a highly respected research effort of 13 European countries, the Interphone Study, which showed that radio waves do affect body cells and damage DNA. Definitive research to discover at what point this damage renders a serious health defect will take another 4 to 5 years, according to the German leaders of the research.
Perhaps we shouldn’t wait for industry advocates to agree a risk exists. It takes too long to get answers from science, according to Ronald B. Herberman, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. He is one who calls for action now, especially in protecting children.
When two new cell phone towers were recently erected in Northern Colorado, it didn’t escape the notice of Longmont resident Debbie Kankiewicz, whose experience with natural alternatives to health led her to multi-national company BioPro. She cites over 350 cell phone antenna and 61 towers in a 4-mile radius centered over Fort Collins alone (check AntennaSearch.com for your address). Technology can’t reverse, but products are marketed with the intent of protecting humans from the increasing effects of EMF exposure.
BioPro representatives like Kankiewicz believe even our smallest electrical appliances negatively affect us, though many scientists will point out a difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. It also is fair to say that some people are much more sensitive than average to the effects of electropollution, and this condition may change in a lifetime. The variables are so great that — like many potential health issues — people tend to cut the chase to the dire question of cancer.
But before cancer becomes an end result, Kankiewicz and others claim that consistent exposure to EMFs at any level affects the adrenal glands, and can manifest into disease such as fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, anxiety and even autism. Changing the bio-fields around her, she said, “totally affected my being, like a blanket of calm settled in front of me.” Her home is liberally sprinkled with BioPro “chips” on appliances and a “whole-house harmonizer”.
On the other hand, Powerwatch.org, a website produced in the U.K., warns against relying on “gizmos” to give protection. Afterall, your doctor and dentist trust only distance and lead aprons to keep bodies safe from ionizing x-rays.
As long as humans have been on earth, they’ve been exposed to naturally occurring sources of ionizing radiation from the soil, space and atmosphere. Technology escalates that environmental negative, though science has yet to agree on what degree. Meanwhile, on the heels of the rage toward a wireless world, comes businesses like BioPro, whose dealers sell stick-on devices to protect us from EMFs; and EMFields.org, which sell metal mesh and carbon paint as physical barriers to get relief from the constant bombardment.
While the U.S. government wrestles with the issue of illness related to cell phones, we each must decide for ourselves and our children — with consideration of individual factors like proximity to multiple sources of EMFs, overall health and integrity of immune systems — what we will do to minimize the risk of the increasing invisible pollution that’s part of the electronic modern world.
Actions to Mitigate the Potential Health Hazards of Radiation from Cell Phones
• Use your cell phone only when necessary, and don’t chat long. If you’re not expecting a call, turn the phone off. Otherwise, your phone checks contact with the nearest tower regularly, and that contact draws full power.
• Though Bluetooth headpieces have 100 times less radiation than the phone itself, it is advisable to remove it from your head when not talking.
• If possible, strategize to use your phone in areas with the best signal. Powerwatch.org claims this may reduce emissions by up to 500 times. Also, whenindoors use your phone near a window, with it between your body and the window.
• Talking in a car or train should be avoided. Not only is it a distraction that could lead to accident, but the vehicle’s metal frame may trap the radiation, magnifying it.
• Every millimeter away from the body counts. Devia Davis said, “You’re just roasting your bone marrow” if you carry your phone in your pocket. Evidence suggests a man may adversely influence his fertility and libido by carrying a phone in his pocket. Clip the phone to a backpack, set it on the dashboard, or any other place than next to your body. Your winter coat pocket, or even back pocket of your pants, is preferable to your front pants pocket. Keep the antenna to the outer side. Eyes, breasts, testicles, kidneys and liver may be particularly vulnerable.
• Texting keeps the phone from your head. If your phone has one, use the speakerphone option for the same reason.
• Use a hollow-tube hands-free earpiece. The sound can travel the last length of the cord without having a wire run all the way to the ear.
• Discourage children from non-essential time on the phone, such as chattering for comfort (use a wired phone), or shopping for ring tones and wallpaper.
• Reduce your cumulative exposure to sources of EMFs. Don’t sit for hours next to the router in your home office, for instance, and move the cordless phone base station and clock radio away from the head of your bed. Avoid being in a WiFi setting if it isn’t necessary.
How Hot is Your Cell Phone?
One bit of regulation that exists in the U.S. to protect us is the FCC’s rule that cell phones may have a Standard Absorption Rate (SAR) of no more than 1.6 watts per KG. Here’s the low-down on which phones are closer to max or min:
Motorola models V195S, ZN5, VU204, W385, Deluxe ic902, i335 — ranging from 1.6 to 1.53
RIM Blackberry Curve models 8330 Sprint, U Cellular and Verizon Wireless — 1.54 to 1.53
T-Mobile Shadow (HTC) — 1.53
Samsung models SGH-G800, Soul, Innov8, SGH-T229, SGH-i450, Rugby SGHA837, SLM SGH-A747, Access SGH-A827 — 0.23 to 0.486
Motorola RazrZv8 — 0.383
Nokia 6263 — 0.43
This guide is available at CNET.com. Powerwatch.org also recommends choosing a phone with low SAR, but with the awareness that some high SAR phones normally work at low power, while low SAR phones may be inefficient and must work at high power. Powerwatch states that in general, smaller phones have higher SARs. Also, the phones with external antenna keep radiation further from your head.
At Our House
Writing this article prompted me to assess my own family’s home, and a rash of illness we have had this fall. I’m a mom who likes to be thorough… and while I don’t avoid our allopathic doctors, I may just as easily call an alternative healer, massage therapist, counselor or psychically sensitive person. Often, the answer lies between the various specialities.
With the education this article has afforded me, I can add EMFs as a potential villain when an apparent immune system conspiracy hits my family. This is a significant challenge, as our home office rivals the control deck of the Starship Enterprise (except way messier) and we do love to be mobile. Koetting Media Limited is captain of our house, and we are ever grateful for the income it provides. However, we are nothing without our health and I like to promote that we are too smart to be slaves to convenience. And so this family has decided to compromise a few things.
We will unplug the amazing home WiFi. While it is uniquely entertaining to do virtual tours of homes in Tasmania from our bed, the number of times we would like to access the internet away from our office may not be worth the constant pulses the system must make. This will be most challenging for my husband, who loves nothing more than to whip out his laptop and consult Wikipedia to lay to rest questions at the dinner table or parties.
Next comes my rough challenge: Life with as little use of the microwave oven as possible. Ours is a high-power brushed steel model, which I got to choose on movies. Now I’m to consider it as an attractive ornament that fits the space over the range. This means we’ll reheat coffee with a plug-in coil, warm soup in a pot we have to wash, and steam vegetables the “old-fashioned” way. I am putting a ribbon on the handle of the microwave oven to remind us to at least think before deciding to use it. And when I see that ribbon, I’ll remember the noise — way on the other side of the room — that 1,700 watts made on an electropollution measuring device. I moved our bedside phone to the floor, just far enough away from the bed to be able to reach it if a call comes in the night. Previously, it was about a foot away from my husband’s sleeping head. I also am moving the phone in my office away from head level.
Moving the phones is a mean-time measure while I search for corded phones to replace our corded system. EMFields.org offers a “safer” cordless phone, but I’m not inclined to purchase something I can’t easily return to a box store when it malfunctions (as ours always do). Trying to find the old-fashioned phones is like trying to find rap music on vinyl. And when I do make us a tethered home again, there goes my ritual of catching up with a girlfriend while I mop the kitchen floor.
Perhaps in time, after a long stretch of vitality for everyone in our house, if we still haven’t become thoroughly adjusted to the lifestyle changes, I may consider reintroducing these conveniences, one at a time.