Article — From the May 2010 issue

For Whom the Cell Tolls

Why your phone may (or may not) be killing you

( 3 of 10 )

Cellular phones emit radiation at a frequency between 450 and 2700 MHz. This is significantly higher than the extremely low-frequency EMFs (50–60 Hz) that concerned Paul Brodeur, but still two orders of magnitude below the level at which radiation can heat human tissue (300 GHz). A cell phone gives off roughly the same frequency of radiation as a microwave oven; scientists sometimes describe cell-phone radiation as microwave radiation. In the past decade, hundreds of experiments have been conducted to determine whether cell-phone radiation might have any effect on human health. Here are some of the findings:

[1] Hung et al. (2007).
[2] Mann and Roschke (2004). Loughran et al. (2005).
[3] Wagner et al. (2000), Huber et al. (2000).

• Exposure to cell-phone radiation hampers one’s ability to fall asleep.[1] Exposure to cell-phone radiation makes one sleepy.[2] Exposure to cell-phone radiation has no effect on sleep patterns.[3]

[4] Cao et al. (2000), Maier et al. (2004).
[5] Koivisto et al. (2000a, b), Jech et al. (2001), Lee et al. (2001), Edelstyn and Oldershaw (2002), Keetley et al. (2006).
[6] Harala et al. (2003), Basset et al. (2005), Russo et al. (2006), Terao et al. (2006), Cinel et al. (2007).

• Cell-phone radiation slows one’s cognitive reaction time.[4] It makes one think faster.[5] It has no effect on cognitive ability.[6]

[7] Dasdag et al. (1999), Erogul et al. (2006), Yan et al. (2007), Subbotina et al. (2007), Agarwal et al. (2008), De Luliis et al. (2009), Mailankot et al. (2009).
[8] Dasdag et al. (2003, 2008), Ozguner et al. (2005), Aitken et al. (2005), Ribeiro et al. (2007), Pourlis (2009).

• Cell-phone radiation reduces sperm count and sperm motility and increases the number of abnormal sperm.[7] Cell-phone radiation does not harm the testicles.[8]

[9] Phillips et al. (1998), Tice et al. (2002), Diem et al. (2005), Gandhi and Anita (2005).
[10] Li et al. (2001), Hook et al. (2004), Aitkens et al. (2005), Stronati et al. (2006).
[11] Brusick et al. (1998), Meltz (2003), Vijayalaxmi and Prihoda (2008).

• Exposure to cell-phone radiation leads to single- and double-strand breaks in DNA and to numerous other forms of genetic damage.[9] Exposure has no significant effect on DNA.[10]The negative (no effect) studies outweigh the positive, and the reason the incriminating studies showed anything at all was that they were poorly, even incompetently, designed.[11]

[12] Gandhi and Kang (2002).
[13] Schönborn et al.
[14] Wiart et al. (2008).(1998).

• The brain of a child absorbs a much greater amount of radiation from a cell phone than does the brain of an adult.[12]No, it does not.[13] The absorption rate is twice as high, but only for children under eight.[14]

[15] Huss et al. (2008).

• The majority of studies on cell phones and human health have received funding from the telecommunications industry. Industry-funded studies are significantly more likely than independent studies to show that cell phones are safe.[15]

[16] Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, United Kingdom Health Protection Agency (2003); Moulder et al. (2005); Krewski et al. (2007); Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, European Commission (2009); Ahlbom et al. (2009).
[17] Hardell et al. (1999, 2001, 2002, 2005).
[18] Rothman (2000), Elwood (2003), Boice and McLaughlin (2006).
[19] Hardell et al. (above), Lönn et al. (2005), Hepworth et al. (2006). The risk of a tumor on the side of the head of a reported phone user increases in these studies anywhere from 24 percent (Hepworth) to 400 percent (Hardell).

Most epidemiological studies of regular cell-phone use for less than ten years have yielded no evidence that the phones cause brain tumors.[16] (There has been one notable,[17] if disputed,[18] exception.) Recently there have emerged the first studies to follow regular cell-phone users for longer than ten years. In these studies, the findings remain inconsistent—except in one category: When a person is accustomed to holding his phone to one side of his head, he has an increased risk of tumor incidence on that same side of his head.[19]

is the author of <em>The Mayor's Tongue.</em> He is at work on his second novel, which is about worst-case scenarios.

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