Mindful Metropolis April 2011 : Page 24

by chrisTine escobar LOUD AND CLEAR The jury may be out on wireless dangers but the evidence keeps adding up op on a train or bus in any busy metropolitan city in the U.S. and you’ll likely find more passengers texting, emailing, or updating their Face-book statuses than immersed in a bestsell-ing paperback: a commuter activity once commonplace for decades. It seems that at no other point in human history have we become more dependent on electronic technology than today. The pro-liferation of wireless gaming, smartphones, eReaders, iPads, and faster, smaller laptops all operating on an increasingly pervasive network of Wi-Fi in homes, offices, restau-rants and even parks has given us the ability to be “virtually” in touch with one another 24 hours a day. Ask any parent of a chronically plugged-in teen what their view of computer addiction is and they just may agree there is certainly some effect on attention span and memory. But what about less quantifiable long-term physiological effects of electronic technol-ogy on our bodies, given that we surround ourselves with so much of it on a daily basis? Could just living and working in close prox-imity to these machines for such long periods of time do actual physical harm? If the an-swer is yes, then wouldn’t children and teens whose bodies are still developing be even more vulnerable to this danger? H Documented health effects on the body Manufacturers of cell phones and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Can-cer Institute insist there is no correlation between cell phone use or wireless technol-ogy and disease. They argue that cell phones and Wi-Fi, (which operate with signals in the same range of radio frequency (RF) as microwaves using less power to run) emit only non-ionizing radiation that they insist cannot lead to disease as ionizing radiation can. Ionizing radiation includes gamma rays, cosmic rays and X-rays all well known to have a dangerous effect on our bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency defines non-ionizing and ionizing radia-tion as such: “radiation that has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to remove electrons, is referred to as ‘non-ionizing radiation.’ radiation that falls within the ‘ionizing radiation’ range has enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from atoms, thus creating ions.” 24 april 2011

Loud And Clear

Christine Escobar

The jury may be out on wireless dangers but the evidence keeps adding up<br /> <br /> Hop on a train or bus in any busy metropolitan city in the U.S. and you’ll likely find more passengers texting, emailing, or updating their Facebook statuses than immersed in a bestselling paperback: a commuter activity once commonplace for decades.<br /> <br /> It seems that at no other point in human history have we become more dependent on electronic technology than today. The proliferation of wireless gaming, smartphones, eReaders, iPads, and faster, smaller laptops all operating on an increasingly pervasive network of Wi-Fi in homes, offices, restaurants and even parks has given us the ability to be “virtually” in touch with one another 24 hours a day.<br /> <br /> Ask any parent of a chronically plugged-in teen what their view of computer addiction is and they just may agree there is certainly some effect on attention span and memory.<br /> <br /> But what about less quantifiable long-term physiological effects of electronic technology on our bodies, given that we surround ourselves with so much of it on a daily basis? Could just living and working in close proximity to these machines for such long periods of time do actual physical harm? If the answer is yes, then wouldn’t children and teens whose bodies are still developing be even more vulnerable to this danger?<br /> <br /> Documented health effects on the body<br /> <br /> Manufacturers of cell phones and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute insist there is no correlation between cell phone use or wireless technology and disease. They argue that cell phones and Wi-Fi, (which operate with signals in the same range of radio frequency (RF) as microwaves using less power to run) emit only non-ionizing radiation that they insist cannot lead to disease as ionizing radiation can. Ionizing radiation includes gamma rays, cosmic rays and X-rays all well known to have a dangerous effect on our bodies.<br /> <br /> The Environmental Protection Agency defines non-ionizing and ionizing radiation as such: “<br /> <br /> "Radiation that has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to remove electrons, is referred to as ‘nonionizing radiation.’ radiation that falls within the ‘ionizing radiation’ range has enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from atoms, thus creating ions.”<br /> <br /> But since the popularity of cell phones skyrocketed in the mid 1990s, various researchers have repeatedly attempted to scientifically measure the amount of radiation our bodies absorb from contact with cell phones and wireless technology. Whether ionizing or not, these researchers believe we must study the long term effects of close contact with this type of radiation.<br /> <br /> Many of these same researchers have called for updated regulation on the health effects of cell phones and Wi-Fi. They argue that these technologies haven’t been in use long enough to easily view dangerous results of exposure, so continued caution should be urged when using them. Despite their positions, the FDA, CDC and NCI agree that children and concerned adults may take precautions when using cell phones to lower exposure to RF.<br /> <br /> A recent study published in February by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Journal of the American Medical Association provided major validation for proponents of safer cell phone exposure limits. In the study of 47 participants, researchers found that cell phone radiation from a single 50-minute call, in which the phone’s speaker was muted, caused a “noticeable increase” in brain activity in the area of the head closest to the phone’s antenna. Researchers and participants were not told when the cell phones were on or off during the study.<br /> <br /> Lead researcher of the study and director of the NIH Dr. Nora Volkow acknowledged in subsequent interviews that brain activity is not an indication of harm. However the findings do prove that the brain is sensitive to the non-ionizing radiation that cell phones emit, the energy is absorbed into our skulls and that we must look beyond simple thermal or heating effects of cell phone use alone.<br /> <br /> A highly anticipated and long awaited study, called Interphone, funded by the European Union, was published in May 2010. The study is a 13-country analysis by World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It found that cell phone users overall had no increased risk for glioma or meningioma, two common brain tumors. However, many critics are quick to point out that the study was fraught with bias and errors from the start.<br /> <br /> University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis has helped lead recent demand for a review of Federal Communications Commission safety standards. Her latest book, Disconnect, exposes inconsistencies in cell phone safety research and the political and personal biases that prevent research results from reaching the public.<br /> <br /> Davis also highlights the stories of several men and women who tell of years of heavy cell phone use they believe is directly related to their diagnoses of brain tumors on the same side of their heads to which they commonly held a cell phone.<br /> <br /> In 2009, Environmental Working Group (EWG), a health and environment research and advocacy organization, analyzed research linking cell phones and cancer. Their report concluded that numerous recent studies do link cell phones to brain cancer, salivary gland tumors, behavioral problems, migraines and vertigo.<br /> <br /> Kerry Crofton, a U.S. health educator, released the book Wireless Radiation Rescue in 2010. Her book links numerous scientific studies and accounts of cardiac damage, infertility, DNA damage, insomnia, and leakage of the blood-brain barrier with cell phone and Wi-Fi use. Most notably, Crofton includes, on the book’s back cover, a revealing and disturbing image from a 1996 study by Dr. Om P. Gandhi that shows how cell phone radiation can easily penetrate the skull of a 10-year-old and 5-year-old child as compared to an adult skull.<br /> <br /> The problem with current Fcc guidelines<br /> <br /> Many cell phone user manuals today include a warning to keep the unit a generally miniscule distance from the head and body, in accordance with FCC standards.<br /> <br /> But, as Davis writes, the standards are:<br /> <br /> “ based on models that used a large heavy man with an eleven-pound head talking for six minutes, when fewer than 10 percent of all adults had cell phones. Half of all ten-year-olds now have cell phones.”<br /> <br /> FCC standards on cell phone radio frequency (RF) exposure currently state:<br /> <br /> “All cell phones must meet the Fcc’s RF exposure standard, which is set at a level well below that at which laboratory testing indicates, and medical and biological experts generally agree, adverse health effects could occur. For users who are concerned with the adequacy of this standard or who otherwise wish to further reduce their exposure, the most effective means to reduce exposure are to hold the cell phone away from the head or body and to use a speakerphone or hands-free accessory.”<br /> <br /> An international call for better safety standards<br /> <br /> It isn’t just independent researchers insisting on a second look, the European Environment Agency and the governments of Switzerland, Germany, the U.K. and Canada are now urging cautious cell phone use and suggesting practices to reduce radiation exposure from Wi-Fi, mobile phones and base towers.<br /> <br /> World Health Organization (WHO) will conduct a formal health risk assessment of radiofrequency fields exposure by 2012. It should be noted, however, that WHO officials appear to acknowledge the current lack of long term data on the correlation of cell phones and brain cancer in this statement also found on their website:<br /> <br /> " because many cancers are not detectable until many years after the interactions that led to the tumor, and since mobile phones were not widely used until the early 1990s, epidemiological studies at present can only assess those cancers that become evident within shorter time periods.”<br /> <br /> Last summer, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require shops selling mobile phones to display the level of radiation the phones emit. All phones sold there will have to have their standard absorption rate (SAR) posted nearby. But manufacturers argue that safety is ensured by FCC regulators and posting radiation levels would give the impression that some phones are safer than others.<br /> <br /> Continued industry resistance <br /> <br /> According to EWG, members of the cell phone industry are hoping to raise current exposure values. Current standards already allow greater exposure to a cell phone user’s head than body and do not take into account the higher exposure that would most certainly be sustained by children using cell phones.<br /> <br /> The EWG report explains the conflict between FCC and the cell phone industry:<br /> <br /> “The FCC set its first radiation standards for cell phones in 1996, 13 years after they were first marketed in the united states. The agency adopted the sar limits recommended by industry (ieee c95.1-1991 standard) to protect against high-dose thermal effects. That standard allows 20-times higher exposure to the head (1.6 W/kg) than to the rest of the body (0.08 W/kg), and it does not account for children’s higher exposure relative to body weight and greater vulnerability to radiation.<br /> <br /> For much of the past decade, the industry has been pressuring the Fcc and Fda to loosen the sar standard to permit greater energy absorption by the head (ieee ices 2010; li 2006; lin 2006; microwave news 2001; silva 2002). Under the ieee proposal, the new upper limit for exposure to the head would be 2 W/kg instead of the current Fcc maximum of 1.6 W/kg (ieee 2006). The method of measurement would also change from the more sensitive approach of measuring sar on a one gram of tissue average to a less sensitive method based on a 10- gram average (ieee 2006). It is well known that averaging over the larger amount of tissue results in a one-half to two-thirds lower sar value. (cardis 2008; Gandhi 2002). So far the Fcc has not adopted this proposal, but the agency has a disconcerting record of accepting industry recommendations without peer review by independent scientific experts (Gao 2001; lin 2006).”<br /> <br /> Indeed it was not long ago that the federal government finally insisted upon a specific warning on cigarette packages sold in the U.S. after decades of knowledge existed that cigarettes caused cancer. This followed years of permitting tobacco companies to use the words “may be hazardous” and “is dangerous” to your health, instead of the more deterring warning “cigarettes cause cancer.” <br /> <br /> An investigation published last month by EWG revealed that FCC officials actually changed specific language in their guidelines on cell phone radiation after three different meetings with industry representatives last year. The words, “Buy a wireless device with lower SAR” were completely scrubbed from their consumer safety guidelines.<br /> <br />

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