Mindful Metropolis April 2011 : Page 25

But since the popularity of cell phones skyrocketed in the mid 1990s, various re-searchers have repeatedly attempted to sci-entifically 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. 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 con-cerned adults may take precautions when us-ing cell phones to lower exposure to RF. A recent study published in February by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Jour-nal of the American Medical Association pro-vided 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 “no-ticeable increase” in brain activity in the area of the head closest to the phone’s antenna. Re-searchers and participants were not told when the cell phones were on or off during the study. 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 find-ings 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. A highly anticipated and long awaited study, called Interphone, funded by the Eu-ropean 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 com-mon brain tumors. However, many critics are quick to point out that the study was fraught with bias and errors from the start. University of Pittsburgh epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis has helped lead recent de-mand for a review of Federal Communica-tions Commission safety standards. Her lat-est book, Disconnect, exposes inconsistencies in cell phone safety research and the political and personal biases that prevent research re-sults from reaching the public. 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 com-monly held a cell phone. In 2009, Environmental Working Group (EWG), a health and environment research and advocacy organization, analyzed research link-ing cell phones and cancer. Their report con-cluded that numerous recent studies do link cell phones to brain cancer, salivary gland tumors, behavioral problems, migraines and vertigo. Kerry Crofton, a U.S. health educator, re-leased the book Wireless Radiation Rescue in 2010. Her book links numerous scientific studies and accounts of cardiac damage, in-fertility, 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 disturb-ing image from a 1996 study by Dr. Om P. Gan-dhi 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. an international call for better safety standards 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 urg-ing cautious cell phone use and suggesting practices to reduce radiation exposure from Wi-Fi, mobile phones and base towers. World Health Organization (WHO) will conduct a formal health risk assessment of radiofrequency fields exposure by 2012. It should be noted, however, that WHO offi-cials 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: “... because many cancers are not de-tectable until many years after the in-teractions that led to the tumor, and since mobile phones were not widely used until the early 1990s, epidemio-logical studies at present can only as-sess those cancers that become evi-dent within shorter time periods.” The problem with current Fcc guidelines Many cell phone user manuals today include a warning to keep the unit a generally min-iscule distance from the head and body, in accordance with FCC standards. But, as Davis writes, the standards are: “... 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.” 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 post-ing radiation levels would give the impression that some phones are safer than others. continued industry resistance 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 certain-ly be sustained by children using cell phones. FCC standards on cell phone radio fre-quency (RF) exposure currently state: “all cell phones must meet the Fcc’s rF exposure standard, which is set at a level well below that at which laboratory test-ing 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 fur-ther reduce their exposure, the most ef-fective 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.” MiNDFUlMETrOpOliS.COM 25

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