As an incessant user of my cordless phone and a mother of a child growing up in the age of wireless technology, the potential harm from radiation of these devices has me fretting. I am not alone in my concern. Newsstands, talk shows and online journals are abuzz with the connection between cancer, cordless phones and cell phones.
Although cautious in their approach, public officials are issuing warnings about the possibility of harmful effects from radiation emissions transmitted from cell phones. In July, Toronto Public Health recommended parents limit their children’s cellphone use and US cancer specialist Dr. Robert B. Herberman advised his staff to limit time on cellphones. Precautionary policies already have been introduced in France, Russia, Britain and Germany, among other countries.
Since 1999 eight population-based studies have indicated that heavy users of cell phones were twice as likely to develop certain types of brain tumors as infrequent users. Children are thought to be particularly susceptible to the negative effects of radiation emissions because they have thinner skulls, smaller heads, rapidly reproducing brain cells, and their nervous systems are still developing.
The Bioinitiative Working Group, an international coalition of scientists and public-health experts, recently published a hefty report detailing the link between the non-ionizing radiation caused by a cell phone’s electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and cancer, DNA damage, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. [See Watershed Sentinel, Sept/Oct 2007]
And it’s not just cell phones. All modern (DECT) digital cordless phones emit the same type of pulsed microwave radiation (about 1.8 GHz) as ordinary mobile phones. Emissions can be about 6 V/m within a metre of the base unit, for as long as it is plugged in. These base stations emit their radiation even when the phone is not in use.
The wireless industry adamantly denies the association between cancer and wireless phones. Accounts from a handful of well-respected scientists, including Henry Lai and N.P. Singh, who were pressured by Motorola not to publish damaging study results in the 1990’s (they did anyway and lost their jobs), suggest that wireless companies have been doing their best to bury worrying findings, discredit researchers who publish them and design experiments that almost guarantee the desired results.
Mystery abounds with results from Interphone, a 13 country study to investigate possible tumor risks from cell phone use. While results from some of the individual countries have been published, the pooled results scheduled for release in 2006 – have not.
Questions about who influences Ottawa on cellphone safety were raised this summer when it was discovered that two senior government officials involved in determining safety standards for cellphone use sit on the health committee of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which lobbies the federal government on behalf of the telecommunications industry.
What’s A Chatty Cathy To Do?
* Check your phone’s SAR (specific absorption rate- refers to the rate of radiation exposure from radio frequency) by going to the US Federal Communications Commission website fcc.gov/cgb/sar. You’ll need the FCC ID number from your phone – sometimes you’ll have to remove the battery to find it. The database is good for phones built in the past two years. At press time, the phone with the lowest radiation was the LG KG800, at 0.135 w/kg. The highest: Motorola V195s, at 1.6 w/kg
* Keep your cellphone conversations short – radiation exposure increases with the length of your conversation. Use text messaging instead
* Use the speaker phone mode
* Invest in a hands-free headset
* Don’t have a cordless phone base near your bed
* Use a landline and a cord phone
* Don’t encourage your children to use cell phones except for emergencies
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