With nearly 300 million cell phones in use in the United States, some experts say the concern lies with not only with the long-term impact on healthy individuals but in consumers with unhealthy cells as well.
“Think of all the millions of cell phone users. Many of them aren’t healthy to begin with, and many others have smaller brains than the adults in this study. What does it mean for them?” asked epidemiologist and environmental-health expert Dr. Devra Davis.
The Federal Communications Commission’s safety guidelines for radiofrequency exposure do not differentiate healthy individuals from children or those with brain disorders. However, Volkow says different levels of protection may be in order.
“If someone already has brain damage and then stimulates it with electromagnetic exposure from a cell phone, it could trigger something dangerous,” Volkow said. “We cannot say with certainty that for a person with a vulnerability in the brain that radiation from a cell phone would not make it worse.”
The effect of increased brain activity in children because of cell phone radiation is another area yet to be studied.
The skull of a child is thinner, allowing radiation to penetrate deeper compared with that of an adult, according to Dr. Keith Black, chairman of Cedars-Sinai Hospital’s Department of Neurosurgery in Los Angeles. “Children’s cells divide at a faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger, which is why we believe the pediatric population is at a higher risk.”
For now, there are no conclusive answers. And the new research joins numerous previous studies on cell phone radiation that have been unable to definitively prove or disprove cell phones’ safety.
While the world waits for more research to be conducted, consumers can take steps to limit cell phone radiation exposure by using the speakerphone or a wired earpiece to make calls.
“The human brain is sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones, but for the brain to be impacted, the cell phone has to be close to the head,” Volkow said. “So keep your brain away from the antenna.”
Volkow says that since she began working with the National Institutes of Health researching the impact of cell phone radiation, she always uses a wired earpiece when talking on her cell phone.
“We don’t know anything for sure,” she said. “So why not?”
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