By Deirdre Imus
Published July 11, 2011
Let’s face it…we love our cell phones. Whether we use them for business or just to keep in touch with family and friends, for most of us, they have become indispensable. Nonetheless, there are new warnings about the health risks associated with cell phone use that consumers need to be aware of.
In May, after a thorough review of the existing research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and acknowledged that the radiation emitted from cell phones may increase an individual’s risk of brain cancer. Prior to this announcement, the WHO had maintained the position that no adverse health problems had been confirmed.
In one of the largest international studies undertaken, scientists found the rate of brain glioma (a type of tumor) doubled in individuals who used a cell phone for 10 years or more.
Now another potential health problem associated with cell phones is gaining attention. Researchers in Austria compared cell phone users to non-users and have found cell phone use capable of damaging sperm production and may be a contributing factor in male infertility.
This is not the first study that linked cell phones and male sterility. A number of earlier studies have come to similar conclusions. In 2005 researchers found the radio-frequency radiation produced by mobile phones had “a significant genotoxic [DNA-damaging] effect on …spermatozoa” in mice. A subsequent mouse study in 2007 found “significantly higher incidence of sperm cell death” and suggested “carrying cell phones near reproductive organs could negatively affect sperm quality” in men and may “impair male fertility.”
What is less clear is the impact cell phone radiation may have on disrupting embryonic development and whether the damaged sperm DNA may affect the development of a conceived fetus and possibly result in a newborn being more vulnerable to disease—such as childhood cancer—or other birth defects.
Nearly 10 percent of couples of childbearing age in the U.S., experience difficulty conceiving, almost half are the result of male infertility. The inability to conceive can be a heartbreaking and relationship-threatening problem facing over 6 million couples.
Consumers need to understand all the potential health problems that could occur from long-term cell phone radiation exposure.
Despite these health concerns, it is unlikely that any of us are going to give up our cell phones. What we can do, however, is educate ourselves about which cell phones are the safest—having a lower SAR [specific absorption rate] value—take precautions and use them more wisely.
Check out your cell phone radiation ranking at the Environmental Working Group’s Cell Phone Shopping Guide. You may want to switch to a phone with a lower SAR.
• Text whenever possible.
• Hold your phone away from your body and use the speakerphone setting, a headset or Bluetooth device. Remove headset when not on a call (some wireless devices emit low-level radiation too!)
• Keep your cell phone away from your body…away from your ear and not in your pants pocket where radiation can be absorbed into your body’s tissue.
• Cell phones emit more radiation when trying to connect to cellular towers. Avoid using cell phones in buildings, elevators, and in rural areas where signals are weak if you want to reduce radiation exposure.
Parents also need to educate their children about cell phones. So many are beginning their cell phone use at a much earlier age when their skulls are thinner thus exposing them to a lifetime of potentially harmful radiation…far more years than their parent’s generation.
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