Protect Yourself from Cell Phone Radiation

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Cancer, Cell Phones, Front Page, Kids, Slideshow

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Cell phones are part of all that we do, wherever we go. Photo: © Suprijono Suharjoto -

Cell phones are part of all that we do, wherever we go. Photo: © Suprijono Suharjoto -

We’ve all heard rumors over the years that cell phones cause brain cancer. But no one could ever point to conclusive research that it was true. So, most of us have pretty much dismissed that theory and forgotten about it. We walk, drive, sit, stand, and even (shhh!) use the bathroom with a cell to our ear. And if it’s not at our ear, it’s in a pocket or purse, or charging on the nightstand near our pillow.

Cell phones are our constant companions. But perhaps they shouldn’t be.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which is dedicated to arming consumers with information that can protect us and our families, has this to say about the health risks of cell phone use:

Recent studies find significantly higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumors among people using cell phones for 10 years or longer. The state of the science is provocative and troubling, and much more research is essential.

With some four billion people using cell phones worldwide, the potential for harm from cell phone-related cancer is huge. While the EWG is quick to say that not all studies show the same results, they also encourage consumers to play it safe.

Brain Tumor Risk

Last year, Dr. Vini Khurana, an award-winning neurosurgeon who trained at the Mayo Clinic, released a report in which he discussed his review of more than 100 studies of cell phone use, as well as reports from the press and the Internet. His conclusion issues a clear word of warning about cancer risks:

Children are especially vulnerable to the risk of tumors due to cell phone radiation. Photo: © sonya etchison -

Children are especially vulnerable to the risk of tumors due to cell phone radiation. Photo: © sonya etchison -

[T]here is a growing body of statistically significant evidence for a relationship between the overall length of use of a mobile phone and the delayed occurrence of a brain tumour on the same side of the head as the “preferred side” for mobile phone usage. The elevated risk (increased odds) appears to be in the order of 2 – 4 fold. It is postulated that some individuals may be more susceptible to developing a malignant brain tumour when compared to others exposed to similar durations and strengths of electromagnetic radiation. This susceptibility may be genetically predetermined. The effects of this kind of radiation are likely to be cumulative and long-term.” …

It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking, and directly concerns all of us, particularly the younger generation, including very young children.

Check It Out

Khurana is obviously not a fan of cell phones’ effects on human health. But cell phones have become ubiquitous in modern life. So what should we consumers do? Give up the cell entirely? Fat chance.

Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group has, as usual, taken steps to inform and protect us. They’ve published a “Guide to Safe Cell Phone Use” on their website. You can use the guide to find which cell phones emit relatively low radiation — and which are the big emitters. EWG has rated more than 1,000 cell phone models to date.

Be sure your cell phone emits as little radiation as possible to protect your health. Photo: © Jason Stitt -

Be sure your cell phone emits as little radiation as possible to protect your health. Photo: © Jason Stitt -

According to EWG, the ten best phones (and the companies that carry them) are as follows:

1. Samsung Impression (SGH-a877) [AT&T]

2. Motorola RAZR V8 [CellularONE]

3. Samsung SGH-t229 [T-Mobile]

4. Samsung Rugby (SGH-a837) [AT&T]

5. Samsung Propel Pro (SGH-i627) [AT&T]

6. Samsung Gravity (SGH-t459) [CellularONE, T-Mobile]

7. T-Mobile Sidekick [T-Mobile]

8. LG Xenon (GR500) [AT&T]

9. Motorola Karma QA1 [AT&T]

10. Sanyo Katana II [Kajeet]

You can search the EWG website in several ways. Look for your cell phone carrier, your phone manufacturer, or the specific model of phone you want to purchase. EWG uses an icon to readily show how much radiation each phone emits, so you can do a quick comparison of the various models you may be considering — or compare your existing phone to others available from your provider.

Raise Your Voice

If you don’t see your cell carrier listed in the top ten, you might want to apply a bit of consumer pressure to let your provider know that you are paying attention. Consumer pressure is one of the few effective ways consumers can exert power. It takes more than one person to make a huge impact, but even individual consumer letters and phone calls do get noticed.

After making your opinion known, then vote with your dollars by purchasing a phone that has less likelihood of causing cancer.

Keep Your Distance

What if you’ve already purchased a phone, and it turns out to be one of the bad ones, sending a massive dose of electromagnetic radiation to your brain with every call? The solution is simple: buy a headset. Keeping the phone away from your head should considerably cut your chances of brain and salivary cancer. And, in many states it’s mandatory driving equipment for cell users anyway. Khurana does not suggest using a wireless device, which communicates via radio waves to your cell phone.

Better yet, he recommends using a regular land line. Many consumers (maybe you?) have ditched their land lines in favor of their cell phones. If that describes you, you might want to reconsider whether limiting your exposure to electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone is worth a bit of extra expense each month.

Another thing to do is keep your phone off your body when not in use — or at least keep it out of your pocket and in a holster. If you still have the product information that came with your cell phone, search it till you find the warning about how far from your body you are supposed to keep it. I can guarantee you — sight unseen — that it won’t recommend wearing your cell in your pocket near your reproductive organs. Yet that’s where many of us wear our phones.

Wear your phone on your hip and not in your pocket. Photo: © Kevin Woodrow -

Wear your phone on your hip and not in your pocket. Photo: © Kevin Woodrow -

I found a couple of interesting sites that quote the manufacturers of various phones on the issue of distance from the body. For example, here is the info I found on a Squidoo lens by NotePromote about cell-phone danger:

Apple iPhone – “For body-worn operation, iPhone’s SAR measurement may exceed the FCC exposure guidelines if positioned less than 15 mm (5/8th inch) from the body. For body-worn operation, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8th inch) away from the body.”

ATT Samsung SGH–a737 – “For body-worn operation, this phone has been tested and meets FCC RF exposure guidelines when used with an accessory that contains no metal and that positions the handset a minimum of 1.5 cm from the body.”

Verizon Motorola E815– “If you wear the mobile device on your body, always place the mobile device in a Motorola-supplied or approved clip, holder, holster, case or body harness. If you do not use a body-worn accessory supplied or approved by Motorola, keep the mobile device and its antenna at least 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) from your body when transmitting.”

What does all this mean? Wear a holster. Do NOT put your cell in your pocket. It will probably cost a bit more, but the extra protection is worth the risk to your internal organs.

More Tips from EWG

The Environmental Working Group provides a list of eight tips in their “Guide to Reduce Cell Phone Radiation Exposure.” Here’s a summary. Check out their website for full details.

1. Buy a phone that emits low radiation. You can find this at the EWG site.

2. Use the speaker phone when possible, and a headset when it’s not. EWG doesn’t take the same hard-line stand against wireless headsets as Dr. Khurana does. But it does recommend that you don’t wear it when you’re not using your phone.

Keep cell phones away from kids except in emergencies. Photo: © sonya etchison -

Keep cell phones away from kids except in emergencies. Photo: © sonya etchison -

3. Listen more than you talk. Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying about having two ears and only one mouth, and using them in that proportion. As it turns out, you get less radiation when listening than when speaking.

4. Keep your phone at a distance when you talk. Once again, this is about the radiation that enters your body from your phone. Your soft tissues are especially at risk.

5. Text rather than talk. I find this one especially difficult, as I haven’t managed to master the art of texting. But many people find it quite convenient. Turns out it’s actually better because it emits less electromagnetic radiation. Guess I’ll have to learn.

6. Don’t keep trying when your signal fails. If your signal is weak, your phone is working even harder, and that means more radiation coming your way.

7. Keep cells away from kids. Their brains will absorb more radiation than yours — twice as much, in fact. EWG is not so hard line as to prohibit use in case of emergency, but that should be the only time.

8. Don’t use a radiation shield. What? That sounds counter-intuitive, if anything is. But EWG warns that the use of a radiation shield causes your phone to work harder and send out more radiation. You can save your money on that one.

Show Your Support

You can find out a lot more on the EWG website. And if you like what you see, be sure to support their work by donating to the Environmental Working Group.

The good folks at EWG are the ones who provide the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, the Sunscreen Safety Guide, the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in fruits and vegetables, the Ten Americans video about prenatal chemical exposure, and a whole lot more.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)