June Russell’s Health Facts
There are 165 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. today and a million or more are being added every month according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (2004). The industry predicts that there will be as many as 1.3 billion cell-phone users worldwide in 2005. Mobile phones are a great convenience, an invaluable business tool, and reassuring safety devices that can summon help in an emergency, but they can be outright nuisances. They have opened a new Pandora’s box of inconsiderate behavior and just plain lousy manners, and far too many people today abuse the freedom and convenience mobile phones offer. A telephone conversation used to be a private act, at home or in a booth, but it has now been transformed into a public act. It has enabled us to talk about anything to anybody, all the time, no matter who is listening. Many think of it as ‘space invasion,’ because those who are in the space around the caller have no choice whether to listen or not, and no one likes to be forced to listen to other people’s conversations. This often triggers anxiety and anger.
Some conservationists complain that cell phone technology is ruining nature, not only by scarring the landscape with cell towers, but also by contributing to the death of solitude. Silence and tranquility, especially in public places, are endangered resources that need respect and attention, and the ringing, the loud speaking and the trivial calls are “noise pollution.” Judith Re, a Sprint PCS and etiquette expert, tells us that cell phone users who chatter in public are insensitive to their surroundings and the people in it. Few who are inconsiderate think of themselves as such, and many are not … until they get a cell phone in their hands.
We dislike rude cell phone users, but most people don’t believe they are the culprits. The results of a 2004 public opinion research group revealed that 42% of respondents said that most Americans rarely or never use their cell phones in a courteous manner, and nearly half said they are often subjected to blaring and annoying cell phone conversations. However, 95% said they use their cell phones in a courteous manner most of the time. While more and more restaurants, meetings, theaters, churches are requiring that all cell phones are turned off, cell phone technology itself can offer some solutions, for example, voice mail, caller ID, and vibrate mode (“manner mode”).
Types of Cell Phones
There are many kinds of portable phones: two-way pagers, walkie-talkies, mobile phones for car or pocket, and the cordless phones in use at home. Cellular companies are staging public education campaigns telling people to use cell phones responsibly. The users of cell phones need to educate themselves to the risks when using them.
Cell Phone Etiquette/Safety
Following is a summary of the basic etiquette and safety issues for using a cell phone:
Dangers When Driving
Cell phone use makes older drivers drive worse, and younger drivers act like older drivers who have slower reaction times. When drivers who are talking on the cell phone hit the brakes, it takes them longer to get back in the normal flow of traffic, regardless of their age. There is also a two-fold increase in the number of rear-end collisions when drivers are conversing on cell phones. Even when using “hands-free” devices, young drivers who normally have the quickest reflexes drive like 70-year-olds. A 20-year old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone reacts exactly like a 70-year old who is not using a cell phone.
The National Institutes of Health discovered that the area of the brain that inhibits risky behavior isn’t fully developed until humans are 25-years old. Shortly thereafter, the University of Utah released a study of mobile phone use while driving that equated the reflexes of motorists ages 18 to 25 to those of 65- to 74-year old drivers. Such distracted drivers braked 18% more slowly and took 17% more time to resume the same speed after braking. Even the use of a hands-free phone failed to improve the performance.
Distractions contribute to 1 out of 4 accidents. That’s 4,300 accidents every day, resulting in one-and-a half million accidents a year! Cell phone use represents the greatest factor in causing distractions while driving. While it’s hard to imagine life without a cell phone, you can increase the risk of having an accident by 400% every time you use your cell phone while driving.
Cell phone use while driving results in an estimated 1.5 million accidents, 330,000 injuries, and 2,600 deaths annually, according to Harvard University’s Center for Risk Analysis. Of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, 20 to 30% result from distracted driving according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Cell phone use may also lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation.
It is the conversation that makes cell-phone behind the wheel dangerous, says Scott Falb, a driver-safety specialist at the Iowa State Department of Transportation, and reminds us that, according to studies, the cognitive abilities of motorists decline or worsen when the brain is multitasking. The National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa, Oakdale Campus, is conducting a study that has generally found that motorists using cell phones have tunnel vision, which reduced their ability to respond to pedestrians or other vehicles, said Ginger Watson, a research scientist at the facility. Ms. Watson tells us that it is the mental process that is important, so even if you have a hands-free phone, it still takes away the mental resources you need for driving.
The death toll from crashes caused by drivers talking on their wireless phones appears to be rising significantly as the devices become must-have accessories for many Americans. Previous economic analysis by Harvard researchers have found that the benefits of being able to readily communicate for business or pleasure while on the road clearly outweighed the social cost of injuries and deaths in accidents. A 1997 Canadian study found that the risk of an accident was 4 times greater while a driver was using a phone and that hands-free phones did not appear to reduce the risk of getting into an accident.
Some businesses already have policies restricting cell phone use by their employees, requiring hands-free devices. “Because laws governing motorists’ cell phone use are relatively new, there isn’t sufficient research to prove that hands-free devices make driving safer,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, “It gives drivers a false sense of security.”
Risk of Electromagnetic Radiation from Cell Phones?
The public is probably confused and concerned about the conflicting reports about cell phone dangers. The following are comments made to Dr. Andrew Weil by Louis Slesin, PhD, editor of Microwave News, a newsletter that investigates health issues related to electromagnetic radiation.
The public is blinded to the damage they are doing to their brains by exposing themselves to the radiation from cell phones. Even the conservative British Medical Journal, The Lancet, is warning that the dangers from radiation can NOT be dismissed.
Robert Tufel, MSW, MPH, Director of Patient Services at the National Brain Tumor Foundation in Oakland, California, says that it is important to determine whether the radiation from cell phones causes even a small increase in cancer risk: “Some of the negative information we have read is very compelling.” There is some Swedish research that suggests that there is an increased risk for brain tumors on the side of the head on which the cell-phone is used.
The British government recommends that children’s use of cell phones be limited to only essential calls. Also, cell phones have been known to interfere with some medical devices, such as pacemakers or implantable defibrillator.
Norwegian and Swedish users of mobile phones commonly report headaches, warmth to the ear and burning sensations on the facial skin. Symptoms were more likely to happen with calls lasting longer than 5 minutes.
Radiation from mobile phone handsets damages areas of the brain associated with learning, memory and movement and may trigger Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which was carried out on rats, adds to the long-time controversy over mobile phone safety.
One precautionary method is to reduce your exposure by using a lower-radiation cellular phone. Check the consumer reports for the lowest-radiation cell phones as this list may change periodically.
Cellular telephone addicts may risk more than the ire of their neighbors who are forced to listen to them. A recent study shows that microwave radiation similar to that emitted by cell phones could tamper with long-term memory. The researchers suspect microwave radiation causes a decline in the level of acetylcholine, a brain chemical crucial for memory and learning. The researcher, Henry Lai of the University of Washington, not surprisingly does not use a cell phone.
Exxon has placed “Turn Off Cellular Phones,” stickers on pumps at its company owned gas stations because there is a danger that the sparks from cell phones or pagers could spark a fire while refueling.
Also: BP Amoco has put warning signs on gas pumps out of concern that electric impulses could start a fire. Warning signs are in the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as the U.S.
New York has banned the use of handheld mobile phones while driving. The Center for Auto Safety says 80% of mobile-phone calls take place in cars.
Henry Lai, PhD , a prominent researcher of bioengineering at the University of Washington, has conducted cell phone studies funded originally for the U.S. Navy and Air Force and later for the National Institutes of Health. “I have a list of about 600 research papers from the past ten years alone, 70% of which show definite effects from exposure to this kind of radiation,” says Lai, “…but the industry continues to say there is nothing to worry about.” Swedish researcher Clas Tegenfeld, who is writing a book on biological effects of electromagnetic fields, says: “Already there are at least 15,000 scientific papers on the subject, I am afraid the truth is that we don’t want to know.”
In the studies that show no correlation between cell phone use and cancer, the National Cancer Institute reminds us cancers that take a long time to develop would not have been detected by these studies. What has been shown in numerous studies, however, is that the radiation coming from cell phones does have measurable effects on brain cells that can lead to cancer, as well as neurological diseases. One of Lai’s main findings was that the radiation from cell phones at levels below current safety standards caused damage to DNA. Says Dr. Lai, “DNA damage that accumulates in cells over a period of time may be the cause of slow onset diseases, such as cancer.”
One Austrian study funded by Telestra: this company, which is overseen by the government’s National Health and Medical Research Council) controls 99% of Australia’s telephone service. Their study found that mice exposed to normal cell phone radiation daily, for two half hour periods for 9 to 18 months developed 2.4 times more tumors than the control group. There are more than 8 lawsuits now pending which allege that the manufacturers knew of the health risks before putting the cell phones on the market and failing to warn the public. Editor’s note: these lawsuits were not alleging that cell phones absolutely cause cancer.
Lisa Tulley, PhD, surveyed cell phone literature and said, “countless studies published in medical journals have shown that the normal cell phone exposure can cause migraines and memory loss, defects in chick embryos, and can impair the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins to leak into the brain. Significant exposure can cause red blood cells to leak hemoglobin, the buildup of which can cause kidney stones and heart disease, and can suppress melatonin, a hormone that not only regulates our sleep cycle but plays an important role in cancer prevention.” A June 2002 article on electromagnetic fields in Alternative Medicine, explains that simply answering a cell phone call can measurably stress the body, immediately putting it into “fight-or-flight” mood.
There are private organizations that sell headsets and claim to have tested them (www.rfsafe.com). While driving, the metal that surrounds you can amplify the radiation, so to protect yourself you must use a “hands-free” device with an externally mounted antenna. In general, try to keep your cell phone at least three feet away from you. What we need now with cell phones is not more research, but action, and consumer demand for regulations from informed citizens.
Talking on a cellular phone while driving may be as dangerous, perhaps more so, than drinking and driving. The researchers at the British Transport Research Laboratory found that reaction time for the cell phone users was 30% slower than for drunk drivers and 50% slower than for sober drivers. Cell phones present 4 types of distractions: visual, auditory, mental, and physical.
A study by scientists at Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority found that 1 hour of exposure to mobile phone radiation caused cultured human calls to shrink. Cell phones have been associated with a 200 to 300% increase in intra-epithelial tumors that occur on the same side of the brain that the cell phone was being used.
Cell phones are clearly a growing menace on the road. About 85% of U.S. wireless phone subscribers admit to talking while they drive. An estimated 1,000 people die each year from phone-related car accidents, and the number of crashes is expected to double as more people purchase cell phones. The smartest approach is to wait until you park to use your phone; if it rings while you are driving, let your voice mail take a message.
According to a study in the current issue of the Journal Occupational Medicine, Australian investigator Dr. Bruce Hocking reports that cell phones may somehow disturb nerve function in the scalp instead of burning the skin, which would explain the nerve injury.
“If mobile phones were a type of food, they simply would not be licensed,” says British physicist, Dr. Gerald Hyland (quoted from the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet). These excerpts from Dr. Hyland’s paper, entitled “Physics and biology of mobile telephony,” were cited on mercola.com, June 2001}
Reports relating to animals are of particular value since it cannot here be claimed that the effects are psychosomatic. There is a publication about cattle where there are ill effects when cattle are moved closer to the GSM microwave antennae (severely reduced milk yields, emaciation, spontaneous abortions and stillbirths), however, the conditions improve when moved away from this exposure.
Finally, in support of the reality of an adverse health impact of non-thermal influences of the kind of radiation used today in mobile telephony, we should recall that during the “cold war” the Soviet irradiation of western embassies with microwave radiation (of an intensity intermediate between that in the vicinity of a handset and a base-station), done with the intention of inducing adverse health effects, was quite successful.
Additional reports were published in the International Health News (Coventry, UK, Feb. 2001). A review from Dr. G.H. Hyland of the University of Warwick and the International Institute of Biophysics in Germany, reports that: current safety guidelines essentially look at cell phones as small microwave ovens, and as long as they don’t heat up your skull and adjacent brain tissue by more than one degree Celsius, they are deemed to be safe. Animal experiments have discovered many serious effects of cell phone radiation including errors in cell division, induction of epilepsy, depression of melatonin levels, increase in DNA breaks, and promotion of lymphomas. As a matter of fact, the EMF from a cell phone placed right next to your ear is 160 times stronger than the maximum allowable EMF from a computer video monitor.
The FDA recently ordered new studies after industry-sponsored test-tube research discovered cell phone signals might cause genetic damage in human blood cells, which in turn might spur cancer cells. “It is essential that we provide people with the evidence on this issue to allow them to make an informed choice about using their cell phone,” said Liam Donaldson, England’s chief medical officer.
“Moving the antenna beyond the distance threshold of 2 to 3″ away from the body is the only science-based recommendation that can be supported by science,” reported Dr. George Carlo and Rebecca Steffens Jenrow. This report was based on research conducted by the Wireless Technology Research (WTR) program, which was funded by the wireless phone industry.
Dr. Alan Preece, head of biophysics at Bristol Oncology Center, is among a group of scientists who are becoming increasingly convinced that radiation from cell phones triggers chemical processes in the body that may be harmful. “One can no longer go around saying there is no link between cell phone use and health effects.” Six separate studies now indicate that response times speed up when people are exposed to radio frequency (RF) signals from mobile phones. Other research from Sweden and Switzerland has indicated that radiation from mobile phone calls disturbs sleep.
The use of cellular telephones exposes nearby people, as well as the users, to microwave energy. Should this exposure to second-hand microwave emissions be allowed without their consent?
When doing blood tests it was found that mobile phones raised the levels of certain chemicals in the blood which provoke allergic reactions such as eczema, hay fever and asthma. The users of mobile phones had greater skin reactions when exposed to house dust mites or pollen from the trees than those who did not use mobile phones.
Mobile phones and the new wireless technology could cause a “whole generation” of today’s teenagers to go senile in the prime of their lives, new research suggests.
The electromagnetic field (EMF) of cellular phones is not unlike that of the radar guns used by policemen, many of whom have developed brain cancer after some years of exposure to this radiation source. The smaller the phone, the greater is the potential to deliver a high peak of radiation to the brain. Also, it was found that several times more radiation reaches the brain if, when using a cellular phone, one allows its antenna to touch the head.
Researchers in Turkey have found that Ginkgo biloba can prevent the free radical damage that occurs in the brains of rats after exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones. Researchers concluded that Ginkgo biloba prevented the cell-phone-induced cellular injury on brain tissue (Clin. Chim. Acta, Feb. 2004).
The connectedness we enjoy may well lead to a future where our cell phones tag and track us like FedEx packages, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes when we are not aware. Worktrack is only one of a number of services devoted to tracking humans, and parents use similar schemes to make sure their kids are safe. The prospect of being tracked “turns the freedom of mobile telephony upside down.”
The proliferation of cell phones is having potential dangerous consequences for firefighters and police officers, who in some places can’t use their radios to call for help because of interference from cell signals.
Research has found that people may be more likely to commit suicide if they are regularly exposed to low frequency electromagnetic fields.
German investigators report that exposure to electromagnetic fields during mobile phone use may increase resting blood pressure, as much as 5 to 10 mm Hg, likely due to more pronounced vasoconstriction (Lancet, June 20, 1998). Dr. Joseph Mercola reminds us that the brain is an incredibly sensitive organ and highly susceptible to electromagnetic fields. The less you use cell phones, the better, and it is even more dangerous to allow a child to use a cell phone. Cell phones are for emergency use only.
There is good theoretical and clinical evidence to support the hypothesis that about 5% to 8% of mobile phone users have transient symptoms of vestibular disturbances, such as dizziness, disorientation, nausea, headache and transient confusion, associated with their use, says Dr. Cox, an occupational physician, and a UK researcher.
A Swedish study appearing in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that people who use a cell phone for at least 10 years might increase their risk of developing a rare benign tumor along the nerve on the side of the head where they hold the phone. The tumor risk was almost 4 times higher on the side of the head where the phone was held, say the researchers. It was not determined whether the results are confined to the use of analog phones or if the results would be similar after long term use of digital phones. Previous studies, including one by Finnish scientists in 2002, found that electromagnetic radiation emitted by phones can affect brain tissue, but others have said that that’s not the case. If someone is concerned about these results, the easy way to avoid risk is to use a hands-free set, said Ahlbom Feychting, professors at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.
A report from Arthur Firstenberg of The Cellular Phone Task Force tells of some research from European countries. Scientists at Lund University in Sweden found that when rats were exposed to a cell phone just 1 time for 2 hours and were sacrificed 2 months later, the exposed rats had scattered areas of dead or damaged neurons throughout the brain. This was reported by Leif Salford et al., “Nerve cell damage in mammalian brain after exposure to microwaves from gsm mobile phones” in Environmental Health Perspectives, 111: 881-883, 2003. These same researchers also found the brain cell damage occurred even when the exposure was no higher than received when people lived near cell towers, which have become much more common as the cellular networks expand.
French researchers found that the closer people live to cellular towers, the more likely they are to suffer from fatigue, irritability, headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, skin problems, visual and hearing disturbances and cardiovascular problems. This was reported by Santini, Roger et al., “Symptoms experienced by users of digital cellular phones” in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 21: 41-49, 2003. Similar findings were reported by Spanish researchers Navarro, Enrique A., et al., “The Microwave Syndrome: A preliminary study in Spain” Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 22: 161-169, 2003.
When third generation cell phone technology was developed, the Dutch government ran double blind experiments to test for harmful effects. The exposed subjects experienced dizziness, nervousness, chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness and tingling, weakness and difficulty concentrating. Exposure levels were equal to what people who live near cell towers receive. This was reported in “Effects of global communications system radio-frequency fields on well being and cognitive functions of human subjects with and without subjective complaints,” published by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNG), 2003. It is common to carry, or even wear cell phones to keep them conveniently available. Even when the cell phone is not in actively in use it gives off radiation. Fertility specialists at the University of Szeged in Hungary have found that men who carry a cell phone on their belt or pants pocket have a 30% reduction in both sperm count and sperm mobility. The research was conducted over a 13-month period, observing 221 patients. The reduction in fertility correlated with both intensity of cell phone use, and amount of time the men carried the phone on their body every day. This was reported by Fejes, Imre, et al. “Relationship between regular cell phone use and human semen quality” paper at 20th Annual Meeting of the European society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Berlin, June 29, 2004.
Children under the age of 8 should not use mobile phones, parents were advised Jan. 11, 2005, after an authorities report linked heavy use to ear and brain tumors, and concluded that the risks had been underestimated by most scientists. Professor Sir William Stewart, chairman of Britain’s National radiological Protection Board (NRPB), said that evidence of potential harmful effects had become more persuasive over the past 5 years. The news prompted both calls for phones to carry health warnings, and caused panic in parts of the industry. One British manufacturer immediately suspended a model aimed at 4 to 8 year olds. The number of mobile phones in Britain has doubled to 50 million since the first government-sponsored report in 2000. The number of children aged between 5 and 9 using mobiles has increased 5-fold in the same period.
Masuru Emoto, is an internationally known researcher, and a doctor of Alternative Medicine who has gained world-wide acclaim. He is the author of the New York Times best-seller “The Hidden Messages in Water,” as well as “The True Power of Water.” Water exposed to a cellular phone, a television set, and a computer did not yield beautiful well-formed water crystals; the only patterns that appeared were in ugly circular shapes. We spend our lives near devices that generate electromagnetic waves, and our bodies’ ‘Hado’ is certainly disturbed by them. (‘Hado’ is the energy or vibration inherent in all things.) It isn’t realistic to think we could go back to a time when we didn’t use these conveniences, but what we need to do is to find a way to use them wisely. Positive information can prevail over electromagnetic waves under normal circumstances, such as sending out “love and gratitude” to the food and the person who prepares it. Limit conversations to cheerful topics — if unpleasant or negative topics, it is better to use a regular phone. This has been proven to be true with the water crystals.