Cell phones not hazardous to your health…(maybe)
The fact that cell phones emit radiation is not in dispute. We even know how much. What we don't know is whether the radiation they emit is harmful to us over a long period of time.
Consumers and industry experts alike were hoping that the results of a 10-year, $24 million World Health Organization study would provide a definitive answer. Unfortunately, the inconclusive nature of the study's findings, which were released last month, is unlikely to put an end to the debate.
"An increased risk of brain cancer is not established by the data," said Dr. Christopher Wild, a director of the WHO agency that oversaw the study. "However, observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use since the study period, particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer is needed."
The reference to the changing patterns of phone use is an acknowledgment that cell phone use has increased dramatically since 2000, the first year of the study.
Despite the cautious tone of the conclusions, the mobile communications industry wasted no time in citing the report as evidence that existing guidelines and FCC radio frequency standards were sufficient to ensure consumer safety.
"The overall conclusion of no increased risk is in accordance with the large body of research and many expert reviews that consistently conclude that there is no established health risk from radio signals that comply with international safety recommendations," said Dr. Jack Rowley, director of research at the GSM Association, an industry lobbying group.
However, other scientists and radiation experts continue to investigate the use of cell phones and some are concerned at what they have discovered. In particular, research by Niels Kuster, a radiation expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, indicates that children absorb twice as much radiation from cell phones as adults do, mostly because their skulls are not fully developed.
Even though no-one knows what the health implications of this absorption are, many countries, including France and Finland, have issued warnings to parents urging them not to allow their children to use cell phones.
If you are worried about the potential hazards associated with cell phones, here are a few simple tips to minimize your exposure:
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- Always use a headset when talking on the phone for prolonged periods of time.
- Text instead of talk.
- Turn your phone off when you are not using it.
- Don't sleep with a cell phone next to your bed; place it across the room or in another location.
- Carry your cell phone in a purse or a bag to avoid direct contact with your body.
- Keep phones out of the reach of small children.