Common Exposures: Cell Phones & Wireless

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Current Issues

Wireless technologies are proflierating rapidly in every aspect of our lives. Cell phones, tablets, baby monitors, home networks and wireless utility ("smart") meters may be convenient, but new studies suggest that they are also impacting our health.

Wireless devices and networks emit non-ionizing or low-frequency electromagnetic radiation, also called "RF radiation" or "microwave radiation." This type of radiation is different from high-frequency ionizing radiation (the kind used for X-rays) which is known to cause cancer.

Several independent studies suggest that exposure to RF radiation can damage DNA, alter brain development and cause other health problems. Increases in malignant brain tumors, including gliomas, acoustic neuromas and meningiomas have been reported among heavy cell phone users. Connective tissues, salivary glands and other cells may also be affected.

The RF radiation is produced by the phone's antenna, which in most modern phones is embedded in the body of the phone itself. As a result, most phone manufacturers warn users not to hold the device directly against the head, but to maintain a separation of about one inch. See our Cell Phone Card for more information, or read the fine print of the instruction manual that came with your phone. (Incidentally, cordless [DECT] phones utilize similar technology, and the same precautions should be taken.)

The amount of RF radiation received from wireless devices and transmitters depends on proximity and duration of exposure. As with many other environmental health issues, chronic low-level exposures are suspected of having a greater impact than previously understood, and again, children (and unborn children) are particularly at risk.

Wireless transmitters should be kept away from schools and other places where children spend time and should always be unplugged when not in use.

Our world is becoming increasingly wireless, but until the science is clear, it is best to act with precaution. Please keep these helpful tips in mind:

• Reduce your overall use as much as possible. Use the speakerphone function (or a corded headset with an air tube) whenever possible.
• Always use a land line instead of a cell phone if available.
• Limit children's use of cell phones. Younger children should not use them at all.
• Unplug any domestic wireless transmitter when not in use (and especially overnight).
• Avoid wireless baby monitors and cordless phones which use similar wireless technology.
• If possible, use hard-wired internet connections in your home instead of wireless transmitters.

Web Resources
The Environmental Health Trust - Founded by Dr. Devra Lee Davis, EHT provides cutting-edge research and education about cellphones and other environmental health hazards.

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety - A science-based web site developed and maintained by Dr. Joel Moskowitz of UC Berkeley

The EMR Policy Institute - A non-profit dedicated to a better understanding of the environmental and human biological effects from such exposures.

Stop Smart Meters - A webside dedicated to the national effort to stop the rollout of smart meters.

Cell Phone Radiation Levels - CNET Reviews

Wireless Devices and Health Concerns - Official information from the Federal Communications Commission

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