As I See It: Wake Up Call
May 22, 2017 Victor Rozek
Maybe she just didn’t want to carry a purse. Or maybe she liked to wear tight jeans and having anything in the pockets spoiled the look. Or maybe she wanted to keep it handy, or thought it was trendy or “dope.” But whatever the reason she, like a growing number of women, carried her cell phone tucked into her bra.
She was 39 at the time of diagnosis, a Chinese woman, non-meat eater, with no genetic or lifestyle predispositions to cancer. Under the circumstances, what her doctor found was highly unusual: multiple primary tumors in her right breast. It was only later that he discovered the multi-focal cancer pattern exactly matched the shape and location of her cell phone.
Whether the connection between cell phone proximity and cancer was causal or coincidental, the doctor was reluctant to say. But as a cautionary principle he offered the same advice he would give his own children: keep cell phones away from your body.
Curiously, and what most of us don’t realize, that’s the same advice Apple offers – although not at the store and certainly not at the time of purchase. Nor is it highlighted in such a way as to alert the buyer to a potential health risk. No, the warning that comes with the iPhone 4 is cleverly buried in the disclaimers and other unreadable minutia found in the packaging: “Keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body.”
The apparent need for fine-print warnings notwithstanding, industry will quickly point to dozens of studies showing no linkage between health risks and cell phone usage. And most cell phone users believe that to be gospel. But those studies, says Dr. Devra Davis of the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, may well be flawed on two accounts.
First, the majority of those studies were sponsored by manufacturers, and thus the science and objectivity may not be as fastidious as one would wish. We only have to look back to all the “scientific” studies commissioned by cigarette companies, and asbestos manufacturers, and pesticide producers that definitively, absolutely, positively proved there were no links between their fine products and the reduced lifespan of their customers.
The second, and more important problem according to Davis, is that these studies were based on an inaccurate premise, namely that the microwave radiation emitted from cell phones is constant, and that any biological impact is caused by the concentration of the signal. The studies, however, noted that the signal is extremely weak, and therefore unlikely to have any harmful effects at all.
But, says Davis, the signal, although weak, is complex beyond considerations of power and includes elements such as Frequency, Amplitude, Pulse, Intensity, Polarity, and Information Content. Power, it turns out, is not the problem, rather it’s the erratic nature of pulsed microwave radiation and its ability to disrupt cellular resonance and interfere with DNA repair. The danger, explains Dr. Davis, is not the dose, but the characteristics of the dose.
An article in realfarmacy.com details the results of several studies that tracked the health of men who wore cell phones on their belts. One hundred fifty men who wore their phones on average of 15 hours per day over a period of six years were examined. “Researchers found that bone mineral density was lowered on the side of the pelvis where the mobile phones were carried.”
Of greater concern is the effect of cell phone radiation on men’s sperm count, and the quality and motility of their sperm. Sperm exposed to pulsed microwave radiation dies three times faster. And men who carried cell phones in their pockets or on their hips had a 40 percent lower sperm count. Studies also suggest that long-term exposure stimulates DNA fragmentation, thus potentially threatening the offspring of men of reproductive age.
A further study focused on the parotid gland, which is a salivary gland located closest to the cheek where a phone is commonly held. “Researchers found a four-fold increase in parotid gland cancers” over a 30-year period, while rates of other salivary gland cancers remained stable.
As with most health risks, children are known to be particularly vulnerable, yet cell phone providers are now marketing to babies and infants. Phones feature games and videos, and even soothing music where the manufacturer recommends the phone be placed directly beneath the baby’s ear for optimal effect.
Sadly, the effect may be far from optimal. Children have thinner skulls, and more absorbent brain tissues. WebMD reports: “Fetuses are particularly vulnerable, because MWR (microwave radiation) exposure can lead to degeneration of the protective sheath that surrounds brain neurons.” Kids will naturally absorb more radiation than adults. One study found that that “the brain tissue of children absorbed about two times more MWR than that of adults; and other studies have reported that the bone marrow of children absorbs 10 times more MWR than that of adults.”
The results are predictable. “According to Professor Lennart Hardell of Sweden, those who begin using cell phones heavily as teenagers have four to five times more brain cancer as young adults.”
Blackberries actually come with a warning to keep the device away from a pregnant woman’s abdomen. The same warning applies to teenagers and people with pacemakers. Insurance companies are suspicious enough of the unintended impacts of cellular use, that they will not grant secondary insurance to employees working in cell phone manufacturing facilities.
Of course none of this will prevent people from using cell phones. What’s a cancer risk or the possibility of contracting a neurodegenerative disease when weighed against the siren appeal of a tweet?
Everything is great until it isn’t. Thalidomide was once prescribed to pregnant women. It’s possible that cell phones may end up harming multiple generations of people. But since cause and effect are often separated by large blocks of time, linkage tends to be tenuous and easily dismissed.
Short of giving up what has become our fifth appendage, some common sense precautions may be helpful. They include not carrying cell phones on your person; using wired/ear bud headset technology or landlines whenever possible; and keeping cell phones away from young children.
The bottom line is that caution is often less convenient, but it is seldom harmful.