Cell phone use reasonably safe for body
if precautions are followed
Hands-free devices that are becoming more prevalent as states restrict the use of cell phones while driving may prevent more than automobile accidents. They also could reduce the impact radio waves have on brain tissue.
Recent studies and improvements in the cell phone industry have lessened the health risks, hands-free devices or the use of a speaker phone option are among the best precautions, according to Kai Elgethun, a state public health toxicologist with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Elgethun delivered a one-hour session on Radio Frequency Energy from Cell Phones and Your Health to about 35 ITD employees at Headquarters Tuesday. The Headquarters safety committee sponsored his lecture.
Casual, low-volume use of cell phones generally is safe, he said.
The closer the cell phone is to your body, especially your brain, the more RF (radio frequency) energy can be transmitted. “This energy is powerful enough to heat up body tissues,” he said. “Your head is more vulnerable than most other parts of your body,” because RF enters easily through the auditory canal.
Fortunately, the effects diminish as the heat sources – cell phones – are removed from the ear, and temporary tissue warming returns to a normal temperature. Actually, there may be a greater risk from cordless telephones, which use the same basic radio waves to transmit signals, because individuals tend to talk longer on home phones.
Hands-free devices, including the earpieces many ITD employees use in responding to phone calls throughout the day, reduce the risks of RF heating.
Elgethun showed a thermographic scan an adult who had used a cell phone for 15 minutes with that of a normal person who had not used a phone. The former showed distinct red throughout the head where warming occurred.
Remove the RF source, however, and the head returns to normal temperature rather quickly.
Radio frequency radiation can increase in enclosed areas, such as subways and buses, even for individuals not using a cell phone, Elgethun said. The highest “non-talking” radiation also can occur in concrete and steel buildings and in a car or truck where one phone can emit several times the normal outdoor power level. The density of phones being used relates directly to the level of exposure.
Another risk associated with cell phones is more apparent for men who keep phones in their front pants pockets. Heat from RF energy and impact reproductive organs and reduce sperm counts.
Keep cell phones as far away from the body, especially during use, as is practical, Elgethun advised.
Studies are inconclusive regarding the relationship between cell phone use and cancer. A Danish study in 2006, involving 420,000 people over the course of 20 years suggested no increased cancer risk. A 2005 study in Great Britain and a 2006 study in Germany concurred with the Danish study.
A Swedish study in 2004, however, concluded that regular use over a decade or more was associated with increased risk of acoustic neuroma that was not present with individuals who have used cell phones less than 10 years.
A review of all studies suggested in 2007 that tumors are more likely on the predominant talking side of the head, that one hour of use per day for at least 10 years increased the risk for two kinds of tumors, and that use of an hour a day for less than 10 ears showed no associated problems.
Still, the best way to use cell phones is to keep them away from the body when making and receiving calls, Elgethun said. He offered the following advice:
Use a hands-free headset (100 times less RF energy than direct cell phones)
Use a phone that places the antenna as far away as possible from your body
Extend the antenna during us
Limit calls inside buildings
Use the pone in open spaces as often as possible
Limit use by children
The popularity of text messing among teens and young adults may prove to be a blessing because cell phones are not in direct contact with the body. It may lead to carpel tunnel syndrome, but the risks of RF heating and possible links to cancer will be much less for heavy text messengers.