If you have read the book, Exposed, you might understand the difference between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) when it comes to health measures. The EU uses the precautionary principle that states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those who advocate taking the action. In the U.S., the burden of proof to date falls in the hands of the manufacturers’ witnesses when it comes to cell phone use.
In one case [PDF] of cell phone use as a cancer-causing agent, a U.S. judge ruled against plaintiffs and accepted a motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiffs’ experts, while denying a motion to exclude the testimony of the defendants’ experts. In this atmosphere, if you believe that cell phones have a harmful effect on your health, then it is up to you to take up the precautionary principle and take appropriate action to protect your own health.
Radiation Absorption: The rate at which radiation is absorbed by the human body is measured by the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) as regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- The FCC requires cell phone manufacturers to ensure that their phones comply with these objective limits for safe exposure. Any cell phone at or below these SAR levels (that is, any phone legally sold in the U.S.) is a “safe” phone as measured by these standards. The FCC has set a SAR limit of 1.6 W/kg, averaged over a volume of 1 gram of tissue, for the head. The FCC ID number usually is shown somewhere on the case of the phone. Use that number and the FCC ID Search Form to learn more about your cell phone’s SAR limits.
- But physiological functions of the human body are regulated by electric currents. Therefore, it is not surprising that placing the human body within an electromagnetic field of sufficient strength may affect physiological processes. In one study, conducted in Finland, scientists learned that molecular level changes might take place in human volunteers in response to exposure to RF-EMF (radio frequency modulated electromagnetic fields). These same scientists also confirmed that proteomics screening approach can identify protein targets of RF-EMF in human volunteers. In mobile phone usage, the RF-EMF is measured by SAR.
- Sufferers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) might keep the above study in mind when reading about EHS below.
Cancer: Thirteen countries have launched a project called INTERPHONE to investigate the risk of cancer for the mobile phone user beyond the studies that have been done to date. The idea behind this project is that cancer takes some time to develop, so only studies over ten years are of interest. Participating countries include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK.
- If you are concerned that the U.S. is not involved with this cooperative study, never fear. The U.S. government has embarked on its own study through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which nominated cell phone RF-EMF emissions testing to the National Toxicology Program (NTP).
- The NTP is in the initial stages of conducting toxicology and carcinogenicity studies in laboratory animals, using specially designed chambers to provide exposures that simulate those of cell phone users in the United States. The rats and mice will be exposed to radio frequency energy from the two technologies (CDMA and GSM) currently used in the U.S. at two frequencies (900 and 1900 MHz).
Nonthermal and Thermal Effects: The radiation that is absorbed by the human head is effected by dielectric heating. Most of the heating effects will occur at the surface of the head, causing the temperature to increase by a fraction of a degree. This also is known as the “microwave effect,” since this is the same principle that is used in microwave ovens. Overt RF energy can damage eyes (cataracts), create skin burns and heat stroke.
- Non-thermal effects are caused by reactions to RF energy other than the temperature of the emitting body. Examples include synchrotron radiation, maser radiation, and artificially generated radio and TV signals. The effects of non-thermal RF remain under study (and under debate).
- Meanwhile, the Institute of Science in Society (ISS), which is an international center of excellence in Science and Technology Studies located at the University of Nottingham, UK, published a four-part report on the effects of electromagnetic radiation. Under the chapter for Non-Thermal Effects, the report states that “The ‘safe’ exposure limits recommended by the international authority, International Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP) take no account of non-thermal effects, despite the mounting evidence of health hazards from such effects.”
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Also known as EHS, some mobile phone users have reported feeling unspecific symptoms such as burning and tingling sensations in the skin of the head and extremities, fatigue, sleep disturbances, dizziness, loss of mental attention, reaction times and memory retentiveness, headaches, malaise, tachycardia (heart palpitations) and/or disturbances of the digestive system during and after mobile phone use or when using household appliances, visual display units (VDUs) and certain light sources.
- The fields that electromagnetically hypersensitive individuals consider to be the cause of their symptoms vary considerably. According to one report, EHS carries symptoms that are similar to symptoms created by other causes, including psychological factors. But, the report also states that — whatever the cause — EHS is real and sometimes disabling for the affected individual. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that, apart from treatment by professionals, self help groups can be a valuable resource for the EHS individual.
- In the report issued by the ISS (see previous topic), scientists report mobile phone radiation has been found to affect a wide variety of brain functions — such as electrical activity (EEG) electrochemistry and the permeability of the blood/brain barrier — and to undermine the immune system. Additionally, mobile phone users show statistically significant increase (by a factor of between 2 and 3) in the incidence of a rather rare kind of tumor (epithelial neuroma) on the side of the brain nearest the mobile phone.
Accident Hazards: It has been proven that texting and talking on mobile phones causes automobile accidents, and measure have been taken in many U.S. states to prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving. Drivers that use cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, and driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.
What You Can Do: If you believe that studies are undermined by mobile phone lobbyists and that effects are under-reported for any number of reasons, don’t feel alone. According to this recent article in GQ, the public is subject to a grand world experiment without informed consent through the use of RF-EMF. But, before you object to using cell phones and become an advocate for abolishing cell towers, you might want to remove the wireless connectivity from your home computer. According to Blake Levitt, author of Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves, installing a Wi-Fi system in your home is similar to “inviting a cell tower indoors.”