By Dr. Mercola
In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared cell phones a Group 2B ‘Possible Carcinogen,’ meaning a “possible cancer-causing agent,” based on the available research. According to the press release:1
“Dr. Jonathan Samet … Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that ‘the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification … and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.’
‘Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings,’ said IARC Director Christopher Wild, Ph.D., ‘it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones.
Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting.'”
Since 2011, there has been an accumulating body of scientific evidence suggesting the IARC classification should be upgraded. For example, leading brain tumor researcher, Dr. Lennart Hardell in Sweden, in December 2014, called for an upgrade to a Group 1 Carcinogen, saying:2
An increased risk for acoustic neuroma associated with use of wireless phones was published by our research group after the meeting giving pooled results of our study periods 1997 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009.
Also other studies have reported similar findings. We evaluated the Hill viewpoints on association and causation used in the 1960s in the debate on lung cancer risk among smokers.
Using these viewpoints our summary was that RF-EMF exposure should be a Group 1 carcinogen according to IARC criteria. There is now a petition to support that notion aiming at alerting IARC to classify such exposure to cause human cancer.”
Latest Radiofrequency Study — A Wake Up Call for Cell Phone Hazard Deniers?
Despite such findings, cell phones have become increasingly pervasive and such a common part of our daily lives that most people never think twice about using them and carrying them on their body all day long.
Some do exercise caution, using speakerphone or texting, for instance, instead of holding the phone up to their ear (and right next to their brain), but many still refuse to believe the risks are real.
Alas, researchers have demonstrated that wireless phones and other gadgets have the potential to cause all sorts of health problems, from headaches to brain tumors, with young children being at greatest risk.
Sure, some studies have also found no effects, but most of these were industry-funded, which tends to render the results less reliable.
In fact, 72 percent of industry-funded studies have failed to discern any biological effect from cell phone radiation exposure, whereas 67 percent of independent studies (those not funded by industry) did find biological effects.3
For example, by 1990, before there even was a consumer cell phone industry, at least two dozen epidemiological studies on humans indicated a link between electromagnetic fields (EMF) and/or radio frequencies (RF) and serious health problems, including childhood leukemia.
And in 1977, there was a Senate hearing on the subject of radiofrequency radiation and brain tumors. The link between brain cancer and cell phone use has been a particularly persistent one, and mounting research has only made this association stronger.
Most recently, partial results of a large U.S. federal government funded animal study suggests wireless radiation from mobile phones increased the risk of heart and brain tumors in male mice.4,5,6,7,8
Heart and Brain Tumors Found in Rats Exposed to Cell Phone Radiation
The study was done by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency research program started by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 1978 and now housed at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
To evaluate the impact of RF on the rats, the animals were placed in special chambers in which they were exposed to various levels of cell phone radiation for a total of nine hours a day, seven days a week, from birth to the age of 2 (basically the full lifespan of a rat).
Both Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile (GSM) modulations were used.
A control group lived out their lives without exposure. Of the exposed rats, 2 to 3 percent of the males developed malignant gliomas (a form of brain cancer). None in the control group developed cancer.
Interestingly, exposed female rats had far lower cancer rates than the males — nearly three-quarters lower — but gender differences are not an unusual finding in research, according to experts.
Of the male rats exposed to the highest levels of cell phone radiation, 5 to 7 percent also developed schwannomas (nerve cell tumors) in their hearts. None in the control group developed this problem.
According to the authors, these brain and heart cancers were likely caused by whole-body exposure to the cell phone radiation. No statistically significant difference in the numbers of tumors was noted between CDMA versus GSM modulations.
(Note that other research has shown even greater risk for brain tumors from newer 3G phones or Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), despite the power being significantly lower. This suggests a similar animal study, such as the NTP study, using 3G technology, might show even greater tumor risk.)
Disagreements Over Test Results Abound
The study has been criticized for its anomalies however, which include an increased death rate among the controls, and the fact that none of the controls developed cancer. In other studies performed by the NTP, an average of 2 percent of controls tends to develop gliomas.
Still, the authors warn that even if the risk is very small, it should not be discounted. Moreover, the results do indicate a dose-dependent relationship between exposure and cancer risk, meaning the longer the rats were exposed the greater the risk.
“Given the extremely large number of people who use wireless communication devices, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to the RFR (radio-frequency radiation) generated by those devices would have broad implications for public health,” they say.
Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society also noted that “the NTP report linking RFR to two types of cancer marks a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk.” This was an about-face for the American Cancer Society, which has long been a denier of risk.
Christopher Portier, Ph.D., retired head of the NTP who was involved in the launch of the study, also insists the differences between the sexes means it’s not an associated finding, but rather a clear and causative relationship between exposure to GSM and CDMA radiation and cancer among the male rats.
“I would call it a causative study, absolutely,” he told Scientific American.9 “They controlled everything in the study. It’s [the cancer] because of the exposure.” Previous research certainly supports these findings. In one, those who began using cell phones heavily before age 20 had four to five times more brain cancer by their late 20s, compared to those whose exposure was minimal.10,11
How Does RF Cause Cellular Damage?
RF is a non-ionizing type of radiation, meaning it does not break chemical bonds. Within current FCC exposure guidelines, it is generally believed to not produce sufficient heat to cause damage tissue. There is some research12 showing non-uniform absorption of RF and temperatures as high as 6 degrees higher in the hotspots, which refutes this assumption.
It is on this fact that most safety claims are hinged. However, RF appears to be able to cause damage in other ways. In a recent Scientific American interview, Jerry Phillips, Ph.D., a biochemist and Director of the Excel Science Center at the University of Colorado explained how living cells react to RF radiation:13
“The signal couples with those cells, although nobody really knows what the nature of that coupling is. Some effects of that reaction can be things like movement of calcium across membranes, the production of free radicals or a change in the expression of genes in the cell.
Suddenly important proteins are being expressed at times and places and in amounts that they shouldn’t be, and that has a dramatic effect on the function of the cells. And some of these changes are consistent with what’s seen when cells undergo conversion from normal to malignant.”
When you consider the fact that your body is bioelectric, it’s easier to understand how and why biological damage from wireless phones might occur.14 For starters, your body uses electrons to communicate, and inside every cell are mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, and these mitochondria can be adversely impacted by electromagnetic fields, resulting in cellular dysfunction. Other mechanisms of harm have also been discovered in recent years.
Electromagnetic Fields Can Damage Cells and DNA Via Cellular Stress Responses
Research by Martin Blank, Ph.D., a Special Lecturer and retired Associate Professor at Columbia University in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics and former president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society,15 explains that electromagnetic fields (EMF) damage your cells and DNA by inducing a cellular stress response.
He gave an informative speech at the November 18, 2010 Commonwealth Club of California program, “The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields,” co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org (embedded above for your convenience).
According to Blank, the coiled structure of DNA is very vulnerable to electromagnetic fields. It possesses the same structural characteristics of a fractal antenna (electronic conduction and self-symmetry), and these two properties allow for greater reactivity of DNA to EMF than other tissues. Moreover, no heat is required for this DNA damage to occur.
Blank believes the potential harm of wireless technologies can be significant, and that there’s plenty of peer-reviewed research to back up such suspicions. For example, a 2009 review16 of 11 long-term epidemiologic studies revealed using a cell phone for 10 years or longer doubles your risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same side of the head where the cell phone is typically held.
Thousands of studies showing biological effects from low-intensity EMF were also synthesized and summarized in the BioInitiative Report17 (2007 and 2012), including immune system effects, neurological effects, cognitive effects and much more.
Another important study,18,19 funded by the U.S. government, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2011. Using a positron emission tomography or PET scan capable of detecting alterations in glucose, the researchers determined that cell phone radiation triggers your brain cells to metabolize glucose at an increased rate.
Glucose metabolism equates to cell activation, so the findings indicate that radiation from your cell phone has a well-defined measureable influence on your brain. Essentially, each time you put a cell phone up to your ear, you’re artificially activating your brain cells. That said, it’s still unclear whether this excess glucose production is directly harmful, or can cause a cascade of problems down the line, but there is no question there are biological effects from the radiation.
Voltage Gated Calcium Channels a Master Mechanism?
More recently, Dr. Martin Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, has built a case that Voltage-Gated Calcium Channel (VGCC) activation in cells from low-intensity EMFs, such as those emitted by cell phones, wireless devices and wireless infrastructure, is a primary mechanism of biological dysfunction.
He believes the VGCC activation in cells can explain long-reported association between electromagnetic fields and a wide range of biological changes and health effects, including neuropsychiatric, hormonal, and cardiac effects, chromosomal breaks, lowered fertility, oxidative stress, changes in calcium signaling, cellular DNA damage, breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, melatonin depletion and sleep disruption, and cancer. According to Pall:
“We’re clearly at a point where we can confidently debunk the industry’s argument of more than 20 years that there cannot be a biological mechanism of action from these low-intensity EMFs. According to industry, the forces electromagnetic fields place on electrically charged groups in the cell are too weak to produce biological effects.
However, the unique structural properties of the VGCC protein can, it turns out, explain why the force on a cell’s voltage sensor from low intensity EMFs are millions of times stronger than are the forces on singly charged groups elsewhere in the cell.
They may be low-intensity but with regard to the VGCCs can have a tremendously powerful impact on the cell. Furthermore, published studies showing calcium channel blocker drugs block or greatly lower biological effects from electromagnetic fields, confirming there is a voltage gated calcium channel mechanism that is occurring.”
Epidemiologist Calls for Revised Cell Phone Standards
Devra Davis, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and author of the book, “Disconnect,” has been an outspoken proponent of improved cell phone standards and regulations. At present, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bases its standards on a model that overwhelmingly does not apply to the population at large. As explained in a recent article by STAT:20
“[T]he current FCC standards are unrealistic because they’re based on … a creature called Standard Anthropomorphic Man, or SAM — that’s larger than the average person, and, therefore, able to withstand more radiation exposure than most people. ‘SAM is not an ordinary guy,’ Davis wrote.
‘He ranked in size and mass at the top 10 percent of all military recruits in 1989, weighing more than 200 pounds, with an 11-pound head, and standing about 6 feet 2 inches tall.
SAM was not especially talkative, as he was assumed to use a cell phone for no more than six minutes.’ On Friday [May 27, 2016], Davis reiterated her call for revised FCC standards that would be based on the average person … ‘Every parent who thinks it’s so cute to give their kids a little cell phone should ask themselves if they would give them a glass of whiskey or a gun,’ she said.”
Camilla Rees of ElectromagneticHealth.org says there is also question as to whether the FCC is enforcing its own thermal guidelines. She says:
“While we know the FCC SAR limits are only intended to protect from potential heating effects, and do not consider low-intensity biological effects which are equally important, questions exist about the FCC’s effectiveness at regulating the thermal risks they do acknowledge. Some believe a great number of phones on the market today are well over the FCC limit, and greater surveillance to protect the public is needed.”
1 in 4 Car Accidents Caused by Cell Phones
It’s not just the RF that makes cell phones dangerous. They also play a significant role in car accidents caused by distracted drivers, which took the life of nearly 3,330 people in 2012 and injured 421,000.21 Last year, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that cell phone use is responsible for 26 percent of all car accidents in the U.S.22
Surprisingly, only 5 percent were related specifically to texting, suggesting talking on the phone is just as risky, if not more. Among teen drivers, the influence of cell phones on accident rates is much higher however. According to a recent report by the American Automobile Association (AAA), 60 percent of car crashes involving teenagers are due to talking, texting and other distractions.23
Aside from cell phone usage, other distractions for teens causing them to be involved in car accidents included talking to passengers and looking at something inside the car.
Overall, using your cell phone in any manner while driving increases your chances of an accident, as it takes your attention off the task at hand, which is to keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on safe driving. Indeed, research24 has shown that driving performance is equally affected while using either a handheld or hands-free phone, leading to effects such as increased reaction time.
This warning is especially relevant for American drivers, as a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that talking, texting and reading e-mail on the phone while driving are far more prevalent in the U.S. than in Europe.
In the U.S., 69 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reported talking on their cell phone while driving within the last 30 days. One-third of U.S. drivers also read or sent text messages or emails while driving — twice the rate of texting and emailing drivers in Spain.
A little more than 30 percent of U.S. drivers report never using a cell phone while driving, compared to nearly 80 percent of drivers in the U.K and about 60 percent of drivers in Germany, France and Spain.
Also on the rise are pedestrian injuries from cell phones, which are up 35 percent since 2010. It’s estimated that 10 percent of the 78,000 US pedestrian injuries in 2012 were the result of “mobile device distraction.”25 In this case, research has shown that texting is significantly more dangerous than talking on a cell phone while walking.26 To make the roads safer for everyone, the CDC offers the following commonsense recommendations:
- Model safe behavior behind the wheel — never text and drive.
- Always stay focused and alert when driving.
- Take the pledge — commit to distraction-free driving.
- Speak out if the driver in your car is distracted.
- Encourage your friends and family to designate their cars a “no phone” zone when driving.
Beware of Industry Bias
It is important to note potential conflicts of interest in the media, and know the values of the people at publications from whom you receive your information.
While many publications wrote responsibly about the recent NTP rat study, such as The Wall Street Journal,27 Scientific American,28 Mother Jones, Science,29 Consumer Reports,30 and several others globally, The New York Times downplayed the findings, and also put out a video on the subject that contrasted sharply with the video of the Wall Street Journal’s Ryan Knudson.
When one looks into who owns The New York Times, it is not surprising to learn that billionaire telecom magnate Carlos Slim, who owns wireless assets globally, and who is Chairman and Chief Executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil, is a major shareholder.31
Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D. of U.C. Berkeley has created a table, “Spin vs Fact: National Toxicology Program on Cancer Risk from Cell Phone Radiation,”32 to illuminate some of the ways parties have downplayed the recent rat study, contrasting the spin with facts. The flurry of media coverage on this topic has highlighted biases at a number of publications, so remember to not take anything on face value alone, but instead always dig into the facts and learn which publications have an industry slant.
How to Protect Your Health From Cell Phone Radiation
Last year, I was interviewed for a New York Times33 article about the health concerns associated with wearable technologies. As usual, I was criticized for raising concerns, and after the fact the editor even noted that I shouldn’t have been used as a source due to being “widely criticized by experts for his claims about disease risks and treatments.”
Nevertheless, as the years pass, more and more studies keep coming to the conclusion I formed several years ago, which is that the risks of RF are real, and that we need to invoke the precautionary principle with regards to the use of cell phones and other wireless technologies.
It’s important to note that researchers are in general agreement that there’s a latency period of about 10 years or more before the damage shows up, which places children at greatest risk, since their exposures are earlier in life and longer.
International EMF scientists from 39 countries last May issued the International EMF Scientist Appeal to the United Nations calling for precautionary action, announced by spokesperson Dr. Martin Blank (see video above).34 Until the industry and regulators start taking this matter seriously, the responsibility to keep children safe falls on the parents and schools. To minimize the risk to your brain, and that of your child, I recommend paying heed to the following common-sense advice:
|✓ Don’t let your child use a cell phone
Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults due to having thinner skull bones, and developing immune systems and brains.
|✓ Keep your cell phone use to a minimum
Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call. Use a landline phone at home and at work, and if you use a cell phone, develop a practice of forwarding it to a landline whenever possible.
|✓ Reduce or eliminate your use of other wireless devices
Just as with cell phones, it is important to ask yourself whether or not you really need to routinely use wireless devices. A hard-wired Ethernet internet connection for computers, printers and peripherals is not only safer for your health, but significantly faster and more secure. Reconsider any wearable tech, like smart watches, which emit extremely high levels of radiation. Wireless on the body is extremely misguided.
|✓ Opt for older portable home phones
If you must use a portable home phone, use the older kind that operates at 900 MHz. They are no safer during calls, but at least some of them do not continuously broadcast when not in use. Note the only way to truly be sure if your cordless phone is emitting radiation is to use an electrosmog meter, and it must be one that goes up to the frequency of your portable phone. (I recommend looking for an RF meter that goes up to 8 Gigahertz to cover most phones).
You can find RF meters at www.emfsafetystore.com. Even without an RF meter, you can be fairly certain your portable phone is problematic if the technology is labeled DECT, which stands for “digitally enhanced cordless technology.” Alternatively, be careful with the base station placement as that causes the bulk of the problem since it transmits signals 24/7, even when you aren’t talking.
Try keeping the base station at least three rooms away from where you spend most of your time, especially your bedroom. Ideally, it would be beneficial to turn off or disconnect your base station at night before you go to bed. Or, better yet, just have it on hand for times when portability is essential and use a corded landline phone the majority of time.
|✓ Limit cell phone use to areas with excellent reception
The weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit, and the more power it uses the more radiation it emits. Ideally, only use your phone with full bars and good reception.
|✓ Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body, and do not sleep with it below your pillow or near your head
Ideally put it in your purse or carrying bag. Placing a cell phone in your bra or in a shirt pocket over your heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man’s pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility.
|✓ Don’t assume one cell phone is safer than another
There’s no such thing as a “safe” cell phone. A specific absorption rate (SAR) value for a phone only addresses one form of risk, the thermal effects, comparing one phone to another, and it is not a measure of biological safety. Frequencies, peaks, pulsing and other signal characteristics are also biologically active. The longer one is exposed the greater the risk. If you want to be safe, use hard-wired connections.
|✓ Respect others; many are highly sensitive to EMF/RF
Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others’ cell phones in the same room, even when it is on but not being used. If you are in a meeting, on public transportation, in a courtroom or other public places, keep your cell phone turned off out of consideration for the “second hand radiation” effects. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.
|✓ Use a well-shielded wired headset
Wired headsets will certainly allow you to keep the cell phone farther away from your body. However, if a wired headset is not well-shielded — and most of them are not — the wire itself can act as an antenna attracting and transmitting radiation directly to your brain.
So make sure the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded. Better headsets use a combination of shielded wire and air-tube. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the sound to your head as an actual sound wave. Although there are wires that still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.
|✓ Be a role model
Set limits on how people can communicate with you to minimize cell phone and wireless radiation exposures. The instant gratification one may get from being in constant contact is not worth the serious risks of radiation exposures. Take a stand for yourself and be a role model for your children.
|✓ Help educate your children’s schools
Bring evidence of risk from cell phone and wireless technologies to schools and teachers unions. Protective change is not going to happen soon enough at the federal level, thus grassroots action to educate people responsible for the lives of vulnerable populations is essential. Follow this topic at Campaign for Radiation Free Schools on Facebook.
- 1International Agency for Research on Cancer, May 31, 2011, Press release # 208
- 2Lennart Hardell’s Blog
- 3,20STAT News May 27, 2016 by Sheila Kaplan
- 4,9New York Times May 27, 2016
- 5Epoch Times June 3, 2016
- 6Scientific American May 27, 2016 by Dina Fine Maron
- 7STAT News May 27, 2016 by Megan Thielking
- 8Mother Jones May 27, 2016
- 10Pathophysiology October 28, 2014 [Epub ahead of print]
- 11The Star November 12, 2014
- 12Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 2;110(1):58-63
- 13Scientific American May 27, 2016 by Larry Greenemeier
- 15Dr. Martin Blank Biography
- 16Surgical Neurology September 2009:72(3); 205-14
- 18JAMA 2011 Feb 23;305(8):808-13
- 19CNN February 23, 2011
- 21CDC.gov, Distracted Driving in the United States and Europe
- 22USA Today March 28, 2015
- 23WebMD June 1, 2016
- 24Journal of Safety Research 2009: 40(2); 157-164
- 25Not Running a Hospital December 14, 2012
- 26Gait & Posture April 2012: 35(4); 688-690
- 27Wall Street Journal May 28, 2016
- 28Scientific American May 30, 2016
- 29Science May 27, 2016
- 30Consumer Reports May 27, 2016
- 31Forbes January 15, 2015
- 32Safeemr.com May 30, 2016
- 33New York Times March 18, 2015