How Harmful are Cell Phones?
What's this I hear about the microwaves from cell phones causing memory problems? Any truth to it?
Cell phone antennas do emit electromagnetic waves, a form of radiation. Whether or not this radiation penetrates our heads when we use cell phones -- and what (if any) damage it causes -- has long concerned health care professionals and cell phone users alike. Not surprisingly, the cell phone industry says absolutely no connection exists between cell phone use and ill health. Truth is, the little research that has been done on the subject has been contradictory and inconclusive. Most recently, a review of the various studies investigating the possible connections between cell phones and cancer was published in the May 1999 issue of the scientific journal "Radiation Research." It concluded that existing evidence for a "causal relationship between radio-frequency radiation and cancer is...weak to nonexistent." Still, in my opinion, this news is not the final verdict.
The cell phone controversy has been going on for several years, but recently moved into higher gear after the ABC-TV program "20/20" aired a segment on cell phone safety. Their story reported that some of the most popular models sold in the U.S. exceed the radiation limit set by the Federal Communications Commission when they are held in certain positions (the closer the antenna, the higher the radiation exposure).
Another newsworthy development comes from a University of Washington study which showed that rats exposed to microwaves, similar to the radiation emitted by cell phones, suffered lapses in long-term memory. However, the results of this study may have been exaggerated by the news media. Henry Lai, Ph.D., the researcher who conducted the inquiry, has said that the results he got with rats can't be extrapolated to humans -- the microwave frequency the rats were exposed to (2,450 MHz) was much more than the 850 or 1,700 MHz emitted by cell phones.
Personally, I think the biggest danger concerning cell phones is using them while driving. At least one study has found that this can quadruple your risk of having an accident.
For your own safety -- and for the safety of others on the roads -- I hope you won't use your cell phone when you're driving. As for the possible health risks from radiation, you might try the precaution I've adopted: I've bought a headset for my cell phone. Actually, I don't use my cell phone very much, but when I do, my hands are free and I don't have to worry about the microwave energy emitted by the antenna. Better to be safe than sorry.