By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Cell phones and other wireless technologies like WiFi have certainly brought convenience and instant accessibility to our lives. It’s hard to imagine how we ever lived without our cell phones, much less walked or drove from point A to point B without chatting away on them. Not only do we most often use cell phones to make calls, but we check our email, surf the net, and even use them to keep time. Knowing that our children can check in with us at any time of day, no matter where they are, may bring a seemingly priceless sense of security and ease. Do the conveniences of cell phones come without costs, though? Approximately 90 percent of Americans, and 4 billion people worldwide, are using cell phones. Could such prevalent cell phone use pose a health risk? Are we subjecting ourselves to harmful “electro-pollution“?
Unfortunately, we cannot rely on currently permitted cell phone safety standards to protect us against potential health problems like cancer and DNA damage. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set the standards governing radio frequency (RF) exposure in 1996.The FCC standards for cell phone emissions were based on opinions and recommendations from outside organizations which had examined existing scientific literature, most of which had been industry funded. Current safety standards are insufficient for a number of reasons, some of which we’ll explore in this section.
The bottom-line problem is that we just don’t know yet, when it comes to our health, how much cell phone use is too much. Scientists and researchers are divided on the issue. While some studies demonstrate a link between cell phone use and adverse health effects like brain cancer, others do not. There is a lack of consistency and reliability in the totality of existing evidence which prevents any conclusive determinations about cell phone safety or harm. The majority of researchers agree that more research and better data is necessary.
As prevalence and duration of cell phone use have increased dramatically, especially among children and teens, over the past decades, various individuals and organizations have been raising concerns about possible health risks of cell phone use. Some are urging government authorities to adopt the precautionary principle and advocate preventative cell phone habits as a public policy initiative. Public awareness of how to use cell phones in a safer manner is one step in the right direction; understanding why is another.
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