Cell Phones – Is Your Cell Phone Safe?

Do You Even Care About Cell Phone Safety?

Can you fear me now?

Cell phone radiation isn’t something many of us think about before buying a new cell or smartphone or changing our wireless cell phone carrier. These days, the focus is on the new bells and whistles – bigger screens for viewing video, easier and faster internet connections for social networking, camera and camcorder capabilities.

Some are even still interested in the quality of voice communications (oh yeah, that!). Someday someone will do a study on the impact of poor cell phone connections on the quality of actual human communications – and blood pressure. Who, after all, hasn’t cursed their cell phone when cut off in the middle of a conversation?

But this post isn’t about all that. Nor is it about the distracting effects of cell and smartphones on not just driving performance – where it’s been found to slow reaction times far more than even drunk driving – or even in our hospital operating rooms.

Yup, according to a report in The New York Times, many doctors and technicians can’t tear themselves away from their Facebook pages even to perform surgery. In addition to being irresponsibly dangerous and unprofessional behavior, it would seem these folks also have an addiction problem. And it’s impairing their performance just as surely as alcohol or drug addiction (see Our Healthcare Sucks for more on physician impairment).

But, again, this isn’t about them. It’s about you – and your own use of cell phones, smart or otherwise. So let’s get to that now.

Cell Phones and Cancer

Rather than get into a history of cell phones or a detailed rundown on mobile phone radiation and health, let’s just say that widespread cell phone use hasn’t been around long enough yet for definitive answers about the health effects of heavy cell phone use.

Many countries in Europe, however, have longer experience with cell phones than the U.S. and they’ve become more aggressive in regulating cell phone advertising because of documented findings of brain tumors and other physical harms with repeated cell phone use.

Research by France Telecom found that adults using cell phones for only 30 minutes a day had 80% higher rates of brain tumors than non-users. What’s remarkable is this was an industry-funded study – and still it found an 80% increased rate of brain tumors.

They also found that twice as much radiation penetrates the skulls of children as adults and that children tend to use cell phones for longer periods of time than adults. The French government did the math and now prohibits cell phone advertising to children.

Researchers in Sweden found the highest risk of brain tumors among people who started using cell phones during adolescence.

The average teenage cell phone user in the U.S. spends three times the amount of time using their cell phones as the adults in the French study, or 90 minutes daily. Granted that to the extent this is texting rather than talking, the risk is diminished by virtue of the phone not being held next to their ear.

But even 30 minutes a day of talking on a cell phone exposes them to far greater than an 80% increased risk of brain tumors due to their smaller heads, thinner skulls, and greater water and ion content in brain tissue that resonates more with radiofrequency waves from cell phones.


European cell phones operate mostly on older GSM platforms developed as second generation (2G) technology that‘s still the global standard. Unlocked cell phones that are common in Europe and favored by global travelers because they don’t lock you into a single carrier’s network are virtually all GSM phones.

Cell phones in the U.S. are a mix of GSM and newer (3G) CDMA platforms built to accommodate internet access as well as phone communications.

It turns out there’s a big difference between the two in terms of their health effects – not just the brain tumors that most studies have focused on, but other detrimental health effects on things like reproduction and prenatal harm to developing fetuses.

And the worse the cell phone reception, the more radiation the phone emits to maintain the connection and the more risk of a brain tumor developing.

This is borne out by additional research from the Environmental Working Group, which notes that…

“The fact that scientists have measured increased tumor risk in so many studies of cell phone users is even more powerful given that people have used cell phones widely for only about a decade, while cancer typically requires 15-20 years to develop”.

So if you’re feeling comfortable because you’ve been using a cell phone for years with no symptoms of harm, don’t jump for joy just yet. The jury is still very much out.

The skeptics who smugly refuse to moderate their convenience are simply choosing denial over evidence – evidence that isn’t yet definitive, but is certainly suggestive of long-term harm.

The same risk, by the way, applies to portable, or cordless, phones in the home.

Using the speakerphone or a hollow (unwired tube) headset greatly reduces this risk, while strapping the cell phone to your hip or keeping it in your pocket transfers the cancer risk from the brain to the torso. Reduced sperm count in young males is only one of the documented consequences of this common practice.

Cell Phones For Sale

The internet is loaded with cell phone reviews, many wrapped in ads for AT&T cell phones, Sprint cell phones, LG cell phones, Verizon cell phones and a host of similar promotions. It’s easy to get distracted by the many new features and capabilities these devices now offer. For many, this is all they focus on.

However, the most important consideration – at least for cell phone safety  –  is the carrier network you choose. Is it GSM or CDMA?

All the carriers offer prepaid cell phones with no long-term contract. These generally require you to buy a phone as opposed to 2-year contract plans that offer both free and discounted phones in return for the 2-year contract commitment (early termination fees apply).

Before you embark on what can be a labyrinth of often confusing information and statistics, read CNET’s cell phone buying guide (see link at end of this post).

And those wishing to be healthy and interested in minimizing the health risks of what may may be their most intimate companion for the next several years may want to read my new eBook on the subject: Cell Phones – Can You Fear Me Now? In addition to reviewing all the safety concerns, it includes summary tables of the safest carriers and cell phone choices for both basic cell phones and smartphones.

This brief eBook simplifies the process of evaluating the complexities of which cell phone choice best suits the needs of you and your family – with a premium placed on assuming as little health risk as possible. It also reviews several low-cost options for the budget conscious that can cut monthly charges in half.

Another “Convenience” We’ll Come to Regret?

Fast food conveniences like so-called “happy meals” don’t make kids happy. They make them fat, depressed, and vulnerable to diseases that once occurred only in adults. But they ARE convenient.

Will our cell phone addiction be the next “convenience” that jeopardizes the health of future generations?

Will we look back on this like we now look back on our cigarette addiction – and perhaps conclude we might as well be giving our kids a carton of cigarettes as a cell phone?

The odds are pretty good we will. But who’s got the guts to “Just say no” when “Everyone else is doing it”?

Do you?

If not, at least take the extra precautions to minimize the risks of cell phone use – for your kids and yourself as well.

Click here to learn more about my new eBook:
Cell Phones – Can You Fear Me Now?

Includes Wireless Network Safety Scale of Relative Carrier Safety

John Lynch: John Lynch was founder and CEO of Medical Diagnostics, Inc. - twice named to Business Week's "Best Small Companies" in America. He's since founded MedSmart Members to publish consumer health education publications.
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