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Israeli researchers ‘light-years ahead’ on studies of cellphone risks
by Toby Tabachnick, Staff Writer
May 23, 2013 | 13248 views | 6 6 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most people have no idea that their iPhone comes with a warning to carry the device at least 10 mm away from the body, and to use a “hands-free” option like headphones or speaker, in order to prevent overexposure to harmful levels of radio frequency energy.

Here is what one has to do to find that warning: Go to Settings; click on “General;” click on “About;” click on “Legal;” then click on “RF.”

“Nobody reads that warning,” said Devra Davis, founder of the Environmental Health Trust, an organization dedicated to educating people about controllable environmental health risks.

Just as the tobacco industry worked to conceal the dangers of its products back in the mid-20th century, the makers of cellphones may be obscuring the risks of their products, according to Davis, author of “Disconnect,” a silver winner of the Nautilus Book Award for Conscious Media/Journalism/Investigative Reporting. “Disconnect,” first published in 2010, and now re-issued, exposes the dangers of cellphones as well as the industry’s attempt to obfuscate those dangers.

“This is worse than cigarettes,” Davis said, “because cigarettes had no value to society. But phones are valuable.”

And they are highly profitable, which may be why the industry is reluctant to admit the phones do pose risks, or to highlight the simple precautions that can reduce those risks.

The examples extend from outright cover-up to legal maneuvering.

In the afterward to “Disconnect,” Davis reports on a 1994 “smoking gun,” a memo from Motorola to a public relations firm seeking “war-gaming” action against a study showing that microwave radiation to the brains of rats unraveled brain DNA.

In San Francisco, while a “right to know” law passed, “the industry fought it on the grounds of the First Amendment,” Davis said. “The city recently agreed not to enforce its own law.”

The potential dangers of cellphones are many, said Davis, who was the founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Cellphones are two-way microwave radios that emit low levels of electromagnetic radiation. Risks from carrying them too close to the body, or holding them up to the head for prolonged periods of time, range from reduced male fertility to brain cancer.

While there is not a lot of current information in the United States about the dangers of cellphones, Davis said,  “Israelis are light-years ahead of us in research, and are yielding some unfortunate statistics.”

For example, researchers in Israel have found that one in five cases of a rare tumor in the cheek is now occurring in children under 20 years of age, she said, and is correlated to cellphone use in that demographic.  

In March, Israeli scientists reported preliminary findings of a possible link between cellphone radiation and thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer has been on the rise for more than a decade in Israel, corresponding to Israelis’ increase in the use of cellphones.

Perhaps because of the research, Israel now has “much more aggressive rules,” Davis said. “You can’t sell a cellphone without a headset. And there are warnings from the Israeli Ministry of Health.”

Israel is not the only country aggressively researching the dangers of cellphone radiation.

A new Swedish study published just this month indicates that those who began using cellphones regularly before the age of 20 have more than a fourfold increased risk of ipsilateral glioma, a brain tumor formed on the same side of the head on which a person holds his phone.

The research seems to indicate that the younger one is when he begins to use a cellphone, the greater his potential risk.

A new publication on the EHT website, written by several eminent epidemiologists, concludes that “new studies released since the time the World Health Organization concluded cellphones were a ‘possible human carcinogen’ in 2011 now indicate the cellphone radiation is a ‘probable human carcinogen,’” according to Davis.

“We base that conclusion on studies that have looked at people who started to use cellphones heavily before age 20,” she said. “Those studies are very infrequent. But all the studies done find that those who begin to use cellphones regularly before age 20 have four to eight times more brain cancer, and also increased rates of leukemia within 10 years.”

Cellphone radiation has also been associated with damaging sperm, according to Davis.

“If you have a sperm sample from one man, and you divided it into two test tubes, and one test tube gets exposed to cellphone radiation and the other does not, the sperm exposed to cellphone radiation die three times more quickly and have three times more damage on their DNA than the same sample of sperm that is not exposed to cellphone radiation,” she said, citing research.

Despite the potential dangers of the phones, there are precautions one can take to reduce the risks.

Dr. Frank Lieberman, director of the Adult Neuro-Oncology Program at the UPMC Cancer Center, advises people to refrain from holding cellphones next to their head, and to opt for texting, or using the speaker option or a bluetooth type device when making calls. In addition, people should not carry cellphones while on the receiving mode in a pocket next to their body, he said.

“The most important guideline is against holding the thing next to your head for hours,” he said. “But if you’re talking about very brief calls, there’s probably not much risk to that.”

While Lieberman said the studies are contradictory, and that there is not a “conclusive causal relationship” between brain tumors and cellphone use, “there is good scientific evidence that electromagnetic radiation does affect brain function and cell biology. There is reason to be concerned that electromagnetic radiation could have a damaging effect. It is a good idea to advise people to be cautious even though the causal relationship hasn’t been established.”

In the meantime, the industry could be doing more to protect the public. There is “no doubt” that phones could be made safer, Davis said.

“Look,” Davis continued, “I am not opposed to cellphones. I simply want to make them as safe as possible. Cellphones are like cars were in the 1950s; we can’t live without them, but let’s make them safe with seat belts and air bags, and stop giving them to children and toddlers.”

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net.)

Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 21, 2013
Ambient radiofrequency and microwaves are causing physical impairment, known as Radiofrequency or Microwave Sickness historically. It is ruining lives. Plus America is oblivious about it. Other countries recognize it and try to help some.

What we will need is wireless-free areas to live in every state or part of the country. To not do this is inhumane, at best. It is an atrocity, at worst.
May 23, 2013
My Dad grabbed my shoulders and explained microwave and radar audible hearing way back in 1959.That type saturation of the hearing environment from many users of many cell phones is not likely to appear on any warning label found on or near a cell phone...or be a concern of a financially driven population of politicians.There are too many other forms of radiation added to the mixture, and just enough that they live just as prone to end with cancer and a whole list of other ailments. Tinnitus is just one example and also proof of a possible external causal or effectual...as it is a symptom of radar and microwave audible hearing.

Mental illness is on the rise around the globe...and I know that should never bother someone from Israel...they are probably aware of who controls the airwaves...and it is not them.

I have even talked with people that complained of an induced psychosis that appeared from exposure of electromagnetic radiation and the ear has all the parts to raise pressure until you feel delusional...like you suddenly found yourself raised to a higher altitude and suffer altitude sickness.

They also call this schizophrenia.
David C
May 23, 2013
No one uses phones to call any more. Seriously. And if they do, they usually use headphones, not for radiation, but because it sounds better and is more convenient.

99.9% of what my kids use their phones for are texting and facebook. It's no where near their heads. These studies are useless as they're not how people use phones nowadays.

May 23, 2013
Actually, David, an overwhelming number of young people, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, use cell phones instead of land lines. These folks rely on cell phones as a chief form of communication with friends, family and co-workers. And this demographic is certainly not the alone. All over the world – from American metropolises to the congested streets of many Asian countries – people still have cell phones glued to their heads.

I suggest you make your way to the outside world and do some observing, as your children are hardly indicative of the world's population and its cell phone habits.
May 28, 2013
You don't speak for everyone. You can only speak to what you know. There are people who don't have access to landlines in their area, like my mom in another state, so we have to talk on the cell phone. Same with my kids who all live in other states. We are on a family plan, like a lot of people, I assume. It saves money on long distance. All that being said, I wish I never had to use one again.
soapbox jill
October 21, 2013
The studies are not useless unless studies finding tobacco, asbestos and lead paint harmful were useless. Society must adjust to protect public health.

America prioritizes industry, not taking precautions with public health. So, guess who pays for that.