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A mobile call is never safe

MagazineMarch 2011 (Vol. 21 Issue 12)A mobile call is never safe

There's no such thing as a 'safe' mobile (cell) phone call

There's no such thing as a 'safe' mobile (cell) phone call. Just one call can increase your risk of a brain tumour, as the cell signal can penetrate two inches (5 cm) into the adult skull-and even deeper into a child's head-a new study has found.

Any cell-phone radiation damages our DNA-a recognized cause of cancer-and causes the blood-brain barrier to leak, which doubles the risk of brain tumours, says a research team from the Apeejay College of Engineering in Sohna, India (J Comput Assist Tomogr, 2010; 34: 799-807).
Mobile and cordless phones are far more dangerous than has been previously believed because the industry and our health guardians have been dramatically under-estimating the levels of radiation from handsets. Even in urban areas, where radiation emissions are lower, the levels are still far above anything that can be considered safe.

Conclusions

These conclusions are, by far, the most pessimistic ever reported so far, and the researchers-led by Rash Dubey-are calling on health authorities to dramatically tighten up mobile-phone use, especially among the young.

Even previous studies that had made an association between the phones and brain tumours estimated that the risk doubles only after 10 years of regular use.

In contrast, not only does Dubey suggest that even one call can be dangerous, he also dis-credits the 'positive' research that has invariably been paid for by the mobile-phone industry. Indeed, some industry-sponsored studies have even suggested that mobile phones are good for our health and, in fact, reduce our chances of developing a brain tumour. This remarkable out-come was achieved by falsifying the evidence, said Dubey.

The most recent example of such positive, industry-sponsored trials was the headline-grabbing Interphone study, which gave mobile phones a clean bill of health after analyzing data from 13 countries. But, says Dubey, this finding was just bad science. Among other things, the Inter-phone researchers had:

u not included mobile-phone use in rural areas, where the signals are stronger;
u ignored the use of other forms of mobile communication, such as cordless phones; and
u discounted anyone in the study who died from a brain tumour, or became too ill to continue their participation.

Countering this analysis has been the work of whistle-blowers such as Dr Ronald Herberman, of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and Swedish cancer expert Dr Lennart Hardell, both of whom have consistently demonstrated cancer risks with mobile-phone use. However, both have believed that only those who use a mobile or cordless phone for more than 20 minutes a day, and consistently for 10 years or more, are at greater risk of developing brain tumours, such as glioma and meningioma (Int J Oncol, 2008; 32: 1097-103).

There is also evidence to suggest that mobile and cordless phones could be responsible for cancers other than brain tumours. Dubey points to a stack of medical reports suggesting that these phones could also cause testicular cancer, salivary gland tumours, malignant melanoma of the eye, tumour of the intratemporal facial nerve, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Indeed, it appears that the true health hazards of mobile phones have been underestimated by Herberman, Hardell and other researchers not sponsored by the industry because no one has properly calculated the strength of the radiation emitted by hand-sets. This means the phones are exceeding safe levels even with normal use and, as a result, even a short call can have harmful effects. In contrast, 'abnormal' use refers to rural locations and the 'handover' areas between base stations, where radiation levels are far higher in compensation.

"Microwave radiation has harmful effects at intensity levels far below those declared as safe. Present safety norms have no tenable scientific support and must be updated," says Dubey. Safety rules and protocols need to be rewritten, and guidance on safe usage should be far more conser-vative than it is now.

Overall, says Dubey, there is enough evidence for government health authorities worldwide to work on the basis of the 'precau-tionary principle'. Young people under the age of 20 need special protection, and should be given phones with texting function only. Everyone else should dramatically curtail their use and follow 'best practice' guidelines (see box).

Of course, Dubey and his col-leagues aren't taking into account the fact that they are looking to restrict one of the world's richest and fastest-growing industries, one from which every government benefits. Only when the evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable-as eventually happened with the tobacco industry-will governments be forced to act. Until then-user beware.

Bryan Hubbard

Factfile: Using your mobile safely

Until controls on mobile-phone use are tightened, Dubey recommends the following 'best practice' guidelines to reduce your risk of cancer from mobile handsets.

1. Limit the use of mobile phones to essential calls, and always keep calls short.
2. Children should use a mobile phone only in cases of emergency.
3. Wear an air-tube handset, not a wired headset. The latter can intensify the radiation in the ear canal.
4. Do not carry the mobile phone in a pocket or on a belt while it is switched on. The body tissue in the lower body absorbs radiation more quickly than the head. One study has shown a reduction in sperm count levels of 30 per cent in men who carry a mobile phone near their groin.
5. If you do not have an air-tube handset, do not immediately put the phone to your ear once you have made the call; instead, wait a few seconds for the connection to be made and while the other phone is ringing.
6. Do not use your mobile in enclosed metal spaces, such as in a car or lift (elevator).
7. Do not make a call when network strength is showing just one bar. Your phone will emit higher radiation levels in compensation.
8. Purchase a mobile phone that has a low specific absorption rate (SAR) score.
9. Use a scientifically validated electromagnetic field (EMF) protection device.
10. Text instead of talk whenever possible.
11. Use a landline phone (but not a cordless).
12. Turn off your mobile phone as much as possible. Callers can leave messages, and you can call them back on a landline.

WDDTY VOL. 21 ISSUE 12


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