Cell­phones and can­cer risk: How to use your cell­phone more safely

Tehran Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

If you are a male rat and you use your 2G or 3G cell phone for over 9 hours a day, you should be wor­ried about Thurs­day’s Na­tional Tox­i­col­ogy Pro­gram (NTP) an­nounce­ment. But what if you are a hu­man?

The NTP an­nounced the fol­low­ing find­ings from a set of $30 mil­lion stud­ies that took over a decade to com­plete:

Clear ev­i­dence that high ex­po­sure to RFR used by cell phones was as­so­ci­ated with tu­mors in the hearts of male rats. The tu­mors were ma­lig­nant schwan­no­mas.

Some ev­i­dence that high ex­po­sure to RFR used by cell phones was as­so­ci­ated with tu­mors in the brains of male rats. The tu­mors were ma­lig­nant gliomas.

Some ev­i­dence that high ex­po­sure to RFR used by cell phones was as­so­ci­ated with tu­mors in the adrenal glands of male rats. The tu­mors were be­nign, ma­lig­nant, or com­plex com­bined pheochro­mo­cy­toma.

In this case, RFR is not a sound that Scooby-Doo makes but stands for ra­diofre­quency ra­di­a­tion, the type of type of non-ion­iz­ing ra­di­a­tion that cell phones emit. The stud­ies also found that rat moth­ers and their new­borns had lower body weight when ex­posed to high lev­els of RFR dur­ing preg­nancy and lac­ta­tion.

But be­fore you toss your cell phones into the garbage (which you prob­a­bly wouldn’t do re­gard­less), there are some caveats with these find­ings:

The study ex­posed the en­tire bod­ies of rats to the RFR, which may be dif­fer­ent from how you use cell phones, un­less you have a gi­gan­tic cell phone or rou­tinely cover your­self with dozens of cell phones.

The amount of RFR ex­po­sure was sig­nif­i­cantly than what you nor­mally would get from a cell phone.

The stud­ies mim­icked the RFR from 2G or 3G cell phones, which you likely don’t use any­more.

The study did not find as clear ev­i­dence for fe­male rats and male or fe­male mice.

You are prob­a­bly not a male rat. Bi­o­log­i­cally.

The re­sults of this study should not make you panic. Un­less, of course, you are a male rat, be­cause there are other rea­sons to panic if you sud­denly find your­self to be a male rat. How­ever, these find­ings do fur­ther em­pha­size that RFR is not com­pletely harm­less. It is easy to for­get that your cell phone is a ma­chine and not a per­son, even though nowa­days your cell phone can talk to you, en­ter­tain you, and even com­fort you. But just as you wouldn’t hug a mi­crowave, you still have to be wary about how you in­ter­act with a ma­chine.

More­over, the ad­vances and use of cell phone tech­nol­ogy have far out­paced un­der­stand­ing of the po­ten­tial health con­se­quences. As the NTP study showed, it can take a while to mea­sure the health ef­fects of RFR. The tech­nol­ogy has changed vastly since the be­gin­ning of the NTP study. Be­fore more de­fin­i­tive state­ments are made in ei­ther di­rec­tion, there is a need for more stud­ies on the po­ten­tial risks of cell phone use. Re­mem­ber that cell phones have not un­der­gone any­where near the same amount of safety test­ing that things like vac­cines have.

In the mean­time, you may want to take the fol­low­ing 10 pre­cau­tions:

Carry your cell­phone as far away from your body and head as pos­si­ble. And don’t strap it to your head, be­cause there are other ways to say, “I am an id­iot.

Check where your cell phone is be­fore you go to sleep. A cell phone can be like a rock bot­tom one night stand. You don’t want to wake up and re­al­ize that it is next to you.

Use a speak­er­phone or a head­set when­ever you can. This will help in­crease the dis­tance be­tween the phone and your brain. Plus push­ing an ob­ject against your ear is never com­fort­able, un­less you are in to that kind of thing.

Try to avoid us­ing your cell­phone when you have a weak sig­nal. When the cell sig­nal is weak (only one or two bars are dis­played), the phone amps up its RFR try­ing to con­nect. This will also help you avoid ask­ing, “what”, “can you hear me”, or “did you say ‘love’ or ‘glove’” so many times.

Don’t use your cell phone to down­load large files or stream videos. This also pushes up the RFR emit­ted by your cell phone. You can wait un­til you get to your com­puter or other Eth­er­net or Wi-Fi con­nected de­vice to down­load that video of cats fall­ing off ta­bles.

Push for more clear la­bel­ing and in­for­ma­tion about RFR ex­po­sure on prod­ucts. Dif­fer­ent de­vices may vary in what they are emit­ting. Do you ask about such emis­sions when choos­ing a phone?

Don’t wear your head­set when you are not tak­ing a call. Sure, you may want to look like Tom Cruise in “Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble”. But head­sets do con­tinue to re­lease small amounts of RFR even when you are not “us­ing” them.

Put your phone on Air­plane Mode or bet­ter yet turn it off when­ever you can. A cell phone is like a toaster. If it is turned off, it is less likely to hurt you.

Be skep­ti­cal about RFR shields or other de­vices that claim to re­duce your RFR ex­po­sure. Sur­prise, sur­prise. Peo­ple are try­ing to sell you junk that doesn’t work. Many of these may even in­crease the RFR.

Stop us­ing your cell­phone so of­ten. A 5-year old does not need a cell­phone. Who the heck is he or she go­ing to call? A stock bro­ker? There are many al­ter­na­tives to us­ing a cell phone, like ac­tu­ally talk­ing to some­one face-to-face. You can cut down your cell phone use by re­duc­ing the length of your calls. Telling him or her that you “love him 50 times on the phone” isn’t go­ing to com­pen­sate for the fact that you for­got his or her birth­day.

Tech­nol­ogy in it­self is nei­ther good nor bad. In the words of Eric Clap­ton, “it’s in the way that you use it.” Re­mem­ber to be smart about smart­phone us­age.

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