Don't Be So Sure Your Cell Phone Is Safe
Cancer Doctor Leaks Disconcerting Data on Cell Phone Safety
Ronald B. Herberman, MD
November 10, 2008
hough many (including me) have voiced concern over the safety of cell phone use, the evidenceof potential dangers has been inconsistent thus far -- but a recent news story about an industry insider'spersonal concerns delivers an urgent precautionary message to all of us. The founding director of theUniversity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Ronald B. Herberman, MD, sent a memo to faculty and staff, aswell as to his friends and family, advising them to limit cell phone use based on his interpretation of recentresearch, some of which is as yet unpublished. While acknowledging that the connection between cellphones and brain tumors is still inconclusive, he says some studies have found that the phones emitradiofrequency energy, a form of electromagnetic radiation, that may damage DNA and could be harmful.Though never intended for such widespread distribution, his memo brought accolades from scientists inthe fields of cancer and cancer epidemiology research.
NOT SAFE IN EUROPE, NOT SAFE HERE EITHER
I called Dr. Herberman to learn more about what happened. He told me that his communiqué wasprompted by publication of several studies and advisories in Europe -- he felt strongly that the findingswere important. Two studies in particular caught his attention. One, conducted in Sweden, showed clear biological effects, particularly brain tumors, after 10 or more years of cell phone use. The other was aFrench study that showed that the brains of young children (between five and eight years of age in thisresearch) absorb considerable amounts of radiation from cell phones when they are held up to their ears,much more so than adults. Meanwhile, cell phone use among people of all ages -- kids most especially --continues to grow.It is important to note that these are not exactly perfect studies. A major issue is that the usage data isbased on what people remember and report about their cell phone use. Dr. Herberman acknowledges thisis a flaw. "People don't always accurately recall more than a day to a week before they've been asked,"he affirmed. That's why his memo was issued as an advisory, rather than a warning.When I asked what advice he had to offer readers of
Daily Health News
, he told me that until moreconcrete scientific research can be done, it's smart to be aware of how much you use your cell phone andalso how easy it is to reduce the dangers by limiting your exposure. In fact, when I spoke with Dr.Herberman, he was on his cell phone -- although he is careful to use it with a hands-free device attached.He also told me that in his home, he no longer has a cordless phone, because almost all of them nowoperate in or above the 800 MHz or greater range that is associated with the potential risk shown in thestudies. That was a new piece of information for me, and one we'll research for a future article in
Daily Health News
SMART USE IS KEY
Dr. Herberman's memo included 10 practical suggestions for the safe use of cell phones, developed by acommittee of international experts, of which he is a member. Here is an edited version...
Do not allow children under 10 to use a cell phone, except for emergencies. (
Thedeveloping organs of a fetus or child are especially sensitive to electromagnetic fields, sopregnant moms and parents with young children should pay particular attention.)