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green medicine tips

Cell Phones and Electromagnetic Radiation:

What We Do Not Know
Joel Kreisberg, DC, MA

or several years, evidence has surfaced suggesting that
there is a risk for brain tumors from using a cell phone.1-5 Studies Link Cell Phone Radiation to
In response to a call for precaution coming from the pres- Health Issues
tigious journal Environmental Health Perspectives, a 2009 review
of the scientific literature found no evidence of risk from cell Recent studies have linked cell phone radiation to the
phone use.6 However, European studies continue to publish following health issues:
conflicting studies, fueling confusion.2,5 From a policy stand- Behavioral
u problems: An 80% elevated risk for emo-
point, Finland, France, and Israel all have policies limiting chil- tional and hyperactivity problems among young chil-
dren’s use of cell phones. dren who use cell phones and whose mothers also
Is there a risk of bodily harm from cell phone radiation? used cell phones during pregnancy was found in a
What about cell phone towers or wireless headsets? How are we to survey of 13 159 Danish children.2
understand and make healthy choices? What is the proper advice Brain tumors: Results from studies on the use of cell
to give to our patients? Let’s look at the evidence carefully. phones for greater than 10 years give a consistent pat-
According to a 2009 article in Environmental Health tern of increased risk for acoustic neuroma and glio-
Perspectives, CTIA-The Wireless Association reported there were ma. The risk is highest for ipsilateral cell phone use/
277 million cell phones in use in the United States as of June exposure.1,4
2009 and more about 4.1 billion worldwide.7 Cell phones oper- Migraines and vertigo: Long-term cell phone users
ate at an electromagnetic wave frequency of either 800 to 900 were 10% to 20% more likely to be hospitalized for
megahertz (MHz) or 1800 to 1900 MHz. Often referred to as migraines and vertigo than people who began cell
radiofrequency (RF), since radios and TVs operate in the same phone use more recently.5
portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, the electromagnetic Salivary gland tumors: A positive association was found
radiation transmitted by a cell phone occurs through the between cellular phone use and parotid gland tumors.3
antenna and the circuit elements inside the handset. These ele-
ments in the cell phone send out RFs to transmit a signal at a
power level significant enough to deliver a signal to the base years had the highest risk. As well, the study compared single-
transceiver station. The radiation emitted by a cell phone is not side cell phone use compared to alternating sides, and, again,
very directional, thus similar amounts of radiation are trans- a dose response was suggested. In addition, researchers found
mitted both outward toward the base station and inward that the more local the electromagnetic radiation, the greater
toward the ear and head of the cell phone user. the risk. Absorption of RF is attenuated by 90% within 40 to 50
Little evidence exists for short-term health impacts of cell mm of exposure.
phone electromagnetic radiation; however, researcher Siegal Other studies are showing effects, without conclusive
Sadetzk, MD, head of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the results (See sidebar). The Environmental Working Group
Sackler School of Medicine’s Gertner Institute in Tel Aviv, recently released an executive summary that offers a summary
Israel, observes that studies of survivors of the atomic bomb- of evidence for increased risks of glioma, acoustic neuroma, and
ings in Japan often exhibit negative health consequences for hospitalization for migraines and vertigo as well as emotional
more than 30 years.8 With such long-term consequences, in her hyperactivity in children from increased cell phone use. (www.
mind, any study that shows negative consequences of cell However, none of these studies are conclusive enough
phone use is worrisome. to make the case that cell phones have a negative impact on
Sadetzki headed up a study published in the February 15, your health . . . yet.
2008, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology3 that Recently, physician Ronald Haberman, MD, founding and
reported an elevated risk of ipsilateral parotid gland tumors former director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center in
among cell phone users who spent the most time on the phone. Pennsylvania, provided testimonial to the Senate Domestic
The study considered the parotid gland because its juxtaposi- Policy Subcommittee on Oversight, Government and Reform
tion to cell phone RFs is 4 mm to10 mm below the surface of that “(a)dults can reduce direct exposure of the head and bone
the skin and is anatomically within range of common cell marrow to radiofrequency radiation by using ear pieces or the
phone use. The study looked at cumulative exposure, finding speaker phone mode whenever possible. Cell phone use by
that people who had been using cells phones for more than 10 children should be restricted.”9 Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, author

54 Integrative Medicine • Vol. 9, No. 3 • Jun/Jul 2010 Kreisberg—Green Medicine Tips

of the book The Secret History of the War on Cancer (Basic Books,
patient handout
2007), is currently taking up the charge to reduce the RF expo- Healthy Cell Phone Hygiene
sure of cell phones. She convened a conference in September
2009 entitled the “International Expert Conference on Cell Whenever you have your cell phone turned on, keep it
Phones and Health.” Her website, The Environmental Health in a satchel or purse (ie, don’t wear a phone on your belt).
Trust (, offers up-to-date The farther away from your head the better. Radiofrequency
data and commentary on the emerging field of health and cell (RF) radiation is diminished by the square of the distance.
phone use. (eg, 2 inches away means it is diminished by ¼, 4 inches
In addition to high cell phone use, another concern is cell away by 1/16).
phone towers, of which there are more than 175 000 in the u Switch ears regularly, distributing radiation more evenly.
United States today.10 The health consequences of cell tower u Use the speaker phone, or use a hands-free headset.
radiation is as controversial as cell phone RF radiation, though, An air tube headset is best, however, a Bluetooth
again, studies are inconclusive. Some studies reveal no headset uses an infrared signal, generating only
effect.11,12 Others provide evidence of a wide variety of symp- 1/100th the electromagnetic field of a typical cell
toms including infertility, sleeplessness, and leukemia.13 phone. Take off headsets when not in use. Bluetooth
Consistent with both cell phones and cell phone towers, a does emit a constant signal.
broad-minded precaution is suggested. Precaution in the case u Research your phone to discover its specific absorp-
of cell phone towers means limiting new towers in areas of high tion rate and purchase one that emits a lower radia-
human populations and near schools. tion. (The Environmental Working Group, www.erg.
As green health professionals, suggesting healthy cell org, rates more than 1000 cell phones.)
phone hygiene can minimize the potential risk for our patients. u Listen more or use texts—talking requires your cell
Please see the Patient Handout for suggestions. phone to emit the most electromagnetic radiation.
Texting occurs away from your head.
u Use cell phones only with good signals. Cell phones
Joel Kreisberg, DC, MA, is the executive director of the nonprofit Teleosis generate more RF when you are moving great distanc-
Institute, which is dedicated to reducing the health care environmental foot-
print while deepening its ecological vision. Dr Kreisberg is an adjunct professor
es such as in a car and when you are farther away
at the School of Holistic Studies at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, from cell phone towers. Using a cell phone with good
California. He completed his chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic connections generates less RF.
College and received a master’s degree from Prescott College. He practices chi- u Have the key pad face your body so that the antennae,
ropractic and homeopathy in Berkeley, California. on the back of the phone, is away from it. In a flip
phone, the antennae is on the back of the earpiece part
1. Hardell L, Carlberg M, Hansson Mild K. Use of cellular telephones and brain of the phone and should be facing away from the body.
tumour risk in urban and rural areas. Occup Environ Med. 2005;62(6):390-394. u Don’t sleep near your cell phone.
2. Divan HA, Kheifets L, Obel C, Olsen J. Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone
use and behavioral problems in children. Epidemiology. 2008;19(4):523-529. u Limit children’s use of cell phones, and teach good
3. Sadetzki S, Chetrit A, Jarus-Hakak A, et al. Cellular phone use and risk of benign cell phone hygiene.
and malignant parotid gland tumors—a nationwide case-control study. Am J
Epidemiol. 2008;167(4):457-467.
4. Hardell L, Carlberg M, Söderqvist F, Mild KH, Morgan LL. Long-term use of cellular
phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for > or = 10 years.
Occup Environ Med. 2007;64(9):626-632.
5. Schüz J, Waldemar G, Olsen JH, Johansen C. Risks for central nervous system dis-
eases among mobile phone subscribers: a Danish retrospective cohort study. PLoS
One. 2009;4(2):e4389.
6. Dolan M, Rowley J. The precautionary principle in the context of mobile phone and
base station radiofrequency exposures. Environ Health Perspect.
7. Betts KS. Electromagnetic fields: Conference, hearing call up cell phone use. Environ
Health Perspect. 2009;117(11):A486
8. Beebe GW, Kato H. Review of thirty years study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic
bomb survivors. II. Biological effects. E. Cancers other than leukemia. J Radiat Res
(Tokyo). 1975;16 Suppl:97-107.
9. Hearings Before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Domestic Policy
Subcommittee on Tumors and Cell Phone Use: What the Science Says, 110th Cong, 2nd
Sess (2008) (statement of Ronald B. Herberman, MD).
10. No authors listed. What are the dangers of living near cell phone towers? SixWise.
com. Available at:
dangers_of_living_near_cell_phone_towers.htm. Accessed April 12, 2010.
11. Dolk H, Elliott P, Shaddick G, Walls P, Thakrar B. Cancer incidence near radio and
television transmitters in Great Britain. II: All high power transmitters. Am J
Epidemiol. 1997;145(1):10-17.
12. Selvin S, Schulman J, Merrill DW. Distance and risk measures for the analysis of
spatial data: a study of childhood cancers. Soc Sci Med. 1992;34(7):769-777.
13. Ahlbom A, Green A, Kheifets L, Savitz D, Swerdlow A; ICNIRP (International
Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) Standing Committee on
Epidemiology. Epidemiology of health effects of radiofrequency exposure. Environ
Health Perspect. 2004;112(17):1741-1754.

Kreisberg—Green Medicine Tips Integrative Medicine • Vol. 9, No. 3 • Jun/Jul 2010 55