Can cell phones lead to cancer? That's a never-ending debate, but until conclusive data arrives, users can take small steps to reduce the risk of cancer caused by electromagnetic radiation from cell phones.
Fearing the health risk posed by cell phones, a precautionary note asking people to limit cell phone use was issued last week by Dr. Ronald Herberman, a cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
Prolonged use of cell phones could lead to the disease, especially in children, Herberman wrote. Cell phones and wireless phones emit electromagnetic radiation, which is more "likely to penetrate the brain more deeply for children than for adults," he wrote.
Until conclusive data arrives in two years, it's prudent to consider the cell phone a health risk. Herberman also wrote that smart cell-phone usage could reduce bodily exposure to radiation emitted by cell phones.
"Studies...do not indicate that cell phones are safe, nor do they yet clearly show that they are dangerous. But, growing evidence indicates that we should reduce exposures, while research continues on this important question," Herberman wrote in a related study.
By limiting the use of cell phones, there is less risk of exposure to electromagnetic fields. More definitive data assessing the health effects from prolonged cell phone use will come within two years from the World Health Organization and International Agency for Research on Cancer, Herberman said.
Recognizing the threat posed by exposure to electromagnetic fields, a number of countries, including government agencies in France, Germany and Canada, have recommended limited use of cell phones.
But for many of us, cell phones are an indispensable part of life, and Herberman seems to recognize that. In the advisory, he made recommendations on how to reduce exposure to electromagnetic radiation from the devices.
Herberman advises that consumers buy phones that emit low radiation. Users can look for the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) of cell phones, which measures "the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone," according to the U.S. Federal Communication Commission. The U.S. Federal Communication Commission has set the highest publicly acceptable SAR limit to 1.6.
The cell phone emitting the lowest radiation is Motorola Razr V3x, with a SAR rating of 0.14, according to CNET's SAR list. Motorola's V195s had the highest SAR, at 1.6.
For cell phone owners, the FCC's Web page links to sites that can provide SAR measurements of different cell phone models.
Additional recommendations from Herberman may sound extreme, but if you care about health more than getting chatty, these are some good rules to follow:
-- Allow children to use cell phones only in emergencies.
-- Try to keep your cell phone away from the body. A wireless headset is one good way to do that.
-- Limit cell-phone usage on public transport to avoid emitting magnetic radiation to others around you.
-- Use a wire-line phone for long conversations, not a cell phone.
-- Switch ears when talking on the cell phone so one side of the body isn't overexposed to radiation
-- Use SMS!