If you feel naked without your cell phone, and not in a good way, I'm right there with you. Me and my IPhone and my global phone, plus my old dead phone and crackberry that ought to go to recycling, and my lost phone that's probably hiding under a radiator, and also the mobiles that belong to my husband and son and our three Skyped-up laptops.
So I paid more than casual attention when, on Sept. 9, my colleagues at Environmental Working Group, where I work, produced a report called Limit Your Exposure To Cell Phone Radiation, that summarizes some recent, unsettling scientific findings correlating long-term cell phone use to head and neck tumors. Circumstantial, yes, but a lot to think about. EWG's list of low-radiation phones got so many page views that our website crashed a few times, but we've shored it up with rebars and web-glue.
Since then, two more studies about the health dangers of cell phone radiation, the product of collaborations of academic scientists in five countries, have come out and the news isn't good. For you show-me types who want the dark details, I've posted summaries and links on the Kid-Safe section of the EWG website. Because, obviously, kids, with thinner skulls and whole lives ahead of them, are going to be particularly vulnerable to whatever risks are presented by radiofrequency emissions.
Perhaps the dangers are minimal. I sure hope so. But an increasing number of scientists are voicing doubts. For example, Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., director of the University of California-Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health and author of one of the new studies, told me, "We are going to see many more tumors in the long term than we would expect to see if mobile phones were not widely used throughout the world."
That's the beauty of butt-dialing. The further from your ear, the less radiation blasting your brain.
If you find sitting on the contact key somewhat hit-or-miss, Plan B is texting. Moskowitz says the physics of emissions are such that holding the phone 10 inches from your head instead of half an inch from your skull reduces radiation exposure by a factor of 400. For you math people, that's 10 inches divided by half an inch, which equals 20, which must then be squared. I didn't know it either. The square of the distance from ear to backside -- well, you do the numbers.
Giving up the trusty mobile isn't in the cards around my house, and we just can't bring ourselves to do the Lilly Tomlin/ Ernestine thing with the wired headset. (The experts don't advise wireless headsets, and frankly, they still say Ernestine to me.)
Still, cell phones are always sending and receiving, whether anyone's talking, which is why the FBI can triangulate on your location if you don't switch off your phone. So, as long as we're on the subject of body parts that matter, scientists say it's probably not a great idea to keep your mobile in your front pants pocket. Or a belt holster, not that you'd wear such a thing.
Me, my phones will live where they always have, in a comfy pocket of my lovely lipstick-orange bag. I've cut my minutes back, pocketing a bit of change, and am encouraging my pals to email me. Or better yet, lunch, drinks or whatever, like back in the day, when there was regular human contact.
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