Q & A Library
Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer?
I know you've written before about potential health risks from cell phone use. I recently heard a report that sounds truly alarming about the cancer risk as well as other dangers. Is there new evidence?
Answer (Published 11/5/2009)
You may have heard about a recent report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for health-protective policies. The EWG reported on key studies (including some published from 2007 to 2009) that link radiation from long-term cell phone use with increased risks of brain and salivary gland tumors, migraines and vertigo, as well as behavior problems in children, including hyperactivity. Among the findings cited:
All of this sounds very alarming - and it isn't good news - but it is important to keep some of these numbers in perspective. When speaking in terms of a percentage increase in risk, bear in mind that if, for example, one person out of 100 is normally at risk of a brain tumor, a 100 percent increase in risk means that 2 people out of 100 would be at risk. It does NOT mean that as a cell phone user, you have a 100 percent chance of developing a brain tumor.
The EWG report maintains that current U.S. government radiation standards are outdated. It noted that in 2008, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging member countries to develop lower radiation limits for cell phones; no such steps have been taken in the U.S. Here, particular concern is focused on the amount of radiation that could penetrate a child's softer, thinner skull (roughly twice the amount that could penetrate an adult skull) and that long-term cell phone use starting in childhood could pose even bigger risks than those already documented. Experts in the U.S. and Europe have advised limiting youngsters' cell phone use.
I noted that the EWG check list for safe cell phone use is similar the safety tips I've been recommending for some time:
To eliminate the most immediate danger of cell phone use to yourself and others, don't talk or text while driving.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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