WHO study: Dangers from cell phones?

The fact is, cell phones and cell phone towers have been in existence for less than 20 years, and thus there have been very few authoritative studies produced, since it takes years to detect whether a product or substance could leak into our cells and be cancerous.

In Europe however, there have been more studies and more concern about the potential dangers of the technology.

As the website emf-health.com reported in 1997, two studies, one in Germany and the other in Israel, reveal that living in proximity to a cell phone tower or antenna could put your health at significant risk.

Meanwhile, PCWorld reporter Elsa Wenzel lists a series of common-sense things you can do to avoid subjecting yourself to unnecessary radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.

1. Use a Headset

You'll get far less radiation exposure from a headset than from a phone pressed to your ear. Check out these Bluetooth headsets that fared well in PCWorld's tests. Another option (behind closed doors, please) is to use your speakerphone. If that's not possible, follow the manual. Apple, for one, suggests holding an iPhone five-eighths of an inch away from your head.

2. Keep the Phone at Arm's Length

Would-be parents might be wise to keep smartphones out of pockets or belt holsters, since reputable studies connect frequent cell phone usage with a decrease in sperm count and quality. For obvious reasons, there haven't been lab tests exploring how cell phone radiation may affect developing fetuses. But if you're pregnant, you're already avoiding tuna and soft cheese, so why risk holding a phone close to your belly?

3. Text, Don't Talk

There's less radiation involved in text messaging than in making a phone call. (Just don't text while walking, since bumping your head will hurt you faster than any wireless radiation might.)

4. Turn It Off

Even if you check work e-mail at midnight, there's little need to keep your phone turned on 24/7. (The science may be fuzzy on mobile phone radiation, but it's clear that stress and sleep deprivation harm your health.) Instead of keeping the handset by your pillow for a wake up call, use a dedicated alarm clock.

5. Keep That Charger Handy

FCC When the battery is running low or you're in a low-signal area, the phone works overtime and may expose you to more radiation.

6. Look for Phones with Low SAR Levels

I have mixed feelings about offering this advice. Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) levels are supposed to tell how much radiofrequency energy a body absorbs from a device. Yet these labels are not like calorie counts on a TV dinner. The level isn't necessarily what you get when chatting, texting, or playing an app on a given phone. Each of those activities involves constantly varying levels of power and signal strength. The FCC explains more about what SAR levels mean. That said, CNET frequently updates its list of the highest and lowest-radiation phones.

6. Keep Cell Phones out of the Hands of Children

If non-ionizing radiation affects adult brains in ways we still don't fully understand, it's likely to affect children even more. Their skulls and brains are still developing, so don't treat a cell phone as a toy. If you're letting your toddler play with it anyway, at least turn it off or shut off the signal.

7. Don't Believe the Hype About Radiation-blocking Products

Countless ads hawk devices meant to protect your body from electromagnetic frequencies (EMF). However, there's no conclusive evidence that an EMF medallion or sticker will work as advertised or even work at all. In fact, some of these products can force a phone to do more work and emit more radiation to make up for a blocked signal.

A World Health Organization panel is reporting that cellphones are “possibly carcinogenic,’’ a significant development in that the group has previously said there were no negative health effects.

Last night on ABC News, Dr. Richard Besser broke down the study in a brief exchange with news anchor Diane Sawyer.

Although the information on cell phones is still spotty, international studies report deleterious effects from cell phone towers.

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