Over the past two decades, the cell phone has become the world’s most ubiquitous technological device. Although exact estimates are hard to come by, perhaps half of the world’s citizens now own or have regular access to at least one cell phone. When technology becomes this deeply integrated into everyday life, most would just naturally assume that it had been fully vetted for safety.
But astonishingly, just the opposite is the case. Cell phones were put on the market without any kind of safety testing, and the best independent research that has been carried out since they first appeared has uncovered many disturbing facts. Cell phones have revolutionized modern life but we are only beginning to understand the potential health costs of this supposedly benign technology.
The History of the Cell Phone
Similar to the Internet, cell phones emerged in the early 1980s from research and development projects funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Telecommunications companies immediately saw the potential in this new technology and pushed government regulators hard to convince them to approve the cell phone for sale to consumers as quickly as possible. A key factor in the history of the cell phone was the ability of these companies to use their inside connections to get health and safety jurisdiction for the technology handed over to the compliant, industry-controlled Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instead of to the more scientifically-independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite the fact that cell phones emit microwave-type radiation, which has a proven capacity to damage living tissue, the government acquiesced to industry pressure and allowed telecommunications companies to begin marketing and selling cell phones to the public shortly after the technology had been developed. They even allowed those companies to falsely claim that cell phones had been extensively tested and found to be completely safe.
How the Cell Phone Works
Cell phones appear to work like radios, passively capturing electromagnetic waves and converting them into sound. But in reality, cell phones function by establishing a two-way link with relay towers, and the radiation put out by the phone as it looks for and holds a signal connection passes directly through the brain of the cell phone user. Basically, having a cell phone next to your ear is like having a low-energy microwave oven operating right alongside your head. In fact, industry and FDA claims about the harmlessness of cell phones have been based primarily on tests that have evaluated the safety of microwave ovens. But the effect of low-energy electromagnetic waves on biological entities is subtle, and it often takes many years for the results of such exposure to begin manifesting in people. It is for this reason that the true nature of the health threat represented by cell phones is only now starting to come into focus. If the fears of some researchers are right, this threat may be like a ticking time bomb that is rapidly counting down to zero.
What Independent Studies Have Revealed
Ironically, the first study that unmasked some of the real risks of cell phone usage was sponsored by the industry itself. The mistake they made was to hire a scientist with integrity, Dr. George Carlo, to head a study that was only undertaken because of congressional pressure. Dr. Carlo and his scientific associates studied the question of cell phone safety from 1993 to 1999, and when they began to report their findings that cell phones caused irreparable DNA damage, brain cell changes, and pacemaker malfunctioning, cell phone makers responded by starting a campaign of personal attack and slander against Dr. Carlo.
They couldn’t suppress the truth, however, and European researchers were soon verifying the findings of the Carlo Committee. These scientists found still more health problems connected to cell phone usage as well, including:
- Brain tumors
- Neural degenerative disease
- Psychological and behavioral problems
The connection between childhood disease and cell phones is especially disturbing. Because children’s skulls are thinner than those of adults, cell phone radiation can penetrate 50% farther into their brains. An organization called Internal Balance, which studies autism, spent five years searching for the cause of this disease. They eventually concluded that cell phones were the primary suspect in the explosion of autism rates, which have gone up an unfathomable 7000% since the 1970s. A 2008 survey of 13,000 children whose mothers used cell phones during pregnancy found a strong correlation between hyperactivity and ADHD-type behavior, and pre-natal exposure to cell phone radiation. Perhaps most ominously of all, brain tumors have now surpassed leukemia as the most common type of childhood cancer worldwide.
Cell Phones and Cancer
In May of 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a proclamation declaring cell phones a risk for cancer. This reversal of their past position came about as a result of recommendations from a panel of 31 scientists from 14 countries who performed a meta-review of all the previous peer-reviewed studies that have been undertaken to look at the question of cell phone safety. It was found in this meta-study that two types of brain cancer – glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer – have been diagnosed in a disturbingly large number of cell phone users, always on the side of the head where the phone was most commonly held.
A year earlier, the largest international study on cell phone safety ever published revealed that people who had used cell phones for ten years or longer faced twice the risk of developing glioma as someone without this history. This dovetailed with a 2006 Swedish study that found frequent cell phone users had a 240% greater chance of being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor than non-cell phone users.
When Will the Time Bomb Explode?
The really frightening thing about cell phones and cancer is that this disease often takes several decades to develop after the fatal exposure. Consequently, the tens of millions of children now using cell phones in the United States alone could be facing a brain cancer risk that is much higher than anyone could ever imagine. There are many other documented health problems associated with cell phones but the brain cancer situation is especially scary because we have no real idea how big the problem will ultimately turn out to be in either children or adults.
At this point, the convenience of cell phones may make them seem all but indispensable to most people. But if they are going to be used, they should only be used when there is an emergency or if there is truly no other choice. Children should probably not be using them at all, except perhaps for sending text messages. The proliferation of cell phones is basically an experiment that has been carried out on billions of people without full disclosure. No one really knows how the experiment is going to turn out but right now, it looks like it is only a matter of time until that ticking time bomb finally explodes.