1. A Problem with Older Technology
With regard to handset use, Reuters, on October 15th, 2004 reported that a Finish study demonstrated that “ten or more years of mobile phone use increases the risk of developing acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor on the auditory nerve.” However, Rueters notes that the study was done after a period when powerful analog phones had been in use for more than a decade. The institute, a medical university and research center which awards the Nobel Prize in medicine, reported that their research could not determine if newer GSM digital technology would produce similar tumors. GSM is the technology use by Cingular, T-Mobile and other companies. The Finish study found that the risk of acoustic neuroma was almost twice for cellular customers who started using cell phones at least ten years prior to diagnosis.
The primary effect of cellular radiation is thermal. Microwaves are absorbed by water molecules, essentially heating them as in a microwave oven. The heat spreads into the tissues and can lead to a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. Of course, one may easily avoid the thermal effect by using an earphone and by staying out of the sun and avoiding a heat stroke when on a long call.
2. Indeterminate Results – Power is not all there is.
Digital signals, although generally weaker, may not be safer than analog signals. Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News notes that research demonstrates that digital pulsed signals are more “biologically active” and may react in the body more strongly.
One of the reports we reviewed in our continuing exploration of potential health effects of cellular technology was Henry Lai and Narendra Singh’s studies of the effects of “safe” microwave radiation on rats’ brains, reviewed in the University of Washington Alumni Magazine. Lai and Singh found that two hours’ exposure to FCC “safe” levels of microwave radiation caused the destruction of DNA in rats’ brain cells. They compared rats exposed to a low dose of microwave radiation for two hours to a control group of rats that spent the same amount of time in the exposure device, but didn’t receive any radiation. The exposed rats showed 30 percent increase in breaks in DNA compared to the control group. It is not clear if the damaged DNA would lead to any other than cell death or cell repair. Other experiments did not find an exact correlation between duration, power and damage. In fact, this indeterminacy is common in biological systems: “It happens with chemicals. One dose can do one thing, while a higher or lower dose does the opposite,” according to Jerry Phillips who reviewed the studies for Motorola and suggests that research be undertaken into repair methods.
3. Warnings from a Technical Writer – The Handset
Molly Wood, senior editor of CNET.com compares the cell phone industry to big tobacco in The Buzz Report – The Cell Phone Industry: Big Tobacco 2.0?
She notes that recent studies suggest that the cell phones can be harmful to users, citing some of the work we studied while exploring the safety of cell phone technology, for example, Lai and Singh’s studies of rats’ brains. Wood lists additional “bad news” for the cellular industry.
Research must be funded and encouraged, however, as Wood points out, cell manufacturers are attempting to discredit research such as Lai and Singh’s and uses economic muscle to discourage research in universities. These and other studies suggest that cell phones might be harmful – “even cancer causing.”This is one of the first high profile articles written about the safety of the industry. Molly Wood’s article in a major on-line technology journal is a harpoon, unfortunately, this harpoon is more like a neutron passing through the earth than even a mosquito bite. Cell phone users are unfazed, if even aware of the potential dangers.
4. Handsets: Cellular and Home Remote Phones
In addition, a comparative analysis of cell and other wireless technologies such as walkie talkies and remote phones used in the home, reports that the standard 2.4 gHz remote telephone used in the home operates at 20% of the FCC’s maximum public exposure – MPE. The average Motorola cell phone operates at 5% MPE.
The research we undertook such as that noted above suggests that cell phones and remote handsets for home phones should be used with caution. British health officials urge children 8 or younger not use them. For adults, whenever possible, headsets, wired preferably, or the phone’s speakerphone should be used during a call.
5. Manners, Health and a Warning from a Cellular Manufacturer
LG Cellular Phones writes in its User Guides that base stations operate at higher wattage than handsets, but are so designed that “the RF exposures that people get from these base stations are typically thousands of times lower than those they can get from wireless phones.” LG then goes on to suggest the use of a headset.
The anti-cellular people are fighting base stations, but for many the real issue is manners: they are upset by ringing phones in restaurants, movie theatres and other public places. Many users, hearing static on their phones, yell into to phone and disturb others. And an often heard silly complaint comes from those who eavesdrop – they don’t like the inane conversations they hear.
The fight against base stations whether for unsupported health concerns or because of manners has diverted attention, at least in the coastal area of Mendocino County, from the need to properly use cellular handsets where they can be used. The antennas within or on the phones require that the phone be held at a correct angle, that the phone not be held by the antenna and that it never be used if the antenna is damaged. Proper use is critical to maintain the antenna’s distance from the brain. For longer calls, headsets or speakerphone options should be used. And as stated above, children should not be allowed to use the phones at least until more definitive research is completed, assuming that it has even begun.
These issues regard handsets. This article has to do with base stations, or the lack of them along the Mendocino Coast.