Health Risks from Cell Phones… Where are we at?

Evidence is pouring in on the issue and it turns out cell phones do make “something” happen in our brain. Is that something dangerous? That isn’t as clear...























Its a common feeling, the doubt felt as your cell phone begins to heat up the the palm of your hand. If your like me, its easy to forget that there's a debate over the safety of cell phones. Until I'm reminded by the Droid working pretty hard next to my brain.

Researchers haven’t concluded much, but that wouldn’t make for a very useful posting now would it? Follow me as I describe the cell phone waves in question and the approaches used in this type of research. We will review the INTERPhone study, the largest cell phone study every done, and the recent discovery that cell
phones do alter brain function.

Cell phones work because of Radiation, in fact most things we know do. Radiation is a process in which energetic particles or energy or waves travel through a medium or space. Only a small percentage of radiation is harmful and most radiation is represented by visible light, radio waves, and microwaves.


Top: The entire electromagnetic spectrum from Radio to Gamma Ray


Bottom: Highlights the portion of the spectrum cell phone operate at. Notice the sun (visible light/UV light) provides a more radiation then cell phones do.


Cell phones began by relaying data using radio frequencies, a weak kind of radiation that produces less energy than microwaves. Radio frequencies are used for almost all of our electronics from AM/FM radio to nautical navigation. We literally bathe in these waves 24hours a day and because of the size and low frequency of these waves they are thought to have no effect on our bodies.

New cell phones have crept up the spectrum and now use microwaves (much like radar). When an object is exposed to microwaves molecules vibrate and emit heat. Our microwaves at home excite water molecules to cook food. Many new 4G phones are going to work on 2.5-2.7Ghz frequencies. In comparison our microwaves operate at a very similar 2.45 Ghz. This is the core reason why research needs to be done.

There are two schools of research involved in cell phone studies.

The first is scientific experimentation. These studies measure the changes in cells, small animals and humans caused by RF-EMF.

The second is epidemiological study. These investigations follow changes in populations over time and circumstance. They utilize interviews and medical records of thousands of people to find mathematical evidence that a specific aspect of their life, like using a cell phone, caused a health issue.

Recently, examples of both have been newsworthy.

A ten year 13 nation study called the InterPhone Epidemiological study found that risks of brain tumors improved with low and medium amounts of cell phone use. The 10,000 plus person study found there to be a marginal increase in risk for those who use their phones more than 1640 hours over a lifetime.

Other epidemiological studies have shown similar conflicting results.

A recent scientific investigation at Brookhaven National laboratory came to a new and interesting conclusion. Cell phone RF-EMF cause parts of the brain closest to the phone to burn more energy then cells further away.

They followed glucose metabolism to demonstrate that brain function was increasing. Glucose is the most basic energy source in the body, therefore places where more is used are working harder. What are the cells doing? That remains speculative.

Right now we are in the position to make choices based on few concrete results, there is just as much to reason to pickup a blue-tooth headset as there is trust that the overheating phone in your hand isn’t affecting you. Its a matter of choice and I chose the later.

What I want you to do is to keep these two studies in mind the next time you hear a “health minute” on TV. Listen to see if it was a scientific or epidemiological study done. Look for studies that investigate why cells burn more glucose when a cell phone is in use. Keep in mind that the size of the study and duration are all important for you to consider when forming your own conclusion. Don’t be afraid to ask, how convinced am I?

What do you think of Energy Drinks? Are they Safe?


Source material
A
Anders Ahlbom,a Maria Feychting,a Adele Green,b Leeka Kheifets,c David A. Savitz. Epidemiologic Evidence on Mobile Phones and Tumor Risk Epidemiology 2009;20: 639–652)

B
INTERPHONE Study Group. Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case–control studyInternational. Journal of Epidemiology
2010;39:675–694

C
Nora D. Volkow, MD Dardo Tomasi, PhD Gene-Jack Wang, MD Paul Vaska, PhD Joanna S. Fowler, PhD Frank Telang, MD Dave Alexoff, BSE Jean Logan, PhD Christopher Wong, MS. Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism. JAMA. 2011;305(8):808-814



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