Are Cell Phones Dangerous to our Health?
Book review of “Disconnect” by Devra Davis
It may come as a surprise to today’s teen agers, but just 20 years ago cell phones were a rarity. And now? As of 2010, there were over five billion cell phone subscribers world wide and one financial consultant has written, “Mobile today is by a wide margin, the fastest-growing giant industry on the planet.”1
In the mad rush to cash in on this growth industry, the possible damage to health has been covered up. And this is really criminal because some simple, easy steps can be taken to at least lessen the dangers. (See end of this article.)
“Disconnect” by Devra Davis documents both the dangers as well as the cover-up by the industry.
Basically, cell phones emit a type of radiation known as non-ionizing radiation. This means the radiation isn’t powerful enough to remove electrons from an atom; it can only excite the electrons. The radiation emitted by a cell phone is the same frequency and wave length as that inside a micro-wave oven, except that it is a lot less powerful. Therefore, the assumption by the regulators is that this radio frequency radiation (called radio frequency “energy” by the industry so as not to arouse concern) can only damage by causing heat. Davis cites study after study that disproves this assumption.
- Studies on rats show that the same radio frequency radiation (rfr) as emitted by cell phones can break up the DNA in the brain cells of rats and is associated with the formation of free radicals within the DNA. (Free radicals in the body are associated with cancer.)
- Another study showed rfr’s are associated with the weakening of the brain/blood barrier and the leaking of fluid in the brain into the blood stream.
- Studies have shown that from rats to children, exposure to cell phone radiation can affect learning ability and ability to retain information.
- Studies have shown that cell phone radiation can weaken the male sperm.
- There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of brain cancer associated with high and prolonged cell phone usage. This includes the fact that the country in which cell phone usage is highest – Israel – has also seen the highest rate of increase in brain cancer.
Then there is the experience of scientists who studied the issue. Take Franz Adlekofer, who received a multi million euro grant in 2000 from the European Union to conduct a study in his privately owned REFLEX laboratories. He commented: “What little I knew about it (before he started) told me it had to be safe…. Our a priori opinion was that we would find no health effects at all from radio frequency radiation.” But what did he find? “We ran the work again and again, exposing the cells to RF (radio frequency) and looking inside at their DNA. And again we found the very same effects. The DNA from the exposed cells looked sick. We saw an increase in DNA strand breaks… We were astonished.” He also found that the effects were ten times higher from 3G phones than from 2G’s.
Or take Dr. Lennert Hardell, an expert in field in Sweden: “In my studies I find one pattern over and over again. Those who have used their phones the most and for the longest, have more malignant brain tumors than others.”
Cell Phone Industry Response
The response of the industry has been something that might rival the cloak-and-dagger maneuvers of a James Bond movie. In the case of Adlekofer, a research assistant named “Elisabeth” supposedly came forward and said the results were faked. Adlekofer, who had worked with her for years tried to get in touch with her but she had disappeared. Over a year later, he did get in touch with her and she denied having ever said it and, in fact, several independent bodies checked Adlekofer’s statistics and found they were accurate. Meanwhile, a Professor Alexander Lerchl from the private Jacobs University in Bremen sent a letter denouncing Adlekofer’s research. Lerchl, however, failed to reveal that he had received over one million euros for five different rfr studies from cell phone industry and that his university has as a major funder Vodaphone foundation.
Research into the health effects of cell phone radiation has followed the pattern of similar research into the health effects of asbestos, tobacco smoking, etc. The industry uses its economic and political clout to stifle independent research.
- A paper written as early as 1997 by a researcher for Motorola, Jerry Phillips, showed cell damage. At the end of his paper, the following sentence appeared: “The damage is probably of no physiological consequence.” Phillips did not write this and according to him, he was asked to include it by a Motorola official. When he declined, it was added anyway.
- Om Ghandi was a similar researcher. Very highly thought of, he chaired the Institute for Electronics and Electrical Engineering and actually testified as an expert defense witness for Motorola in one of the earliest law suits against the industry. His subsequent research showed cell damage and he lost his positions and his funding. “Now there is no money for independent research at all,” he says.
There have been some studies that claim to show no harm from cell phone usage. One of the best known was conducted in Denmark in 2006. In that study, the looked at the health records of “private users” of cell phones – meaning those who used cell phones for private vs. business use – between the years 1982 and 1985 and then looked at their health records through the year 2002. They found no significant difference between cell phone users and non-cell phone users. Davis shows the flaws in that study: “Why did they not look at business users – those with far more frequent use of cell phones? Why lump all users together, putting those who might have made a single cell phone call a week with those who used the phones more often? Why stop collecting information on brain tumors in 2002? Use of cell phones has grown more than fourfold since then in many countries.”In addition, as Adlekofer has shown, the more recent 3G phone (and presumably the even more recent 4G) have a greater impact.
The response of the industry – denial, defunding, constantly calling for “more studies” – is similar to big business response to other health or environmental threats – from the effects of tobacco smoke to global warming/global climate disruption. In the case of cell phones, it is obvious that they are not going away.
While not mentioned in the book, the government bodies that are supposed to regulate the industry are, in fact, controlled by the industry. For instance, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, a former venture capitalist and former leader of different wireless trade groups. This is typical, so little can be expected from the government unless and until the health effects reach crisis proportions – that is, until there is a sea change in US politics.
However, research into how they could be made safer by shielding their antennas, for instance, is put on the back burner if it’s conducted at all. That is because the industry doesn’t want people to worry about possible health threats. Better to let them risk dying than lose profits. Even as it is, however, there are some very simple steps that people can take to lessen the threats. These include:
- Use the speaker phone or a head set. The strength of the rfr’s decreases more than exponentially with just the slightest distance between the ear and the phone. As far as a wireless (bluetooth) head set – blue tooth rays are far weaker than are the rfr’s of the phone itself.
- As much as possible, avoid using the phone in the car or any similar metal-enclosed area (like the elevator). The metal enclosure acts to bounce the cell phone radiation off of it. If you must use it regularly in a car, try to get an exterior antenna for the car to connect up to your phone.
- Do not carry the phone right next to your body. Some women, for instance, when they go jogging put the phone inside their sports bra. Unusual cancers, forming in an unusual location on the outside of the breast, right where they keep their cell phone have been found in women recently. Also, don’t carry your phone in your pocket. A holder outside the clothes is better and in a separate bag (purse, etc.) is even better.
- Pregnant Women: Don’t carry your cell phone next to the body. Duh!
- Men, keep your cell phone as far from your genitals as possible, especially if you are trying to make a baby. Studies show the rfr’s damage sperm cells.
- Don’t carry the phone with the antenna facing you. If you absolutely must keep it in your pocket, be sure to have the screen of the phone facing you since it is the antenna that emits the rfr’s..
- Texting is better than talking. As a member of the older generation, I have a prejudice against text messaging, but it turns out that texting creates weaker rfr’s than does talking. But, students: If you text during class, and you have to hide the phone in your lap, especially for boys this could be harmful! So if you’re doing so, then at least rest it on a book to shield your body from the phone!
- Don’t charge your cell phone by your head at night. There is some thought that cell phonerfr’s disturb sleep, and anyway, why not get away from the rays at least while you sleep? Do you use your cell phone for an alarm clock? Come on, people! Do you remember those things called an alarm clock?
- Do not – Do Not – let children under the age of 14 or 15 or so use a cell phone regularly! This is a really big one. A child’s brain and their skull are still developing and the rfr’s affect a child’s brain more. Also, since the skull provides some degree of shielding, it is even more unsafe for them to use a cell phone.
There is a tendency to ignore any danger that we can’t feel, hear, see or smell. But there is enough evidence that cell phones are dangerous. Every precaution possible should be taken when using one. And don’t overuse it. The life you preserve might be your own.
Categories: book reviews, Human health
I was at the Starry Plow discussion of Brexit. While I disagreed with the analysis you presented (and found the analysis presented by David Walters and Jeff Mackler to be a more accurate assessment of the situation), you at least made a case for your ideas based on what seemed to me some knowledge and experience in politics and on the left. For the most part all of you acknowledged the same facts (the fact of Brexit, the numbers voting for and against in various countries and areas and sub-groups, etc.).
As I had not heard of you before, I decided to look at your blog.
I was amazed.
I’ve rarely seen such truly appalling ignorance of science, of how science is conducted, of medicine, and of how truth vs falsehood is determined in issues of both science in general and clinical medicine in particular than on your blog.
I’m hard pressed to find a single factually correct sentence in the pretty near perfectly entirely incorrect advice and analysis on your blog. The material there is not merely outrageously false. It is often malignant… even lethal… in terms of what the effects would be on people who believed the outrageous lies in the drivel… the entirely quack medical advice… you have posted. Your blog is quite literally a hazard to public health… at least to those simpleminded and ignorant enough to believe what you have printed.
Nearly everything your stated about medicine and science is absurd falsehood, junk-science methodology, foolish and factually totally wrong . A lot of what you presented is driven in significant part by simplistic conspiracy theories… the sort of thing that the simple-minded substitute for a clear and accurate assessment of how class society operates. Your pernicious medical nonsense is also supported by the classic methods of the foolish and deceitful in science and medicine: Single case reports (often false in themselves), cherry picking of data, selective neglect of data, and of course numerous instances of plain outright lies.
Again, I know for a fact, being a professional, teacher, and student of medicine and science that not one of your medical rantings and ravings on that blog has a shred of truth in it. Worse, you demonstrate in those misguided posts not only that you are ignorant of science and medicine (which is no crime… if you never studied such or had to practice such, there’s limited reason for you to know about such) but that, ignorant of the subject, you have no hesitation to try to lecture others based on your totally nonsensical dogma and on-faith and ideology-driven beliefs, on a subject where truth is relatively easily and objectively established using scientific method and proper clinical study.
I’ll lay odds you never had to evaluate a clinical research study as to whether it was garbage / junk science, or whether it likely provided valuable clues as to how to practice medicine… in cases where the lives of others were dependent on your judgement. I have. I’ll lay odds you never had to sit down and review physical and medical studies by the dozens, again sorting out the probably valid and informative ones from the hopelessly flawed (or even deliberately faked) ones. You haven’t a clue how this is done. This is why you were so quick to believe liars, quacks, nut cases and even malignant fraudsters, and cite them as “authorities” for your bizarre misinformation. I’ll lay odds you never heard the phrase “Cochrane foundation”, which is arguably the most respected tool for physicians and scientists in trying to learn whether particular tests, therapies, drugs, etc. are safe and effective, or not. And to what degree. All evidence is that you have ZERO professional (or personal) valid training in math, physics, biochemistry, experimental design, or medicine. I’m an expert in this, more so even than most other doctors.
Your blog is a serious embarrassment to the left. It makes you and the left look like the new-age nut cases that some anti-communists like to accuse the left of being. Your blog stands in contradiction to the full history of the international Marxist movement that was steeped in science and rejected your sort of ideologically driven nonsense.
SHAME on you for being so full of yourself and ignorant as to try to teach when you have zero knowledge of the facts of the matter or of the subject in general.
That you give credence to the profiteering and cynical child murderer, Andrew Wakefield, and the entirely deceitful hack job “Vaxxed” shows you to be a dangerously irresponsible gullible fool. Like many avowed leftists ignorant of medicine and science, you throw out the baby (scientific, evidence-based medicine) with the bathwater of the criminal against humanity distortion of how medicine gets practiced and delivered due to the needs of a capitalist, profit-based system. You are unable able to tell the difference between the two. And end up supporting idiocy that literally is sickening and killing children.
The one quote from Stalin (the grave-digger of communism, as observed by comrade Trotsky) that I know is this: “Paper will take any ink you put on it”. Stalin sure was an authority on that subject! Your blog is a spectacular present-day proof of how correct Stalin was in saying that. Just BECAUSE you can put any idiocy into a blog does NOT mean you should.
I’ve identified as a scientist all my life, from early childhood, and have studied and practiced scientific method since age 4 or so (I’m now 65). I am a trained physician, too… an MD… and unlike with your experience, uncounted people’s lives have depended on their trust in MY knowing how to distinguish between junk science and invalid medical research and studies that by their nature DO suggest they provide honest information. I know how medicine is practiced, I know how it is researched, from extensive personal experience. Indeed, I have considerably more training in and experience with distinguishing between junk science and quack medicine (the stuff that you promote) and honest, effective science and medicine than do most doctors.
Oh… I almost forgot to mention… I’ve identified as a Marxist, a socialist, an anti-capitalist, and as a communist since age 18, and as also a Trotskyist since age 22. I was among the leadership of student strikes against the Vietnam War in the late 1960’s and very early 1970’s at Harvard. Over the last 8 years I’ve devoted a large fraction of my time, energy, and net worth to the creation and sharing of a digital library of socialist and communist publications in the USA in the period of 1912 to roughly 1977. My work is presented on Marxists.org
Some advice: If you have no knowledge or experience or training in subject, keep your mouth shut concerning it… or at least refrain from trying to teach others about it… until you do. This is not arrogant or elitist. It’s common sense, and a matter of respect for the health and well-being of others in general… and the working class in particular… when it relates to medical advice. In a rational society your blog would be considered criminally irresponsible. Of course, under capitalism, where profitable quackery is both legal and sanctioned, you have no fears of legal repercussions.
PLEASE stop embarrassing yourself and the left by pushing such outrageous lies, stupidity, and frankly malignant objective falsehoods as those on your blog in your rants and raves about such total nonsense as the dangers of electromagnetic fields, vaccination, etc. I will repeat: On the subject of vaccination one can properly call you an advocate of killing and sickening children. As such, you are to be held in extreme contempt for your ignorance.
Stick to talking about things you actually have knowledge of and experience with, please. Not things where your only sources are liars and quacks you happened to find on the Internet who happen to agree with your on-faith beliefs. In your comments on medicine and science on your blog I and all those I know educated in science and medicine agree: you come across as an ignorant, gullible clown As one incapable of rational thought. One unable to distinguish fact from the most absurd lies. As one who is intellectually entirely dishonest.
Perhaps it’s not too late for you to start learning about science and medicine are developed and practiced:
I can recommend, to educate yourself, some excellent books:
“Voodoo Science” by Robert Parks is one of my favorites. It’s entertaining, short, but superb in teaching people HOW fact is determined in science, and how to distinguish ignorant, paranoid conspiracy theory-promoting and superstitious nut cases (like yourself currently) from honest and intelligent scientists and doctors.
On alternative / complementary / integrative / holistic “medicine” (read QUACK and WORTHLESS medicine), the single best book (among many available) covering the subject remains “Trick or Treatment” by Ernest and Singh.
On the fraud that is “renewable energy” (solar and wind and tidal sources as proposed to substitute for fossil fuel) the best book I’ve found is “Solar Fraud” by Howard C. Hayden (who unfortunately is either politically right, or something of a libertarian… but this does not affect the quality of his scientific argument at all).
On nuclear power, there’s a truly outstanding short but remarkably nuanced and complete book out, translated from the Finnish (of all things!) titled “Climate Gamble / Is Anti-Nuclear Activism Endangering Our Future?” by Rauli Partanen and Janne M. Korhonen.
A very recent book with detailed, highly documented factual information is “After Fukushima: What We Now Know / A History of Nuclear Power and Radiation” by Andrew Daniels.
Of course, there are many other books on these subjects… I’ve read quite a lot of them… but the ones I recommended to you stand out as presenting their subjects especially well to those of only modest education in science and math and little or no formal training in medicine. For the well educated in science and medicine and math, there are other books I would also recommend, such as Dr. Ben Goldacre’s two books (“Bad Science” and “Bad Pharma”). Also outstanding is “Snake Oil Medicine” by Bausell. Following this book requires some background in science and math. It is by a medical statistician who was asked by acupuncturists to help them construct high quality studies of how to most honestly and accurately evaluate whether acupuncture had any therapeutic value. He did. Spoiler: The clear result: Acupuncture is shown beyond any reasonable doubt to be no better than a placebo. Not at all.
update: 9/14/2016 I was informed this evening you are at it again, embarasing yourself and socialism by plastering another 100.0% obvious junk science / quack study about electromagnetic radiation and health hazards. More deceitful hysteria for the ignorant and gullible. Pathetic!
Again… with your ignorant and gullible promotion of quack medicine, you are harming others. By associating such outrageous falsehood… such appalling ignorance of medicine and science… with socialism, you harm the reputation and credibility of revolutionary efforts generally.
By substituting ideology and true blind belief for scientific method and intellectual integrity, you provide to the world the obscene parody of communism that many think of as BEING communism when their only knowledge of communism is Stalinism.
Martin H. Goodman MD
Director, Riazanov Library digital archive projects
BA Harvard in Biochemistry
MD University of California at San Diego
Thank you, Dr. Goodman, for your fact-filled comments. They remind me of some of the political rantings I’ve seen from the sectarians, etc.
By the way, Marty, maybe you would be interested in also condemning Theo Colborn for her junk science. You can find a review of her writing here: https://oaklandsocialist.com/2013/08/06/book-review-our-stolen-future/
I look forward to another fact-filled condemnation.
John the facts that Dr. Goodman laid out are the standard almost universal medical consensus. The ultimate case study are the 3 billion or so humans that have used cell phones for the last 2 decades with out an iota increase in brain or other cancers attributed to them. in the 6 years that this essay was written, nothing has changed and the evidence that any harm comes from cell phone usage getting thinner all the time.
The flat out assertions you make, David, ignore the claims made in this book, the most important of which, in my opinion, is that all the studies that were funded directly or indirectly by the industry found no effect and all those that were independently funded found the opposite.