goop Label: A new edition unveiled monthly.
Shop the September collection »

Do

Why We Need More Research on Cell Phone Safety

Dr. David Carpenter is the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany, and the author of the Bioinitiative Report, one of the very few publications to evaluate the safety concerns associated with cell phones. He received his degree at Harvard Medical School and has decades of experience studying public health and environmental contaminants, with more than 360 peer-reviewed articles bearing his name. For two other opinions on the same subject, look here: Are Cell Phones and WiFi Signals Toxic?

A Q&A with Dr. David Carpenter

Q

What kind of radiation are we exposed to when we use a cell phone, and why is it dangerous?

A

We are exposed to radiofrequency radiation. We don’t know exactly how it causes harm, but we do know that long-term extensive use of cell phones increases the risk of cancer, and also alters brain metabolism (a.k.a. the brain’s energy supply—when compromised, it slows the brain down; when lost, the brain dies completely). Clearly the radiation gets into the brain, and the overall evidence indicates that it causes cancer.

Q

What is the difference between radiation from cell phones, radiation from WiFi signals, and radiation from regular electricity? Are they the same? Equally dangerous?

A

The strong evidence is that cell phone use results in brain cancer and the extra-low frequency electromagnetic fields from regular electricity increase risk of childhood leukemia when children have excessive exposure. Each of these sources of EMF differs somewhat in frequency, low frequency (60 HZ) for electricity and high frequencies over quite a range for cell phones, WiFi, smart meters, radar etc. Each of them also uses a base frequency, but often given in bursts or pulses. At present, it isn’t possible to answer the question if they are equally dangerous. My strong suspicion is that they are all dangerous and that it is some characteristic other than the frequency that is most important.

Q

What is electro-sensitivity and how can I tell if I have it? Are some people predisposed to electro-sensitivity?

A

Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is a syndrome where individuals suffer from pain, especially headaches, mental “brain fog,” tingling, and sharp shooting pains. It often, but not always, results from a sudden excessive exposure to either radiofrequency or ordinary electricity type exposures. There is debate as to what percentage of the population has EHS, but it is somewhere between 2-10%. Some people are very disabled with EHS, and it is likely that many people have EHS without having recognized what causes their symptoms. There are also studies reporting that people that say they have EHS often cannot distinguish when they are exposed and not-exposed in a blinded situation.

Q

You’ve explained many times that adequate research on this topic is lacking. Can you give an abbreviated version of the state of the field?

A

There is essentially no funding for this sort of research in the United States, and only a little in Europe or Asia. A major problem is that the engineering and physics communities have a statement of faith that there can be no biological effects of EMFs that do not cause tissue heating. These people dominate national and international EMF committees, and totally ignore the hundreds of publications showing biological and harmful effects. These national and international committees really do make statements that discourage research.

Q

It seems like it would be incredibly difficult to study exposure since everyone is exposed to all different kinds of electromagnetic radiation in so many different areas of their lives. Is it possible to stage a scientifically sound study on this topic?

A

It is definitely difficult. There are accurate meters available now that individuals can wear, but certainly over periods of years we have different exposures as we move around through our environment, so exposure assessment is a very difficult issue.

Q

Cell phones are becoming essential for everyday productivity—is the precautionary principle justified when it can be so inconvenient to reduce exposure? Do corded headsets and Bluetooth protect you from radiation?

A

It is not necessary to stop using your cell phone, and one can do so without any significant exposure. Using a headset will greatly reduce exposure because the radiation falls off rapidly with distance—so hold the phone on your desk. A Bluetooth will protect your head, but if you have the active cell phone on your belt or in your bra you only expose other parts of your body. There is some information on cell phones in bras and increased risk of breast cancer, although I’m not aware of studies on GI or prostate cancer. The precautionary principle is certainly justified, even if only to encourage folks to not spend long hours on their cell phone.

Q

Why is WiFi in schools a concern? Can it be avoided without disadvantaging our children in other ways—or do you believe that there is some version of WiFi that could theoretically be safe?

A

A WiFi computer classroom, where 30 kids are on wireless laptops all receiving from one large router, will result is significant exposure to everyone in the room. On the other hand, a hard-wired classroom will have no excessive exposure. Certainly every child needs access to the internet, but this does not have to be via a wireless access! No school should use WiFi as children are particularly vulnerable to radiofrequency radiation.

Q

Is your phone dangerous when you’re not talking on it? Is it dangerous to sleep with or near your phone or use through Bluetooth in a car?

A

A cell phone is absolutely dangerous when you’re not talking on it. Whenever the phone is on it will be releasing radiofrequency radiation. The only solution is to either turn it off or, at least, keep it at a distance from the body. A hands-free cell phone in a car is not necessarily dangerous, especially if your body is removed from the cell phone, but be wary of the ability of the metal in the car to reflect radiation.

You may also like