After numerous studies over two decades, there is no convincing evidence that cellphone use increases the risk of cancer. The consensus within the medical profession is that the health effects of regular cell phone use are quite small, if they exist at all. Some studies even show health benefits.
But that didn’t stop the California Department of Public Health last week from issuing their Guidance on How to Reduce Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy from Cell Phones. To be fair, they were forced to by a CA State Judge who ruled in favor of a UC Berkeley conspiracy theorist named Joel Moskowitz who had sued for release of such guidelines.
95% of Americans own a cell phone. Children now get their first cell phone around age 10, and most millennials keep their phones on or near them most of the day, even when they sleep.
So it would seem relevant to know whether or not it could be dangerous. But after years of study, the International Agency for Research on Cancer at the World Health Organization only classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as ‘possibly’ carcinogenic. Conspiracy theorists got more excited about that than the medical community.
Cellphones send and receive radio wave signals to and from cellphone towers. These signals are a form of electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RF) energy, like that generated by TV and radio transmitters. When a phone sends signals to a tower, the RF energy goes from the phone’s antenna out in all directions, including into the head and body of the person using the phone.
Unlike ionizing radiation like gamma rays, neutrons and alpha particles, RF does not have enough energy to split chemical bonds, such as those in compounds like DNA in our cells, which can cause cancer at really high doses.
Some think that, while RF can’t split bonds, it might heat up cells enough to cause damage. But our bodies are really good at heat regulation so you’d have to get an awful lot of dose to do anything, like put your head in a microwave oven, and there is no evidence this happens with cell phones.
(This type of RF heating is quite different from the hot phones that recently spontaneously began burning and were recalled. That was from the batteries overheating)
With years of study and billions of people using cell phones, the fact that we have no real evidence that cellphone use causes cancer means there is little need to worry about it. It’s one of those phantom worries, like low levels of radiation, that is so far below the noise of everyday risks that it’s foolish to spend any effort or money trying to guard against it. Especially since you’ll end up not spending that effort and money addressing real risks – like air pollution, eating too many carbs or driving while texting.
If holding the cell phone to your head is the real vector, then just put it on speaker or facetime, or use the hands-free option in your car. I always put my calls on speaker anyway, not for this reason, but because my old arms get tired.
Or you could just text instead…but not while driving.
Dr. James Conca is an expert on energy, nuclear and dirty bombs, a planetary geologist, and a professional speaker. Follow him on Twitter @jimconca and see his book at Amazon.com