Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cell Phones, Radiation and our Health

*Updated post
Do you remember what cell phones were like 10 years ago? My mom’s first cell phone was about the size of a brick and weighed about that much. Today, phones have speaker phone, touch-screens, fast internet browsing and email. The downside to all of this amazing cell phone technology is that many users are being exposed to the highest legal amount of radiation possible.

How much radiation exposure is really safe? In the short-term, studies on cell phone usage have found no increased risk for cancer. However, in cell phone usage studies among people who used a cell phone for longer than 10 years, researchers have found an increased risk of developing cancers on the side of the brain where you hold your cell phone the most.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has posted on their website cell phones with the worst and best radiation emissions. If you’re in the market for a smartphone with the lowest radiation possible, check out the Blackberry Storm 9530 (Verizon) or the LG Shine II (AT&T). Users should be cautious of the Blackberry 8820 (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) as well as the Palm Pixi (Sprint).

Even if you’re not in the market for a new phone, here are a few easy tips from the EWG's Guide to Safe Cell Phone Usage to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation:

Use a headset or a speaker. My beloved Blackberry came with a headset in the box. Even though I mainly use the headphones for my iPod, I also plug them into my phone from time to time, when I am too lazy to hold the phone to my ear. Who knew it could actually be good for me?

Choose texting over talking. This is also an easy one. I’m a fan of texting my friends to see how they’re doing or letting someone know when I am running late. With most cell phone carriers offering low-cost unlimited texting plans, you can txt ur way 2 lower radation exposure. :-)

Stay off the phone when your signal is low. When you have a weak signal, your phone emits more radiation to find a tower. Try to only use your phone when its signal is at its best.

According to CNN, the video that we posted yesterday is a hoax. Thankfully, our cell phones cannot double as popcorn kettles. But if you are concerned about the health risks with cell phone usage, speak out and tell the FCC and the FDA to modernize their cell phone radiation standards.

*June 1, 2011 update: This is back in the news again, and everyone seems to be covering it. There's no real new news to be had, but see what's being said via the Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

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