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Listen up.

Are cell phones safe? New studies produce conflicting results.

With more than 97 million cell phone users in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  and more signing up daily, the issue of cell phone safety isn't likely to fade soon. The reason for the concern is that cell phones emit low levels of radio frequency or electromagnetic waves--in a word, radiation.

The word radiation holds an unpleasant connotation for most people, says Robert L. Wolke, Ph.D., a nuclear chemist Noun 1. nuclear chemist - a chemist who specializes in nuclear chemistry

chemist - a scientist who specializes in chemistry
 and professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. And as cell phone use increases, so does the debate about the risk of cancer from radiation. Recent studies have done nothing to abate abate v. to do away with a problem, such as a public or private nuisance or some structure built contrary to public policy. This can include dikes which illegally direct water onto a neighbors property, high volume noise from a rock band or a factory, an improvement  the concern about the link between the two.

However, a new study is more conclusive than previous ones. "Cellular Telephones and Cancer--a Nationwide Cohort Study in Denmark" in the February 7, 2001, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that cell phone users are not more likely to suffer brain or nervous system cancers.

What makes this study more credible than past studies is that the Danish Cancer Registry tracks every citizen who gets cancer, using personal identification numbers assigned to each Dane at birth. Scientists used the personal ID numbers to match phone users with the registry's cancer records through the end of 1996. Other studies, such as one in the New England Journal of Medicine The New England Journal of Medicine (New Engl J Med or NEJM) is an English-language peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Massachusetts Medical Society. It is one of the most popular and widely-read peer-reviewed general medical journals in the world.  and another in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association is an international peer-reviewed general medical journal, published 48 times per year by the American Medical Association. JAMA is the most widely circulated medical journal in the world.  did not find an association between brain cancer and cell phone use.

But a German study did find a link between cell phones and cancer of the inner eye. Additionally, lab research by University of Washington Professor Henry Lai has linked cell phone radiation to long-term memory long-term memory
Abbr. LTM The phase of the memory process considered the permanent storehouse of retained information.

long-term memory 
 loss in lab rats.

With such conflicting information, it's safe to say that when it comes to answers, the jury is still out. However, that hasn't stopped a host of vendors from capitalizing on consumers' fears. A cottage industry of earphones and radiation shields to cover the earpiece has risen out of consumer concerns. The latter solution is doubtful, however, since radiation is emitted from the antenna (for a look at these products and their claims, see "Bad for Your Health," Techwatch, March 2000).


"Electromagnetic radiation electromagnetic radiation, energy radiated in the form of a wave as a result of the motion of electric charges. A moving charge gives rise to a magnetic field, and if the motion is changing (accelerated), then the magnetic field varies and in turn produces an  is pure energy that travels through space at the speed of light," Wolke explains. There are many different types of radiation. Many household items emit some form of radiation, from radios and televisions to microwave ovens, cordless phones and cell phones.

The difference between microwave ovens and cell phones is that the radiation is enclosed in a microwave and has no way to get out, says Wolke. Cell phones emit radiation through the antenna. Cordless phones also emit radiation, but the risk is lower, explains Ed Mantiply, a physical scientist with the Federal Communications Commission Federal Communications Commission (FCC), independent executive agency of the U.S. government established in 1934 to regulate interstate and foreign communications in the public interest.  (

The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) is a U.S. organization which seeks to formulate and widely disseminate information, guidance and recommendations on radiation protection and measurements which represent the consensus of leading scientific  set the Specific Absorption Rate Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is a measure of the rate at which radio frequency (RF) energy is absorbed by the body when exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic field. The most common use is in relation to cellular telephones.  (SAR (Segmentation And Reassembly) The protocol that converts data to cells for transmission over an ATM network. It is the lower part of the ATM Adaption Layer (AAL), which is responsible for the entire operation. See AAL.

SAR - segmentation and reassembly
) at 1.6 for cell phones, which is the number the FCC has used since 1996. "The standards were set before cell phones existed," says Mantiply. It's lower than the level of two, set in Europe.


One suggestion for cutting down on radiation exposure is to use a headset and hold the phone away from your body. The farther you are from the phone's antenna, the less exposure to radiation. That's why car cellular phones with an antenna placed on the outside of the car are considered much safer (unless you're dialing while driving--which is another issue altogether).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration

FDA, See Food and Drug Administration.

FDA, the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration.
) has the authority to take action if mobile phones are shown to emit hazardous levels of radiation, but existing scientific data has not warranted that. The FDA did recommend that phone manufacturers take several steps to ensure safety, such as supporting research; designing safer phones; and providing users with accurate and timely information.

Until then, try using your phone less frequently and for shorter durations. You can check your phone's SAR level at
How safe is your phone?

                          SAR Level
Cell Phone              Analog/Digital

Motorola 7860 Startac     0.54/0.24
Nokia 8260                1.14/0.95
Qualcomm QCP-2760         1.33/1.15
Samsung SCH-3500          1.38/0.67

Source: (
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:health risks of cellular telephones
Author:Gair, Cristina
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
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