Should we be concerned about radiation from our cell phones (which we carry with us everywhere) and our Wi-Fi (which is nearly ubiquitous these days)?
A review of recent studies shows reasons for caution, pointing to evidence which demonstrates that children absorb more microwave radiation (MWR) than adults. The authors also note the shortcomings in current federal regulatory policy in regard to MWR exposure.
The study, published in the Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure, says that children are at greater risk because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. The younger the child, the greater the risk; fetuses are particularly vulnerable to MWR.
To those who follow this issue, the potential dangers of MWR-exposure are nothing new. The UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer calls MWR a class 2B carcinogen, which means it possibly causes cancer in humans—it’s in the same category as lead, chloroform, gasoline fumes, and the pesticide DDT. Most of the research concerns a specific type of MWR: the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF/EMF) given off by radios, televisions, microwave ovens, cell phones and Wi-Fi, and the smart meters installed in your home by the utility company.
As we noted in 2011, there have been multiple reports, mostly out of Europe’s premier research institutions, of cell phone use being linked to brain damage, early-onset Alzheimer’s, senility, DNA damage, and even sperm die-offs. But after this new study on the MWR dangers to young children, concern is mounting about the growing number of children’s toys that use Wi-Fi technology—and that’s not counting the number of kids who play with tablets or carry cell phones these days.
The study also found that adults are at a lower, but still significant, risk, echoing the findings of a 2013 case study from a team of breast cancer surgeons and pathologists who raised the possibility that nonionizing radiation from cell phone EMF exposures caused multifocal invasive breast cancer in four young women. These women, all between the ages of 21 and 39, regularly carried their smartphones directly against their breasts in their bras for up to ten hours a day, for several years. All four developed tumors in areas of their breasts immediately underlying the phones. All four had no family history of breast cancer, tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2, and had no other known breast cancer risks. The pathology of all four cases shows striking similarities in the tumor composition.
The article concludes with this striking warning: “The risk to children and adolescent from exposure to microwave radiating devices is considerable. Adults have a smaller but very real risk, as well.”
Given the potential dangers of long-term exposure to MWR and the near-ubiquity of cell phones and Wi-Fi devices in our society, you might think that significant steps would be taken at the policy level to adequately address these dangers. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.
Rather than erring on the side of caution, the US seems to be moving in the opposite direction. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the government body responsible for regulating MWR exposure, has stated that equipping schools with Wi-Fi is a national priority; the agency plans to invest an additional $2 billion in broadband service for schools and libraries by the end of the year.
The study also notes that exposure limits in the US are inadequate. Exposure limits were set by the FCC in the 1990s, before the plethora of scientific studies showing cancer risks at levels well below the current legal exposure limit. Further, the FCC’s exposure limits are based entirely on short-term exposures, with no consideration of long-term exposures. We now have an abundance of data showing just how dangerous MWR may be.
Government warnings have been issued, but according to Forbes, most of the public is unaware of such warnings. Cell phone manual warnings make clear that an overexposure problem exists—but that is to limit legal liability, and besides, who reads cell phone manuals? Furthermore, FCC regulations state that devices should be tested under normal operating conditions—yet many MWR products, including cell phones and laptops, usually measure exposure when the device is held 20 centimeters (a little less than 8 inches) from the body. People place laptops on their laps and keep cell phones in receiving mode (rather than the presumably safe airplane mode) in their pockets and bras all the time. Most people hold their cell phones to their heads to talk, rather than using speakerphone or a headset.
Clearly, something needs to be done. The answer isn’t to throw away our cell phones and smash our wireless routers, but in our increasingly tech-intensive world, we need to do a better job of evaluating the risks of moving further and further away from nature.
At the policy level, the FCC should update its standards on MWR exposure and test products based on how they are actually used. Government officials in the US could also follow the proactive approach taken by officials in other countries to warn and protect their citizens. Belgium’s Public Health Minister, for instance, banned cell phone sales for children under seven years old. The Australian government produced a fact sheet educating citizens on how they could reduce their exposure from wireless devices. The FCC and other related agencies should work to make sure that people are aware of the possible dangers of MWR exposure.
If you are concerned about MWR exposure, there are some simple steps that you can take in your home to protect your family:
- Because of particular dangers to the fetus, pregnant women should avoid exposing their fetus to MWR.
- Avoid using baby monitors on cribs.
- Women and girls should avoid putting cell phones in their bras.
- Hold cell phones 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) away from your ear to limit exposure—that is, use the speakerphone function or else headphones with a microphone.
- When not in use, try not to keep your phone on your person. A cell phone is always radiating unless it’s turned off.
- Teach kids to limit cell phone use when they can, and to use alternatives like landlines and Skype, which don’t emit MWR.
- Wi-Fi routers should be placed where people, especially children, spend the least amount of time.
- Consider hardwiring your computers to the modem via Ethernet instead of using Wi-Fi (that’s what we do at the ANH-USA offices).
- Opt-out of installing smart meters in your home (though this may be difficult in some states).
In response to public and governmental concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) has established the International Electromagnetic Fields Project to assess the scientific evidence of possible adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields. WHO will conduct a formal risk assessment of all studied health outcomes from RF fields exposure by 2016.
Dr. Mercola, in a powerful article on RF/EMF dangers, reported an interesting suggestion from a panel of experts: EMF-free zones where children, pregnant women (or those hoping to conceive), and others sensitive to EMFs, can be protected. It’s an excellent first step for protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.
Considering how much wireless technology and other MWR-emitting devices have been woven into our everyday lives, it’s important to act now to protect our family and loved ones.