Precautionary Warnings for Cellphones

Although a recent large study out of Denmark claims there is no link between cancer and cellphones, I do not agree.

In May an international panel of experts from 14 countries, including the United States, working for the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cell phone use as a ‘possible human carcinogen.’

This ominous warning is particularly troubling when you consider the possible long-term effects cell phone radiation has on children and teenagers.

Dr. Joel M. Moskowitz, a researcher based at the University of California, Berkeley and the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the School of Public Health, has become a prominent voice questioning the current cell phone regulations and is calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish higher standards.

In a 2010 op-ed, Moskowitz argued other countries are doing a better job and advocated the federal government amp up the precautionary warnings and do more to help consumers reduce cell phone radiation exposure.

We should address this issue proactively even if we do not fully understand its magnitude. Our government has faced similar public health threats in the past. In 1965, although there was no scientific
consensus about the harmful effects of cigarettes, Congress required a precautionary warning label on cigarette packages: “Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” More specific warnings were not required until 1984: “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.”

Should we have waited 19 years until absolutely certain before we informed the public about these risks?

Although more research on cell phone radiation is needed, we cannot afford to wait. There are 285 million cell phones in use in this country, and two-thirds of children over the age of seven use them. Manufacturers bury the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) information – the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone –within their owner’s manuals, along with safety instructions to keep your phone up to an inch away from your body.

Keep in mind we are no longer using cell phones just for communicating important or urgent information.

More often than not they are being used for our entertainment, a multimedia device. Along with becoming an almost indispensable social connector, today’s smartphones allows users to browse the Internet, listen to music, take pictures, record videos, play games and even watch full length movies.

The wireless industry has aggressively opposed state and local government’s labeling law efforts that would require retailers to clearly display SAR for every model sold. Information we clearly have the right to know.

The European Environmental Agency has already suggested the health risks associated with cell phones may become as serious as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline.

“More recently, 11 nations and the European Union have issued precautionary warnings. It is time for our government to require health warnings and publicize simple steps to reduce the health risks of cell phone use,” Moskowitz told me recently.

Here are Moskowitz’s suggestions:

• Turn off your phone when not using.

• Never put the phone to your ear - use a headset, especially a corded device, or other hands-free method such as a speakerphone or text.

• Keep away from the head, eyes, salivary glands and reproductive organs – never in pants pockets.

• Use by pregnant women, children and teenagers should be extremely limited.

• Avoid using when reception is poor

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health CenterTM at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children’s health issues, and is a contributor to For more information go to