Safer cell phone use

Last week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an interesting report on cell phone radiation. After a 10-month long study, scientists at EWG found that cell phones do indeed release radiation and this radiation may be linked to possible cancer risks. So the news for cell phone users (and really that means just about everyone) is not good.

Cell Phone
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Does this mean that we should all give up our cell phones? Of course that’s not practical for most people, but because many studies of suggest that frequent cell phone use can lead to an increased risk for brain and mouth tumors, we should try to limit our cell phone radiation exposure as much as possible.

I encourage you first to download and read EWG’s guide to safer cell phones. There are many more details found there, but here is a quick summary of EWG’s recommendations for safer cell phone use:

  • Buy a low-radiation phone – You can look up your phone on EWG’s buyer’s guide. If the radiation level of your phone is high, you may want to consider replacing your phone with one that emits a lower level. I was sad to find that my beloved iPhone does not rate well in EWG’s guide – it has a relatively high amount of radiation. But, I can’t even think about living life without it, so, instead, I’m going to try to limit exposure by implementing some of the other suggestions from EWG’s report.

  • Use a headset or speaker – Headsets emit much less radiation than phones. You can choose either wired or wireless – experts are split on which is safer – choose whichever works best for you. Some wireless headsets emit continuous, low-level radiation, so it is best to take yours off your ear when you're not on a call. As an added bonus, you won’t be embarrassed because you’ve been walking around all day and forgot your blinking blue tooth is still attached to your ear (unless you like that look of course). You can also talk on your phone in speaker mode, which reduces radiation to the head.

  • Listen more and talk less – Your phone emits radiation when you talk or text outgoing messages, but not when you're receiving messages.

  • Hold your phone away from your body – Keeping your phone away from your body when you're talking (with headset or speaker), not against your ear, in a pocket, or on your belt where soft body tissues absorb radiation.

  • Text more and talk less – If you are the parent of a teenager, this is probably already your primary form of communication. For those who have not yet embraced texting, consider it. Texting is convenient and your phones use less power (therefore less radiation) to send text messages than phone calls. Also keep in mind that when you are texting, the phone is away from you so less radiation is close to your head. Of course, the one exception is if you are in a car. Texting or emailing while driving is not safe (and actually illegal in California). It’s better to talk on speaker or on your headset.

  • If you have a poor signal, stay off the phone – Fewer signal bars on your phone means that it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower. Make and take calls when your phone has a strong signal and avoid calling when the signal is weak. Also, you won’t annoy callers by dropping the call and having to call back over and over.

  • Limit cell phone use for children – Okay, this is scary – EWG study shows that young children’s brains absorb twice the cell phone radiation as an adult’s. So it’s better to wait on cell phones for kids as long as you possibly can – or until you can’t stand the wining anymore. Even then, limit cell phone talking for kids for emergencies only.

  • Skip the “radiation shield” – Radiation shields (antenna caps or keypad covers) and other radiation blocking devices actually do the opposite of what you may be purchasing them for. In fact, they reduce the connection quality of your phone, making it transmit at a higher power – therefore, higher radiation. So save your money and pass on any such devices that claim to lower the radiation level of your phone.

So, with a few modifications, cell phones can be used more safely. They are a way of life and one that we have become accustomed to, but they are not without their potential dangers. Therefore, like most things, good sense and moderation is the key.

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