Cellphones Carcinogenic? Solutions, Please!

Consumers won't give up certain things no matter how hard governments, regulators, and industry bodies try. For instance, cigarette smoking “is dangerous to your health,” as we all know, but millions of units of this “dangerous” substance are consumed worldwide each day. Illegal drug use is a huge problem, too, despite weighty evidence of the dangerous effects of these banned substances on the health and finances of users.

Then there are the “soft” dangers; things that are not banned but which research indicate could do damage to our health. In this group are food and drink products like red wine (if you imbibe, which I do) or Texas steak (well done, please!). To this group of consumer products you can add mobile communication devices, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO, in conjunction with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has “classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.” Read the full report here, if you dare.

That's some frightening stuff, but the WHO press release, issued on May 31, 2011, generated some buzz and quite as quickly vanished from the headlines. Why? Billions of people could be at risk, so why wasn't there a major outcry following the release of this report?

Perhaps my personal experience could help explain the apathy. I was an early user of mobile phones and, since I was frequently traveling by road, bought “handsfree” accessories to reduce distractions behind the wheel. This was long before my state and numerous others began enacting and enforcing laws banning drivers from holding their phones while driving. I must admit to having experienced some headache with certain Bluetooth earpieces but after trying a few others, I settled on one that works fine. I am not averse to using a corded handsfree set either.

I respect the WHO and won't argue with the 31 scientists who worked on its latest report. Just don't try to take my cellphone from me. It's my primary means of communication and a significant part of my wardrobe. It stays attached on my belt all day long and comes off only to go on a charger before bed time. I am a mobile phone junky! I am surrounded by RF emitting devices. I have a wireless network at home, a wireless printer, wireless/cordless land-line phones, a wireless broadband card, and I am still searching for the perfect — for me — tablet PC, which, of course, would be wireless.

Is all this stuff killing me? Please don't make me think like that. I started my career in journalism writing stories on a typewriter, and, for all its utility, I may be able to do without even a computer (perhaps). But no mobile phone? I hold conference calls on the road — and get regularly ribbed by EBN director Bob Dumas for talking while cruising around in “one of those expensive convertibles” (not true, can't afford one). I fire up my computer and hook up to the Web at numerous service stations on the New Jersey Turnpike. I get my emails via a BlackBerry phone.

The WHO report is not going to make me give up this lifestyle. Let's admit it, this won't move the needle with billions of other mobile phone users worldwide either. So, let's do the next best thing, or what we do best in the high-tech world. Rather than continue the argument about whether or not radio frequency electromagnetic fields are dangerous to human health, let's take this WHO result and find solutions to the problem.

How can we reduce emissions and make this product safer; what kind of accessories should users be encouraged to adopt; and how do we ensure reports like this don't get ignored by folks like me who may (dumbly) think they can dodge problems associated with high-tech products?

Solutions, please.

24 comments on “Cellphones Carcinogenic? Solutions, Please!

  1. Parser
    June 3, 2011

    Emitted power of RF signal is the cause to suspect carcinogenic properties. RF energy affecting living tissue depends on power level and distance. Cell phones adopted power level variation scheme as a mean to save battery energy at the same time lowering power dissipated in tissue. If you look at receiving power level indicator and there is good reception means little power emitted will reach the tower. Cell phone will adjust this power itself.

    Second power emitted in time is the energy; so if you have to keep a cell phone to your ear make this conversation short and switch to Bluetooth or speakerphone and keep the phone at distance. Every inch of distance lowers energy incident by square of distance. Bluetooth devices have very low power emission compare to tower communication transceiver. Wi-Fi transceiver is also short distance and has a low power with spread spectrum technology making the tissue-heating problem easily corrected by blood flow just like normal variations of surrounding temperature. These remedies are not verifiable, but just common sense. 

  2. mfbertozzi
    June 3, 2011

    WHO report is a new one about RF / cellulars' usage risks in terms of health impact. It is quite curious that several studies before have sustained the opposite. In addition, even RF impact on health is definitely important to consider, maybe other risks are so serious, for example plastic drama for oceans or power batteries digest and so on. I was wondering why similar rumors are not in place for them.

  3. Ariella
    June 3, 2011

    Bolaji, I don't really have a solution. I do recall hearing theories about the damage caused by cell phones already years ago. I was a very late adopters of mobile phones and I use mine rarely. I do, however, try to remember to take it with me in case there is an emergency involving my family or in case there is a problem with my car on the road. But sometimes I will not take it along on a walk or bike ride because I really do not feel as attached to the phone as most people do.

    But Bolaji, in your post you indicate that red wine is bad for you. I thought that studies indicates a glass a day is good for your heart. Grape juice also has that health benefit (without the alcohol, of course) as the bottles proudly proclaim.

    Look, there are so many risk factors that it is virtually impossible to avoid them all. Going out in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer.   Almost everything out there can kill you, but then a person may just get killed in a freak accident. You could be the healthiest person on earth, but if a tornado strikes your area, and you are crushed by a tree, that doesn't help you. 

    Everything boils down to risk/benefit ratio. If the benefits of a cell phone for your outweigh the potential risk, then you can hold on to it. 


  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 3, 2011

    Parser's Bluetooth solution sounds great. I'm more like Ariella–I only use my cell phone when absolutely necessary, although I do understand people like Bolaji who are literally joined at the hip with their mobile. So far, it's still a matter of preference, although something like proof of carcinogens could take the choice away and become a matter or regulation, warning labels (such as those on cigarettes) or worse. Banning things that are bad for you–like trans fats–is the popular approach these days, rather than trusting consumers to make the right choices for their health. 

  5. Nemos
    June 3, 2011

    We cant square the circle, If we dont like the results and we want to risk our health is another story.

    The solutions must be giving from the mobile/Rf/wireless device manufactures.Maybe they must reduce the SAR per device more quickly and rapidly.

    An immediately solution to protect ourselves is to use H/F and reducing the total talk time per date.

  6. eemom
    June 3, 2011

    I am more in Bolaji's camp.  Everything wireless all the time.  I use my cell phone constantly for texting, email, GPS, web browsing etc. It is always by my side, in my purse, in my car, sometimes even by my bedside if I was texting too late into the night.  I have everything wireless in my home (including my Tivo).  I don't think the answer is how we can use the technology less – lets face it, that problem will get much bigger with new generations, its how can we adapt the technology to make it safer for such wide and prevalent use.  I don't have the answer either, but if I did, I'm sure I'd be a lot richer.

  7. itguyphil
    June 3, 2011

    The problem is, I don't think those that SHOULD know know what the solutions are. It usually takes years of research and data points for researchers to come to a conclusion that something is 'bad' for us. Then solutions begin to get churned out. I am not sure we've reached that point yet with wireless (electromagnetic frequencies, etc).

  8. prabhakar_deosthali
    June 4, 2011

    Whether such reports sound and alarm bells to the heavy users or not is debatable but one thing is for sure that the money-hungry lawers will definitely use such reports to file the lawsuits against mobile companies to claim millions of dollars in damages to the lives of their carelss clients who did not heed to such potential dangers, the way the cases are filed for the victims of lung cancer due to heavy smoking.

  9. harleyrider1778
    June 4, 2011


    Junk studies are junk studies

    Dr. Jonathan Samet, Chairman of the IARC, stated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.” 

    This same nutcase samet is the father of many a junk science study and a major ring leader in so many shake downs of industry its pathetic and it appears the cell phone carriers didnt contribut to the WORLD HEALTH ORGINIZATION so now we see this study come out after all previous studies say nope it aint causing cancer….

    WHO funding for the next two years is currently $3 billion short of its roughly $4 billion goal, most of which comes from the United States and other developed Western countries. 

    Read more:


    Samet and the second hand smoke junk science!

    And, all their so-called “independent” reports were ring-led by the same guy, Jonathan M. Samet, including the Surgeon General Reports, the EPA report, the IARC report, and the ASHRAE report, and he's now the chairman of the FDA Committee on Tobacco. He and his politically privileged clique exclude all the REAL scientists from their echo chamber. That's how they make their reports “unanimous!”

    The IARC and samet again:

    They have created a fear that is based on nothing’’
    World-renowned pulmonologist, president of the prestigious Research Institute Necker for the last decade, Professor Philippe Even, now retired, tells us that he’s convinced of the absence of harm from passive smoking. A shocking interview.

    The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

    Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor's note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It's everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

  10. harleyrider1778
    June 4, 2011

    Warning: junk reporting of junk science threatens individual freedom
    Friday May 6, 2011
    Another day another scary health study, says Brian Monteith. But that’s the way of the bully state: junk science, junk reporting followed by junk laws.

  11. DataCrunch
    June 4, 2011

    I recall seeing a YouTube video a couple of years ago where it showed popcorn kernels next to a few cell phones; the cell phone rang and the kernels popped.  I believe this video was shortly proved to be a hoax, but I have been close to many a computer monitor when my cell phone has rung and I witness the monitor display picture becoming fuzzy and making a noise.   Like Bolaji, I am glued to my electronics and I prefer to use a corded headset whenever possible.  Let’s hope these RF emitting devices can be improved in the very near future to become safer…please.

  12. harleyrider1778
    June 4, 2011

    I have worked on radar for 30 years electronic warfare, radar ranges/microwave ovens operate at 2450 mghz at 500 to 1000 watts in order to cook….a cell phone emits 1/4 watt……….you cant cook a molecule at that power level!

    Junk science is junk science!

  13. Hardcore
    June 4, 2011

    There are a number of issues with mobile phones,  it is always a good Idea to keep your phone away from other computing equipment, certainly anything that has a disk drive.

    As most people are aware when a phone communicates with the tower you can pickup a “beep-biip-bip-bip” sound on any local audio device -phone-tv-monitor-Ipod etc.

    I did a test a few years ago with a Seagate disk drive and my  Nokia phone, specifically I set up the disk drive to write out data, then triggered the phone to ring,  when close enough the phone was able to disrupt the embedded CPU in the disk drive causing data to be written erroneously, which is what was actually completely expected.

    So the first rule is do not keep your mobile near any datastorage systems of value, since they can lead to data corruption when the device is writing data.

    Secondly, women who use the phone for the same time as a man are at less of a risk, since most women pack the phone into their hand bags, keeping a mobile phone close to the groin region (belt clip), has been shown in a number of studies to lower sperm counts.

    Keeping a phone around your neck or in your top pocket is highly risky, due to a number of incidents with exploding batteries.

    On the electromagnetic radiation risk, a mobile phone has now been given the same rating as drinking coffee, I like coffee more than I use my mobile phone, so I guess the coffee is going to get me before my Nokia does.



  14. harleyrider1778
    June 5, 2011

    Dr. Paul G. Pagnini

    When talking about such a serious issue as whether or not cell phone use may possibly cause brain tumors it is imperative that we stick to the facts and do not overstate them. The IARC panel has not yet published its rationale for its recent decision. The publication is scheduled for July 1, 2011 in Lancet. We do know that they reviewed the literature to date, including 4 studies that have not yet been published, but have been accepted for publication in peer reviewed journals. The highly mentioned 40% increased “risk” of developing a glioma in heavy, long term users, comes from the controversial Interphone Study published a year ago. The authors of this study conceded that statistical Biases and errors limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn from these analyses and prevent a causal interpretation. In fact it was the publication of this study one year ago that prompted both the WHO and the FDA to declare that there was NO definitive link to the use of cell phones and the development of brain tumors. Why this weak data is now the cornerstone of the recent WHO announcement is unclear. What is known is that at least four of the authors of this 10-year, 25 million Euro, controversial trial, and who now, with this new classification stand to get millions more in funding, were ALSO members of this WHO panel. You do the math..

  15. Wale Bakare
    June 5, 2011

    Sometimes i feel very uncomfortable with the heat generate from my laptop. This is also giving me worrisome mind and RF baseband of the wireless adapter contributes immense to this coupled with electromagnetic radiation. 

    As most EBN readers have pointed at – many more technologies with RF based will set to emerge, looking critically at RF should be addressed quickly. Meanwhile, i  still believe this issue has to do with crystal clock of radio that transmit electromagnetic waves. Reducing RF power consumption should be primarily focused on by the telecommunication equipment  manufactures, and am also opinion that they could profer solution to the problem now rather than pretend as if health and safety of consumers not important.

  16. SunitaT
    June 6, 2011

    What about the radiation levels from cell towers in residential areas ? Those radiations also pose risk to the people staying close to those towers. Governments should implement Stricter radiation norms to tackle this problem.


  17. bolaji ojo
    June 6, 2011

    Dr. Pagnini, I believe many in the electronics industry will similarly disagree with the WHO conclusion. While we await publication of the actual WHO report on July 1 it is imperative that further attempts be made to clarify the facts and I appreciate your insight into this.

    My position in the article is not far off from yours: I have read too many reports (most insisting there are no dangers to humans from cell phones and a few others hinting about negative side effects) and I suspect the controversy will continue for a while, flaring up occasionally as more evidence emerge. Since the scientific community is not totally in agreement and because wireless devices have become such a major part of all our lives, my suggestion is that the industry demonstrate clearly what can be done to limit exposure or better manage the situation. The same responsibility falls on the WHO. It's not enough to simply point out the (potential) problem; suggest solutions because we aren't all going to dump our phones.

  18. Anna Young
    June 6, 2011

    Interesting to read yet again an on going controversy surrounding the use of cellphones and the implications as a result of heavy usage.

    Bolaji, I do agree with you, the scientists ( I would think) should be working with high tech industry to put forward helpful solutions to reduce radiation emissions from cellphones and associated devices usage. This I think should be a sensible way forward. 

    This is what I hope to read about, along with WHO's findings when this is published in July. 

  19. harleyrider1778
    June 6, 2011

    I cannot believe anyone would take anything the WHO or the IARC say seriously. They have a long history of creating JUNK SCIENCE to further political and legal action against industries. The democrats recently robbed billions from the foodstamp program to pay for more junk studies this time on obesity so Michelle can harp and have something to say in her anti-obesity agenda!

    Theyve done the same thing with second hand smoke.

    Now the  activists in the global warming/climate change movement are fixing to use epidemiology as their next so called weapon to get their debunked movement back on track. Its the same epidemiology that the IARC and THE WHO are using to create a cell phone healthscare!

    So with specially designed epidemiology studies with relative risk ratios so low they are called insignificant they now want to claim a carcinogenic effect!



  20. harleyrider1778
    June 6, 2011

    What about the radiation levels from cell towers in residential areas ? Those radiations also pose risk to the people staying close to those towers. Governments should implement Stricter radiation norms to tackle this problem.

    What about television and radio transmission towers!

    What about color tvs that gave off low level x-rays to viewers within 6-7 feet of them before lcd and plasma came along!

    What about high volatage transmission lines that bring your electricity into your home…….what about all that radiation from all those electrical wires in the walls of your home………

    Weve lived with so called radiation healthscares for decades…..where ya been!

    Those communications towers that ma bell has everywhere are in the microwave range…….theyve been up on towers for decades

    What about your satelite tv dish,collecting radiated signals from satelites in space……..

    Youve been around it all your whole life and your still here>amazing isnt it. ehh!

  21. Ms. Daisy
    June 7, 2011


    You sound like a public health educator for a minute. You clearly shared the information as documented by WHO and you went a step further to challenge its authors on suggestions on risk reduction. I am in support of this challenge, because it is a better option. It is WHO's responsibility to sound awareness warning and to spread the news of potential dangers that the RFs may have on humans, especially people who use a lot of equipments that radiate these frequencies.

    There are two iasues at stake; one is the importance of bringing the awareness of the potential danger to th people, but must be backed with good science that does not just create fear, but explains the facts as known to date. The other part is the need to share with both manufacturers and consumers opportunites for risk reducion. Health education propagandas such as “Teen pregnancy preventions” failed because of bad strategies and fear mongering to teens couipled with the unrealistic expectation of abstinence, instead of simple realistic prevention strategies of risk reduction/lifestyle changes that could work.

    In this regard, your call for risk reduction for high users of gadgets that emit RFs is an important one. It must be to find means of reducing possible “high dose” of radiation recieved daily. A simple conscious effort at mininmizing direct contact with these gadgets may be a start. More importantly is the role the  manufacturers have to actually document the level of RFs emitted by each gaddget and their suggesting a possible safe amount for humans.

    Independent studies may be the solution to determining what is safe, but who has the money but the manufacturers whose goal is to make profit. We cannot continue to pretend that these emissions will not impact us one way or another. Even if RFs are emitted in nature, the concentration of it in our homes and offices is not normal and we do not know what level is safe yet. But ignoring potential danger does not remove its impact, its just a delay in realizing its consequence.

  22. Hardcore
    June 7, 2011

    What about the radiation levels from cell towers in residential areas ? 


    To be safe you need to be a good 50-75m away from the Antenna array, which does not say much for all the people on the top floor with arrays above them.

    The building structure gives a reasonable amount of protection…… as long as you do not sit near a window.



  23. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 8, 2011

    This is a great debate, and I think the most important thing is that consumers be able to make an educated decision regarding their cellphones. People choose to smoke (let's put aside the addiction argument for the moment) despite the well-documented health risks. At least the science is there — there is no doubt that smoking and certain kinds of cancers are linked. Until similar data is available for cell phones (if it ever is) people will opt for their phones.

  24. Parser
    June 10, 2011

    The ripple effect of the WHO report is echoing on many level and by several prestigious organizations.

    Here i saw IEEE article:


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