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Are Cell Phones Hazardous To Your Health?

Aug 17, 2007
Wireless telephones are hand-held phones with built-in antennas, often called cell, mobile, or PCS phones. These phones are popular with callers because they can be carried easily from place to place.

Wireless telephones are two-way radios. When you talk into a wireless telephone, it picks up your voice and converts the sound to radiofrequency energy (or radio waves). The radio waves travel through the air until they reach a receiver at a nearby base station. The base station then sends your call through the telephone network until it reaches the person you are calling. When you receive a call on your wireless telephone, the message travels through the telephone network until it reaches a base station close to your wireless phone. Then the base station sends out radio waves that are detected by a receiver in your telephone, where the signals are changed back into the sound of a voice.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each regulate wireless telephones. FCC ensures that all wireless phones sold in the United States follow safety guidelines that limit radiofrequency (RF) energy. FDA monitors the health effects of wireless telephones. Each agency has the authority to take action if a wireless phone produces hazardous levels of RF energy.

FDA derives its authority to regulate wireless telephones from the Radiation Control provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (originally enacted as the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968).

FCC derives its authority to regulate wireless telephones from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

What about wireless phone interference with medical equipment? Radiofrequency energy (RF) from wireless phones can interact with some electronic devices. For this reason, FDA helped develop a detailed test method to measure electromagnetic interference (EMI) of implanted cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators from wireless telephones. This test method is now part of a standard sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Medical instrumentation (AAMI). The final draft, a joint effort by FDA, medical device manufacturers, and many other groups, was completed in late 2000. This standard will allow manufacturers to ensure that cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators are safe from wireless phone EMI.

FDA has tested hearing aids for interference from handheld wireless phones and helped develop a voluntary standard sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). This standard specifies test methods and performance requirements for hearing aids and wireless phones so that that no interference occurs when a person uses a compatible phone and a compatible hearing aid at the same time. This standard was approved by the IEEE in 2000.

FDA continues to monitor the use of wireless phones for possible interactions with other medical devices. Should harmful interference be found to occur, FDA will conduct testing to assess the interference and work to resolve the problem.

What research is needed to decide whether RF exposure from wireless phones poses a health risk? A combination of laboratory studies and epidemiological studies of people actually using wireless phones would provide some of the data that are needed. Lifetime animal exposure studies could be completed in a few years. However, very large numbers of animals would be needed to provide reliable proof of a cancer promoting effect if one exists. Epidemiological studies can provide data that is directly applicable to human populations, but 10 or more years follow-up may be needed to provide answers about some health effects, such as cancer.

This is because the interval between the time of exposure to a cancer-causing agent and the time tumors develop - if they do - may be many, many years. The interpretation of epidemiological studies is hampered by difficulties in measuring actual RF exposure during day-to-day use of wireless phones. Many factors affect this measurement, such as the angle at which the phone is held, or which model of phone is used.

What is FDA doing to find out more about the possible health effects of wireless phone RF?FDA is working with the U.S. National Toxicology Program and with groups of investigators around the world to ensure that high priority animal studies are conducted to address important questions about the effects of exposure to radiofrequency energy (RF).

FDA has been a leading participant in the World Health Organization International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project since its inception in 1996. An influential result of this work has been the development of a detailed agenda of research needs that has driven the establishment of new research programs around the world. The Project has also helped develop a series of public information documents on EMF issues.

FDA and the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) have a formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to do research on wireless phone safety. FDA provides the scientific oversight, obtaining input from experts in government, industry, and academic organizations. CTIA-funded research is conducted through contracts to independent investigators. The initial research will include both laboratory studies and studies of wireless phone users. The CRADA will also include a broad assessment of additional research needs in the context of the latest research developments around the world.

What steps can I take to reduce my exposure to radiofrequency energy from my wireless phone? If there is a risk from these products--and at this point we do not know that there is--it is probably very small. But if you are concerned about avoiding even potential risks, you can take a few simple steps to minimize your exposure to radiofrequency energy (RF). Since time is a key factor in how much exposure a person receives, reducing the amount of time spent using a wireless phone will reduce RF exposure.

If you must conduct extended conversations by wireless phone every day, you could place more distance between your body and the source of the RF, since the exposure level drops off dramatically with distance. For example, you could use a headset and carry the wireless phone away from your body or use a wireless phone connected to a remote antenna.

Again, the scientific data do not demonstrate that wireless phones are harmful. But if you are concerned about the RF exposure from these products, you can use measures like those described above to reduce your RF exposure from wireless phone use.
About the Author
Jerry Johnson owns the Cell Phone Plans And Service as well as several other successful webstores. He has a passion for sharing information that can make life easier for all of us. Vist Cell Phone Plans And Service for great buys on cell phones and plans.
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