Health dangers quickly catch media attention. Cellular phones have been charged with causing everything from brain tumors, sleep disorders, migraine headaches, to lowering sperm count. But how much of this brouhaha is urban legend and how much is based on authentic research?
Under the law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review the safety of radiation-emitting consumer products such as cell phones (and similar wireless devices) before they can be sold. However, FDA does have the authority to take action if cell phones are shown to emit radiofrequency energy (RF) at a level that is hazardous to the user. In such a case, FDA could require cell phone manufacturers to notify users of the health hazard and to repair, replace or recall the phones so that the hazard no longer exists.
Wireless devices run on radio waves. Antennas emit varying levels of radio frequencies (RFs) that at some point are absorbed into the human body.
Over the past several years, delegations from Japan, Korea, the European Union, Australia, China, the World Health Organization, and the United States have met to discuss health concerns for wireless telecommunications. The purpose of these workshops has been to discuss scientific issues related to RF exposure from wireless communications technology from an international perspective. Specific topics addressed have included:
* health effects of emerging wireless technologies
* recent biological research
* standards development
* prospects for international collaboration related to the safety of wireless telecommunication devices.
A recent study by Italian researchers found that the electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones may not be as safe as they seem, but they may not be all that harmful, either. Ultimately, it seems, cells phones do change your brain's activity, but whether this helps or harms is still not understood.
For the study, researchers fitted 15 men between the ages of 20 and 36 with a specialized helmet that contained a cell phone near the left ear. While wearing the helmets, the cell phone was turned on for a period of 45 minutes without the knowledge of the participants. The helmet measured the brain activity of the participants both while the phone was turned on and while it was off.
While the phones were on, there was increased brain activity in the cortical region of the left side of the brain, which is responsible for movement and language. This region of the brain remained in the excited state for as long as one hour after the phones were turned off.
It is common for cell phone users to use their phones for a similar length of time, certainly over the course of the day. But it is not known whether this increased brain activity would be beneficial or harmful to a person.
Electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by cell phones, have been used by doctors in the past to treat migraines and even depression. There has also been, however, some connection between electromagnetic fields and an increased number of seizures in people with epilepsy.
"Theoretically, it might be both dangerous in all those conditions in which cortical excitability is [already] enhanced, like in epilepsy, or it might be beneficial in all those conditions with a need for higher excitability, as in post-stroke recovery or Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Paolo M. Rossini, professor of neurology at the University Campus-Bio-Medico in Rome, Italy
If there is a risk to using cell phones, Rossini states that more research is needed to determine which people should limit their use and who should maybe avoid cell phones altogether.
"More research is needed in order to produce safety guidelines, particularly for 'at risk' populations like people with different kind of brain damage, children etc.," said Rossini.
Obviously, drivers that talk on cell phones while they drive may be at risk for accidents. A handful of states have made hand-held cell phone use illegal while operating a motor vehicle. Plug into a headset or hands-free device and then you’re safe, or so seems the message. But a growing stable of studies suggests that drivers engaged in complex conversations, hands-free or otherwise, are a leading roadway danger.
Hundreds of clinical studies have attempted to unravel the safety of cell phone emissions. To echo the FDA: so far no conclusive evidence exists that proves a health risk from cell phone RFs. BUT studies still need to be done. Scientists have argued that research suffers when forced into short-term constraints. Consumers demand quick and speedy results, a demand that short-circuits authentic scientific study.
Knowing how and where to get the information you need to remain an informed consumer means half the battle is won. Cellphones play a major role in everyday life. Health and safety, on and off the road, is already a major concern.
Keep abreast of this topic since you most likely carry one or have a child that also does. What does happen to someone who has used a cellular phone for 50 years? Only time will tell.
For updates on this topic check out the FDAs website at www.fda.gov - Your tax dollars hard at work.