Are cell phones hazardous to your health?

In late May 2011, the World Health Organization listed mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

by Ann Louise Gittleman — 

The debate over cell phone use has taken a dramatic turn, especially in light of studies showing the increase in specific kinds of rare tumors. In late May 2011, the World Health Organization listed mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

In the same month, the Council of Europe Committee called for a ban on cell phones and other devices that emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in classrooms because the Council says that these fields could cause cancer in vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women.

Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have found that cases of cancerous or benign parotid gland tumors — the parotid (or salivary) gland being the gland located closest to where people hold their phones — have quadrupled since 1970. The greatest rise was since 2001, just when cell phone use skyrocketed in Israel.

This evidence flies in the face of arguments that there has been no increase in tumors since cell phones became popular. And a new study in epidemiology shows that over time there has been a substantial increase of cancerous parotid gland cases — 44 per year before 2001 and 72 per year after 2001. Research reports no increase in cancer cases in two other types of parotid glands that are located farther away from where cell phones are held.

The new findings confirm earlier evidence linking heavy cell phone use with “significantly elevated risks” for salivary gland tumors. And even more importantly, work in Sweden shows that design flaws in the Interphone Study have led to underestimated risks for brain tumors from mobile phone use.

These design flaws include problems with the way the data was collected and the accuracy of recall from study patients about their specific cell phone use. In addition, the cell phone industry itself provided a portion of the funding, which raises an eyebrow of bias. Either way, the potential outcome from underestimating these risks is concerning.

It happened to me

It was my own (thankfully, benign) parotid gland tumor that convinced me to delve more deeply into the research on electropollution. Sadly, I am not alone. Celebrities like Roger Ebert, LeBron James and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys have all suffered from parotid gland tumors. And during his battle with cancer, Senator John McCain had his lymph nodes removed and, as a precaution, part of his left parotid gland, as well.

It is not just cell phones, but also cordless phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), antennae, microwaves, satellite TVs and radios and WiFi that are wreaking havoc with our health today.

As my research discovered, rare salivary gland and brain tumors are not the only risks from 24/7 exposure to EMFs generated by these devices. The EMFs produce subliminal stress that the human body does not recognize. This “stealth stress” raises blood pressure, impacts blood sugar levels and raises stress hormone (cortisol) levels, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep.

Studies show that exposure to cell phones and certain electrical systems lower production of thyroid hormones. This can cause depression, fatigue, joint pain, low heart rate, muscle aches and weight gain. EMFs can even elevate bad cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease. Electropollution also damages fertility, impacting sperm count, motility and viability. It is critical that pregnant women reduce their exposure to cell phones and other EMFs, which have been linked to miscarriage, as well as later developmental and emotional problems in their children.

This affects children of any age. Because of their smaller size and developing brains, kids are especially vulnerable. While mobile phone radiation reaches a relatively small portion of an adult’s brain, EMFs penetrate most of a child’s brain.

And younger people will be exposed to electropollution much longer than adults. In the Hebrew University study, 20 percent of the incidences of parotid gland tumors occurred in people under 20 years of age.

Forewarned is forearmed

As a former cell phone addict, I have learned to wean myself a great deal from my own digital and wireless devices — but I know that it is not easy or possible for many people. That is why rather than fear-mongering, the following tips offer many realistic and simple ways you can protect yourself and your family from this new invisible form of pollution.

Here are some to get you started:

  • Text, rather than talk, whenever feasible.
  • Use speaker mode with both cell and cordless phones, and use a landline at home and at work.
  • Reduce your total wireless exposure. Turn off your router at night and use a wired mouse.
  • Do not put your laptop in your lap; use grounding or earthing pads under your computer to protect your body from a buildup of electrical charges.
  • Do not use your phone when reception is poor (in elevators, subways or trains) since it has to power up even more to get a signal. Turn it off when you are not using it.
  • Limit children’s cell/cordless phone use to emergencies and consider following the dictates of European countries that restrict the use of cell phones to people 18 years of age or younger.

 Zap-proof nutrition

As a nutritionist, I have discovered a number of foods and supplements that can help reduce damage from electropollution. My favorite is artichokes, which have an antioxidant capacity that earned them the number one spot on the USDA’s vegetable list. The stand-out supplement for EMF protection is silymarin (milk thistle), which is 10 times as potent an antioxidant as vitamin E. This all-star increases the body’s production of glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase) — the liver’s premier antioxidant and key enzyme diminished by EMF exposure.

If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep all night — one of the early symptoms of electropollution — consider at least 3 mgs of melatonin. This antioxidant hormone is five times more powerful than vitamin C and regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Dozens of studies show that EMFs can lower the body’s production of this hormone that bolsters the immune system, which gets tamped down by electropollution, and has been found to help fight cancer.

I recommend that everyone, particularly those over age 60, take one capsule of melatonin in a time-release formula at bedtime for a good night’s sleep and EMF protection. This supplement also contains zap-proof minerals — manganese, selenium, and zinc — for added antioxidant protection.

Also, make sure that you and your kids get sufficient amounts of vitamin D, another all-star EMF protector — most Americans do not. Calcitrol, the active form of vitamin D3, is a terrific radioprotectant, even against low-level background radiation. It helps facilitate communications between the cells, which is interrupted by electropollution, and activates the immune system. Adults can take one to two capsules daily of vitamin D-5000, containing vitamin D3. And make sure your children get calcitrol or D3 in their multivitamin.


Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman has a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition and is the author of more than 30 books on health and nutrition. Her latest book is Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2011.


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