When I think of the dangers of cell phones, I picture my wife rooting around in her giant purse, trying to find her ringing phone as she drives along.
There’s no doubt that’s dangerous. But there is a murkier danger – one discussed years ago when I started writing this column. To this day, scientists are divided about whether radiation from cell phones can increase the risk of cancer.
Radiation is a loaded word conjuring unreasonable fear. So let’s be clear about what we’re talking about.
Cell phones produce a less harmful nonionizing radiation compared with nuclear emissions. However, as exposure time and power level increases, nonionizing radiation is a hazard, too.
While there’s no proof that using your cell phone will increase your chances of getting cancer, plenty of credible scientists believe a correlation exists between heavy cell phone use and cancer.
A Google search will find dozens of studies that suggest a correlation – along with reports from credible scientists who disagree.
I can’t tell you who is right. But I can give you ways to reduce the amount of radiation from cell phones.
Let’s start with the fact that not all cell phones are created equal. Some produce more radiation than others. I recommend that you use one of the low-radiation phones. Several organizations including CNET and the Environmental Working Group have produced charts that show the amount of radiation produced by popular phones.
Here’s a chart showing radiation levels for phones on the market in 2010 by the Environmental Working Group: http://tinyurl.com/ygevhmw.
Next, consider spending less time using your cell phone. When you know the conversation will be a long one, use a wired phone.
That said, I realize cell phones are now part of life. Some people don’t even have a regular wired phone. That means exposure to cell phone radiation is a bigger deal than when cell phones weren’t as common. So let’s talk about ways regular cell phone users can reduce the risk a bit.
The closer your cell phone is to your body, the more radiation you get. Even holding a phone 2 inches from your ear dramatically reduces the amount of radiation zapping your brain.
You’d think clipping your phone to your belt and using a hands-free earpiece and microphone would be a no-brainer next step. But it isn’t. Wired earpieces can serve as an antenna that concentrates the radiation your brain receives. And many wireless earpieces are just tiny transmitter/receivers producing their own radiation.
The safest way to use a cell phone is to hold it away from your body and use the speakerphone setting. Almost everyone agrees that radiation exposure in that mode is minimal.
I doubt many of you are going to routinely use the speakerphone setting. It eliminates privacy and isn’t practical. But there still is a way to reduce radiation, even when you must hold the cell next to your ear. Simply shift the phone from one ear to the other at regular intervals. That means you aren’t concentrating all that radiation on one side of your head.
Finally, cell phones are most dangerous when the signal is very weak. So avoid calls in weak service areas.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.