Is Your Cell Phone Making You Sick?

by Vince Pedre M.D.

Twenty years ago, cellular phones were only for the Wall Street bunch, but these days everyone, from teenagers to grandparents has one.

Technology has brought us closer and put the world at our fingertips. But technology is not without inherent risk.

Cell phones are essentially hand held microwave devices that send short bursts of pulsed microwave energy when establishing a call and when transmitting and receiving voice communications.

Would you put your head right next to a microwave oven? The wattage is much smaller with a cell phone, but recent research is calling into question the long-term safety of these radio frequency devices.

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The world of convenience has evolved much faster than our understanding of how these devices can affect our health.

What do cell phones, cordless phones and Wifi have in common? They all emit EMFs (electro-magnetic fields).

It is not singular exposure that is problematic. It is multiple, repeated exposure over days, weeks and years that can add up.

Studies have shown that EMFs cause cellular damage and can even lead to DNA damage.

Research suggests that the safety of cell phones when worn on the body or held closer than 5/8 of an inch from the head is debatable.[1]

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Evidence that EMFs from cell phones impair male fertility, for example, has been growing. It is also possible that radio frequency exposures can affect fetuses in utero.[2]

Cell phones produce a specific absorption rate (SAR) and in the U.S. cell phone safety regulations permit a maximum SAR of 1.6 Watt/kg (up to 2 W/kg in other countries) when the cell phone is held close to the head, such as when talking.

A 2009 study, however, found that absorbed radio frequency radiation at 1W/kg decreased sperm vitality from 89 percent to 65 percent and sperm motility from 86 percent to 68 percent.[3]

When looking at exposures, changes of as little as 1cm in the distance between the emitting device and exposed tissue can make a big difference in total cumulative SAR.

Most phone manuals now recommend that the phone be carried at least one half-inch from the body.

The most frightening research points to almost double the risk of brain tumor after 10 years of regular use on the side of the head preferred for cell phone use.[4]

Children are most at risk because their skulls are not as thick and allow EMFs to penetrate much deeper into the brain.

Nine Steps to reduce EMF exposure:

  1. Hold the cell phone away from your ear/body when answering a call. The highest levels of radiofrequency exposure occur at the beginning of a call.

  2. When on a call, use the speakerphone if possible and keep the cell phone away from your body.

  3. Do not carry your cell phone in your pocket when the phone is on standby.

  4. Don't let your children hold a cell phone near their ear or a Wifi device on their laps.

  5. Avoid using a laptop computer on your lap, as this exposes the reproductive organs to heat, along with radiofrequency emissions from the electronics, Wifi and power supply.

  6. Minimize radio frequency sources in the home. Unplug Wifi routers when not in use. Do you really need those wireless devices on at all times?

  7. Consider exposures at your workplace. EMFs can drain you of your energy during the day, causing both mental and physical fatigue.

  8. If pregnant, avoid standing near microwaves, Wifi devices, surge protectors, and follow all the recommendations above.

  9. Use landlines and a wired Internet network connection whenever possible.

Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City. Follow Dr. Pedre on Facebook and Twitter.


[1] Gutschi T, et al. Impact of cell phone use on men's semen parameters. Andrologia. 2011 Oct;43(5):312-6.

[2] Ouellet-Hellstrom R, Stewart WF. Miscarriages among Female Physical Therapists Who Report Using Radio- and Microwave-frequency Electromagnetic Radiation. Am. Journal Epidem. 1993;138(10):775-786.

[3] De luliis, Geoffrey N., et al. Mobile Phone Radiation Induces Reactive Oxygen Species Production and DNA Damage in Human Spermatozoa in Vitro. PLoS One. 2009; 4(7):e6446.

[4] Khurana VG, et al. Cell phones and brain tumors: a review including the long-term epidemiologic data. Surgical Neurology 2009 Sep;72(3):205-14; discussion 214-5.

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