Health

California Takes a First Step on Cellphone Health Hazard

It took a lawsuit, but California is finally releasing a watered-down warning on the risks posed by cell phones.

It is not a big step, but it is at least encouraging. On December 13, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued formal guidelines to get people to keep cellphones away from their body. With the industry paying billions to fight these guidelines, however, it is unlikely that they will get much tougher until a lot more people begin dying.

Aged radiation hazard warning placard

The warning, issued as a formal press release, stated, “Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high-use exposure to the energy emitted by cellphones.” In the press release, Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer, went on to point out that children in particular are a focus of concern. “Children’s brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cellphone use,” she said. “Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cellphones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night.”

The statements made by the CDPH may be a positive step forward, but the backstory that made it necessary for the organization to make its announcement is far darker.

The story goes back to 2009, when, based on information gathered from multiple scientific sources, it was becoming clearer that cellphones represent a high health risk to people – a risk that has been getting even worse as the phone’s use and virtual addiction to it has been increasing worldwide. At that time, the CDPH prepared an original set of guidelines about the harmful effects of cellphone use. Unfortunately, the organization held the guidelines back, under pressure from industry forces who urged the state of California to keep the data out of the hands of the American public. The grounds the industry lobbyists used to push back against the initial warnings, which were stronger than the current ones, were that they might upset the public and possibly confuse them.

In 2016, Joel Moskowitz, Director of the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health at the University’s School of Public Health, who had learned about the presence of the 2009 guidelines, sued the CDPH to make those guidelines public. The courts sided with Moskowitz, and the CDPH finally released its most updated version of the guidelines.

That open but not-so-public release was still not enough for some. In July, the California Brain Tumor Association anchored a public demonstration outside the CDPH building in Sacramento, the state capital. The demonstration fought for the public release of the cellphone-warning document on a large scale. That release is the one that happened on December 13. It was still much weaker than it should have been, but it focused on many major steps necessary to minimize the impact of cellphone radiation on the brain and body. As the release said in its guidelines, users should:

  • Keep the phone away from the body.
  • Reduce cellphone use when the signal is weak. Many do not realize that when cell towers are far away, cellphones are designed to boost their power, based on monitoring ping feedback from the towers, to have the best chance of getting connected. When receiving cell towers are closer, the same ping feedback allows phones to lower their output power and conserve battery life. So, when the signal (measured by the number of bars visible on the phone screen) is low, the best thing to do is to keep the phone even farther away from you, compared to normal situations.Reduce the use of cellphones to stream audio or video or to download or upload large files.
  • Keep the phone away from the bed at night. Many use cellphones as alarms or, worse, to check messages or even stream music to put themselves to sleep. All such situations should be avoided. Ideally, users should turn off their phone at night. Life will go on without it.Remove headsets when you’re not on a call.
  • Avoid products that fraudulently claim to block radio frequency energy. Some of these products may actually increase your exposure. Headsets should use a hollow tube, not a wire.
  • With proof now in place that, at the very least, high glucose production levels in the brain have been observed near where a cellphone is normally held by the ear, plus numerous studies elsewhere linking the use of cellphones to multiple kinds of brain tumors, the evidence is piling up that these devices are extremely dangerous to adults.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also came out with a strong warning – but with a much stronger message. It named radio frequency energy (such as is present in cellphones) as a Class 2B carcinogenic agent. That translates to saying that devices that emit large amounts of such radiation might possibly be carcinogenic to humans.The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also classified radio waves as possible carcinogens based on its own analysis of current evidence on the matter.

Even more important, as Dr. Smith of the CDPH herself noted in the press release, are the guidelines Moskowitz fought to make public about the focus on concerns about children. Numerous studies clearly show that children should not use cellphones at all. And with 10 being the average age when children get their first phones, this means that grade school children will have suffered serious brain damage by the time they are adults.

Like the tobacco industry, the cellphone industry is ensuring that the very clear science that shows that microwave radiation damages DNA and disrupts cell function is clouded by fake science, blatant lies and distortions. In response to the WHO warning, for example, the industry pointed out that coffee, power lines and talc powder are similarly labeled as Class 2B carcinogenic agents.

For those with only a cursory knowledge of the situation, this sort of slime treatment back at the WHO might seem to prove that the WHO is just overreacting. However, it has turned out that the organization was exactly right about the three above-mentioned items, with lawsuits currently going forward, some of which have already been settled in favor of those who came down with cancer. In the case of the WHO’s statement against talc, for example, many laughed at the position it had taken – until the first cases started rolling out against the makers of talc, some of which have already been settled against the talc manufacturers.

As to where this all may lead, one can expect more industry smears against the CDPH’s position and other similar pronouncements by industry associations. Children will be brain damaged and develop tumors at younger ages than ever before, with few immediately able to prove their high use of cellphones and close proximity to cellphone radiation being the root causes.

With governments unwilling to fund the studies necessary to prove the case, one bright spot has emerged that people may want to monitor. There is a program known as the COSMOS project, launched back in 2007, which is tracking long-term cellphone use and its related health effects on more than a half a million people. The program plans to track this group for the next 20 to 30 years. With the large numbers of people involved and the high likelihood of discovering for the first time an extremely-well-documented set of proof, this may be what it takes to convince people – and governments – to get us all away from the cellphones that are currently maiming our children and slowly killing us all.