VIRGINIA LUCAS HART

Cell Phone Radiation

advice, healthVirginia HartComment

I made the switch from BlackBerry to iPhone on Verizon this weekend. There were many motivating factors behind this change including a free upgrade, lower monthly bill, the convenience of syncing it to other Apple products in my life, finally giving in to the persuasion attempts of my dad & brothers, and it looked - well - fun!

The deciding moment? When I uploaded Little Lady, Big Apple on the store's sample phone and could actually read it! Despite still learning how to properly type (You'd think it be easy since my hands stopped growing after the age of 7. Seriously. I win the tiniest hands award. Hands down. Ha!), I am, indeed, having fun. I've discovered apps that help me navigate NYC's subway system, that allow me to log my health & exercise, take Polaroid-esque photos that develop once I blow on the screen (!), and I can even scan products' barcodes to compare prices and determine where they are sold locally and online. I'm sure this is all old news to iPhone owners, but this little lady is still very excited.

Cell phones are, in fact, our generation's toy. I feel as if the question of whether the device can actually make a phone call is an afterthought when wanting to know a phone's capabilities. We want messaging, internet, cameras, games, music, calendars, weather updates, endless supply of applications.

And to ya know, call somebody.

I, like many people, use my cell phone as my alarm clock. I hate to admit it, but I feel naked if I don't have my phone with me. Between my phone and my planner, I feel somewhat together. Without? Completely and utterly lost. I read an article recently in Time, however, that has convinced me to rethink my bond with my cell phone.

"For the past several years, a small band of doctors and activists have been raising concerns about the possible connection between cell phone use and brain cancer. The cell phone industry — along with nearly all major national and international medical associations — have always responded with the same answer: there's no evidence that cell phone radiation can even affect the brain, let alone cause cancer. Well, given the results of a new study published in the Feb. 23 Journal of the American Medical Association, at least one of those arguments may be put to rest. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that a cell phone's electromagnetic field can indeed cause changes in brain activity, with the regions closest to the antenna showing higher rates of energy consumption. Important note: this does not demonstrate that cell phone use can lead to cancer. Volkow showed only that changes in brain activity occurred because of cell phone radiation — not whether the changes were good, bad or neutral. But this is the first study to show conclusively that cell phone radiation, even in short durations, does something to the brain. That's enough to worry many people, especially parents of young children — kids have thinner skulls, and their brains can absorb higher levels of radiation. The good news is that there are simple ways to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation without going back to the paper cup-and-string method of telecommunication. Here are five easy steps you can take.

1. Use a Wire Headset
This is the simplest and most effective way to keep the radiation away from your head. A wired headset keeps the antenna far away from your skull, allowing you to use your phone without worrying that you might be cooking your brain. A Bluetooth wireless headset will also reduce your exposure somewhat, but you'll still be absorbing some radiation. Most decent earbuds that you'd use to listen to your iPhone or other music-playing handset will also include a microphone for speaking.

2. Text 
The kids already know this: actually using a cell phone to talk is so 20th century. A Pew Research report from 2010 found that kids aged 12 to 17 sent and received an average of 50 texts a day, while fielding just five calls. Two-thirds said they were more likely to text their friends than call. (In fact, just about the only people teens are actually talking to on the phone are their parents.) Texting keeps the handset away from the brain, reducing the risk from any radiation.

3. Don't Use Your Cell Phone as an Alarm Clock
This one is a no-brainer — or at least it should be. If you use your phone as your wake-up call, you'll likely need to keep it close to your head, perhaps on a night table next to your bed. There's still radiation emitting from the phone even when it's not taking calls, so that could mean many extra hours of your brain being bathed in electromagnetic waves at night. Just get a real alarm clock.

4. Don't Carry Your Cell Phone in Your Pocket
 It's not just brain cancer that worries some doctors. There's also some preliminary research to indicate that men who carry a phone in their pocket all day or clip it to a belt pocket could be putting their fertility at risk. By the same token, women who carry their phones in their bra could be increasing their risk of breast cancer. If possible, keep the phone on your desk or a table when you're not using it, just to be safe. And carry it around in a bag or in your coat rather than in a pants or shirt pocket.

5. Use a Radiation Blocking Case
The good people at Pong Research offer a case for iPhones and BlackBerrys that they say can reduce cell phone radiation by two-thirds. Sounds a little fishy, but in an independent test witnessed by Wired magazine in 2009, the claims checked out."

 (To read the article, click here.)

Well, I don't have to break any habits of carrying my phone in my bra (???), but I have picked a new resting spot for my phone while I sleep. And as I discovered this morning, sitting up and reaching far away to turn off an alarm might be just what I need to stop snoozing so much. Yes, I confess. I have tiny hands and I am a chronic snoozer.

I have a really cool phone, though. We're just creating a little distance in our relationship.

until next time,


g