World — June 3, 2011 at 1:43 PM

A silent killer

They come in different  sizes, shapes and colors. They are everywhere. In big and small cities you see men and women talking away on it. Everyone knows they are safe to use. If they were not you would already know about it because governments would have saturated communication media with warnings of its danger. So, when the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report May 31, 2011 in which it classified cell phones as carcinogens most people were shocked.

It is the radiation from cell phones that is the main culprit. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform. A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, made the decision after evaluating peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” What this means is that they found some evidence of increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for mobile phone users, but have not been able to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. We thank WHO for finally making the right call, but why did it take that long?

No sooner had the report been released than the wireless industry association (CTIA) came out swinging in agitation like a spoiled brat whose toy is threatened to be taken away. The association quickly downplayed the announcement, saying it “does not mean cell phones cause cancer.” Really? What part of the WHO statement is confusing to CTIA. By pretending not to know that a carcinogen is a substance or agent capable of causing cancer CTIA is having selective amnesia, which is a street term used to describe the “disease” that makes its victims to deliberately and conveniently “forget” things or situations they don’t want to talk about or deal with and only remember the ones that cast them in good light.

The association also added in its statement that WHO researchers “did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies.” With all due respect, this is one of those things that makes you want to question a person’s intellectual capacity. What difference does it make? In fact, because WHO came to its conclusion based on published peer-reviewed studies by independent researchers makes the announcement even more credible. I wonder how long CTIA thought its gig of deception would last before the public finds out the truth about cell phones?

Neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says the announcement by WHO, “dealt a blow to those who have long said, “There is no possible mechanism for cell phones to cause cancer”, pointing out that “by classifying cell phones as a possible carcinogen, they also seem to be tacitly admitting a mechanism could exist.”

What in the world is going on? First, it was laptop computers and their adverse effect on male reproductive organs. Now this. Our beloved cell phones are carcinogens? This is huge because it means that the use of cell phones can kill you. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this information is entirely new. It is not. Cell phone companies knew this long ago, but choose to look the other way. I wonder what their reason could be. Whatever the reason, it will not be far from protecting their bottom line.

Devra Davis is the founding director of the toxicology and environmental studies board at the United States National Academy of Sciences. In her book Disconnect and published in 2010 Davis, one of the world’s foremost expert on environmental health dangers, takes readers through the eerie and dark side of the cell phone trillion dollar industry, and presents a series of current and long-suppressed research that show that cell phones are not safe.

Man’s most popular gadget ever, aside from its potential to cause cancer, is now shown to damage DNA,  break down the brain’s defenses, reduce sperm count, increase memory loss, cause neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and possibly autism. This is serious stuff and there are documented evidence to support these claims.

If you still harbor any shred of doubt concerning cell phone radiation, consider the following report as documented inDisconnect. Researchers at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in the United States produced some interesting medical investigation of how sperm is affected by radio frequencies. Ashok Agarwal one of the world’s experts in andrology which is the biology of the male reproductive system anchored that research. He is currently director of the Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank at the clinic and has written more than four hundred peer-reviewed articles.

Agarwal conducted a research to find out what happens when men carried cell phones on their bodies. To carry out the investigation he employed a very clever and interesting strategy. Sperm samples were collected from thirty-four male volunteers and taken into the laboratory for investigative purpose. The sperm samples were then split into two groups – one group received no exposure to radio frequency while the other group was exposed for one hour to of radiation from a cell phone held  about an inch away from the test tubes that held the sperm. The one inch distance was used to approximate  the distance between the testes and a man’s pocket. Result: Sperm exposed to the highest levels of cell phone radiation had the sickliest, most deformities and worst swimming abilities. In contrast, the sperm group that was not exposed to cell phone radiation was not impacted. This group had far more healthy sperm.

Still not convinced? Here’s another research study. Scientists in Russia, Greece, France, Austria, and Switzerland are involved in revolutionary research on the immediate effect of radio frequency radiation on the brain and other parts of the body. We now know, based on these researches that Russian scientists have discovered that repeated radio frequency electrostimulation of one part of a rat’s brain called the hippocampus results in epilepsy, and induces rat brains’ neurons to fire iratically, resulting in trembling and spasmodic attacks.

What’s more, the young and growing brains of children make them especially vulnerable. The theory for this high vulnerability in children is that a child’s skull is not as strong as an adults’ because it is still in formative stage. Consequently, it is unable to adequately protect a child’s brain. Yet, parents oblivious of this fact allow their children to use cell phones for long periods of time.

For the past five years scientists in Moscow have been following two groups of children between ages five and twelve – one group uses cell phones while the other doesn’t. Every year these children are subjected to a variety of psychological and physiological tests. So far the Russian scientists have found that changes occurred in the brains of the children that use cell phones. The changes range from decreased capacity to work, increased fatigue, decrease in attention and semantic memory, and a significant loss in the ability to tell difference in different sounds. This list is not exhaustive, but you get the picture.

I am at a loss as to why cell phone companies choose not to adequately inform consumers of cell phone dangers. This is a miscalculation on their part because unlike tobacco companies which withheld critical information on cigarette smoking dangers for years because of profit greed, sufficiently providing information for cell phone consumers will not necessarily affect profit margins in a negative way. Although I don’t agree with what tobacco companies did, I understand the reason for their devious tactic to  withhold critical information on cigarette smoking. Tobacco companies knew that if consumers became aware of the real truth about cigarette smoking it will result in a mass exodus from their product. Indeed, mass exodus resulted when  truth about cigarette smoking was exposed in a Florida court room. They got fined big time and lost on appeal too.

Cell phones are here to stay, and no one in his right mind will completely avoid using it. Our lives are too deeply interwoven with it in business dealings and other modes of communication. All we ask is information to enable us adequately protect ourselves. Unlike cigarette smoking, it is unlikely that properly informing consumers of cell phone use dangers will make anybody completely abandon or return it to the shop from where it was bought.

Manufacturers of many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body, although most of them put the warnings in fine prints, and you know what that means. If you are like most people you don’t read fine prints. And why would the warnings be put in fine prints? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Apple iPhone 4 safety manual says users’ radiation exposure should not exceed FCC guidelines “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body.” BlackBerry Bold advises users to “keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 inch (25 millimeters) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting.”

The idea behind such recommendations is that the further the phone is from the body, the less radiation is absorbed. Experts advise that users can also use the speakerphone function or a wired earpiece to gain some distance. Also, users can text instead of talk if they want to keep the phone away from their faces.

Further, cell phones emit the most radiation when they are attempting to connect to cellular towers. A moving phone, or a phone in an area with a weak signal, has to work harder, giving off more radiation. So users can avoid using their cell phones in elevators, buildings and rural areas if they want to reduce their exposure, experts say.

Although some cell phone companies are now posting warning labels for their products, they need to do more. Governments of countries in which these companies operate from must also get on board and do more. After all, of what use is a government if it can’t protect its citizens.

I hope cell phone companies learned a thing or two from tobacco companies. If not, it too, might find itself in a court room answering questions from a judge of who knew what, when, and how. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that.

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