The first long-range studies about the health effects from cell phone use have raised some serious questions about the safety of the ubiquitous little talkers, and the radiation that they emit so close to our ears.
Those who use cell phones for 10 years were twice as likely to develop malignant brain tumors called gliomas, according to a study published last year in Occupational Environmental Medicine. The conclusion may not be definitive, but it's worrying to the millions of us who have become accustomed to staying in touch while on the go. (For an overview of the issue of cell phone and health, see this MSN article.)
The culprit? Non-ionizing radiation, which is more intense when the phone is in use, or far from a cell tower (that is, when reception is poor).
Another risk factor may be inherent to each phone, since each produces radiation with a different "specific absorption rate," or SAR. Every phone SAR sold in the United States meets Federal Communications Commission guidelines for safety, but the phones with the highest allowable SAR (1.6 watts per kilogram) are 11 times higher than those phone on the market with the lowest SAR.
The information about each phone's SAR is available on the Web. It can be a little tricky to find it, however. You may need model and/or ID numbers printed on the phone's original packaging, or printed on the body of the phone, underneath the battery. Start by visiting this FCC Web site.
Besides choosing a phone with a lower SAR, other tips for reducing exposure include:
Use a land line whenever possible.
Use a hands-free headset whenever using a cell phone (Bluetooth devices can also emit radiation, but at much lower levels.)
Keep your phone switched off whenever possible, particularly in areas with low reception.
Text, rather than talk, to reduce radiation near the brain.
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