Another study has added to growing concerns among some scientists that cell phones -- particularly when used by younger people -- could increase the risk of a rare brain cancer.
The Swedish study found people who started using cell phones before the age of 20 were five times as likely to develop glioma, according to the Independent of London. The report doesn't say what the overall rate of disease is.
As with toxic chemicals, radiation from cell phones may be more risky for children for adults. Why? As the Independent put it: "They are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains."
The first long-range studies about the health effects from cell phone use have raised similar questions about the safety of the devices we take for granted.
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 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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