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The Right to Know about Gray Matters

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Almost two years ago Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority joined agencies in Britain, India and Israel in warning that regular use of cell phones could damage children's brains. Recent expert talks to Finland's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health featured experts discussing growing evidence that cellphone radiation can harm sperm and pregnancy.France has now banned the marketing or design of cell phones for the young.  Yet, in the U.S. we continue to promote young children using special toddler phones, despite the reservations of the American Academy of Pediatrics about the use of phones and other electronic devices with the young brain and their request to the FCC to revamp standards.

The amount of microwave radiation that a cell phone can emit today is modeled on the eleven pound head of a man standing about six feet tall who ranked in the top 10th percentile of all military personnel in 1988 and didn't talk much--about six minutes a call--the amount of time estimated NOT to heat up the brain. 

Few parents know that microwave-sized radio-frequency signals reach much more deeply into the thinner and smaller skulls of children or those of regular sized adults -- a fact first established in 1996 through the pioneering work of professor Om P. Gandhi, the leader of the University of Utah's electrical engineering department, and lately confirmed by industry supported studies by French Telecom and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. 

The agency that makes recommendations on cell-phone emissions in the U.S. -- the Federal Communications Commission FCC--first issued safety standards in 1979 long before cell phones were heavily used and we were living in a sea of radiofrequency radiation.  Standards have not been revamped in 15 years.

 Ten years ago less than half of us used cell phones.  Now most do. 

Our bodies are truly electric. Electric impulses allow our muscles to move and our minds to think. But the steady, low electrical impulses that keep us alive may be disrupted by those pulsed signals that power today's small microwave radio cell phones.  Lennart Hardell, a Swedish oncologist, found that children and teenagers who regularly used cell phones for an hour a day are five times more likely to get brain cancer as young adults. Widely distributed reports that cell phones are safe are based on studies of people who have used their phone for less than 8 years. In fact every well-designed study ever conducted on long term heavy cell phone users has found the same thing--a doubled or even quadrupled risk of brain cancer.

In America today, about 20 million children under the age of 14 have cellphones, and the CDC reported two years ago that one-fifth of all 2 year olds reportedly spend two hours a day in front of a screen. Increasingly, scientists and policy makers in tech-savvy nations like Israel and Finland are concerned that the ways these devices are used imperil the brain. The iPhone plastic baby rattle case protects the phone's glass screen from cracking when dropped or chomped on by teething inquisitive babies, but does not protect the infant's young brain or body from the phone's pulsed digital microwave radiation.

Cell phones have revolutionized the ability to carry out research and promote public health interventions.  But, there's growing recognition in tech-savvy nations that we need to get smarter about how we use these and other wireless devices.  Growing numbers of national authorities, from Israel to France, India, Switzerland and Russia are making concerted efforts to promote awareness of the need to Practice Safe Phone.

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The proliferation of wireless gadgets overlooks a critical health issue --non-ionizing microwave radiation from cellphones at levels that do not induce measureable changes in temperature can change and damage the brain and sperm of experimental animals.  A cellphone is a two-way microwave radio with intermittent and destabilizing pulses, unlike microwave ovens that steadily operate at the same frequencies at much greater power.  The weak and erratic microwave radiation from cellphones and tablets cannot directly break the bonds that hold molecules together, but does  disrupt DNA , weaken the brain's protective barrier and release highly reactive and damaging free radicals.  A 5 year old's brain, healthy or otherwise, is encased in a thinner skull and contains more fluid than an adult brain.  According to studies carried out by industry modelers in Switzerland and France, the bone marrow of a child's head absorbs  10 times more  radiation than an adult, while that of infants and toddlers will absorb even more.

Few parents realize that infant apps such as One Fish Two Fish, Peekaboo Farm, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star may do much more than amuse and distract babies.    Most disconcerting are findings  from Nesrin Seyhan, the NATO-supported founding chairman of the Biophysics Department at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, whose controlled studies show that prenatally exposed  rats  and  rabbits  have fewer brain cells -- and those that survive sustain more damage to their  brains, livers, reproductive systems and eyes  Recent reports from Yale University's chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hugh Taylor found that prenatal exposures significantly increased hyperactive behavior in offspring and altered brain chemistry.   Other research carried out by renowned National Institute of Drug Abuse Director, Nora Volkow, MD, PhD, finds that just 50 minutes of exposure to cellphone radiation in adult males directly alters the production of glucose--the brain's main fuel.

  Experimental work completed by American, Australian, Greek and Turkish teams working with experts in male reproductive health has reported that cellphone-radiation-exposed human sperm die three times faster, swim significantly more poorly, become more deformed and develop significantly more damage to sperm DNA.  

A new study from researchers at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is profoundly worrisome.    Using cutting-edge tools of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) imaging, David Gultekin and Lothar Moeller found  that  low levels of radiation currently released by cellphones create tiny hotspots within the living brain. The standards for every single one of the world's 5.5 billion cellphones rest on what is an invalid assumption--that current exposures cannot produce heat.  Cell phone standards that were developed in the 1990s understood that  chronic heating of the brain could result in a broad range of serious health problems and were to be avoided.       

Current standards rest on twentieth century technologies and assumptions about key users and uses that are clearly no longer correct.  More than half of all children have cellphones by the time they reach middle school age.   Repeated  all headlines have repeatedly assured us that there's little to worry about, because we do not face an epidemic of brain cancer.   Yet.   In fact, the brain cancer story remains complex, because the disease has a long latency--up to four decades--and because past uses and users differ radically from current ones.   But, evidence on dangers   to pregnancy and reproduction from cellphone use are mounting.   Of course, not all studies find results, but those that do--especially recent efforts at Yale and the Cleveland Clinic-- cannot simply be ignored because others do not find similar results.

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What can you do to protect yourself from radiation emitted from high tech gadgets?   In fact, industry denial of the hazards is crumbling.  Samsung is the number one producer of cellphones in the world today.  Their new Convoy 2 phone comes with this advice:  "Your mobile device is not a toy.  Do not allow children to play with it because they could hurt themselves and others, damage the device, or make calls that increase your mobile device bill."

"Keep the mobile device and all its parts and accessories out of the reach of small children."  

Samsung and the City of San Francisco have the right idea.  People have the right to know how to use these remarkable devices as safely as possible.   When the court next reviews the case for the right to know in San Francisco, let's hope that the City will be able to prevail in sharing what they have determined with their citizens whose health remains of direct relevance to public authorities. 

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scientist, writer, & grandmother with abiding faith in the power of knowledge, the goodness of humanity & the value of knowing when to call it like it is

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