Are Cell Phones Dangerous? Or, more to the point, is the radiation emitted from a cell phone a hazard to your health and well being? Last fall I didn’t know much, if anything, about the risks of cell phones and wireless devices.
Since then I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching the effects of the radio frequency radiation that our smart devices emit. The results of my inquiry are somewhat frightening. Why? Because a growing body of evidence shows that wireless radiation, even at low levels, can be harmful to our health in many ways.
Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?
Cell phones are listed as a Class 2B carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). This category is defined as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” putting cell phones and other smart devices in the same category as lead, DDT, and jet fuel.1
According to a study in the journal Pathophysiology, heavy cell phone use triples the risk of brain cancer.2 This study also demonstrated that individuals who began using cell phones as teenagers more than quadrupled their risk of brain cancer.3
Researchers at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conducted a study exposing rodents to radio-frequency radiation levels emulating those that humans experience with heavy cell phone use. The findings concluded that such exposure is associated with the formation of cancer in the brains of rats.4
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
In 2008, Dr. Ronald Herberman, an oncologist, as well as Founder and Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated Comprehensive Care Center, issued a memo stating:5
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Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer. Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use.
Dr. Herberman recommended that children should not be “allowed to use cell phones other than for emergencies,” and also warned, “Avoid using your cell phone in places like a bus where you can expose others to your phone’s EMFs.” He further stated that people should, “Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times.”
The Powerful Telecom Lobby
Did you know that the telecommunications lobby spends more than $87 million per year convincing our elected officials that cell phones are safe?6
The telecommunications industry is fighting an ordinance in Berkeley, California requiring cell phone retailers to post warnings for customers regarding the radiation exposure from mobile devices.7 These warnings are found in fine print, buried deep in cell phone user manuals. Lobbyists claim that posting these warnings will cause undue panic.8 For the iPhone this reads:
To be sure that human exposure to RF energy does not exceed FCC, IC, and EU guidelines always follow these instructions and precautions. When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 5/8 inch away from the body.9
In 1977, Berkeley became the first American city to ban smoking in restaurants. Who have the cell phone companies enlisted to fight this battle? The same lawyer that defended Big Tobacco for decades.
Other Sources of Wireless Radiation
In addition to cell phones, there are many other sources of wireless radiation including:
- Smart Meters
- Computers Using Wi-Fi
- Wireless Printers
- Wi-Fi Routers
- Wireless Speakers
- Cordless Phones
- Smart Home Devices Including:
- Light Switches
- Sound Systems
- Door Locks
- TV’s and Remotes
- Appliances (Dishwashers, Washers, Dryers)
- Smart Watches and Fitness Trackers
- Airport Scanners
- Gaming Consoles
- Baby Monitors
My Personal Experience with Wireless Radiation
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006. After that initial MS attack, I was highly functional until 2014. That was around one year after we moved into our new house.
I was involved in every aspect of building the house, other than the electronics. Our contractor recommended a smart house. I did not research the implications, let alone the potential impacts that hundreds of wireless access points in one’s living space could have.
As time passed in our new home I became sicker. I also spent more time at home, which I later learned made me even sicker. Finally, I hired two building biologists (Riun Ashlie and Risa Suzuki) to investigate the complex systems we installed. What did we find? Something rather frightening.
Smart meters contain a device that communicates wirelessly using radio frequency radiation. This is called a zigbee chip. We had more than 200 zigbee chips in our new home and it’s taken months to remove all of the smart technology. If you look at the list above, we had a large portion of the devices on it.
We removed the last smart technology from our house in February. For three and a half years I lived in a home that contained radio frequency radiation levels well over 1,000 times those recommended by the Building Biology Association. It’s now been eight weeks since we removed the last of the smart lighting system and other devices.
I’m starting to feel better, but I know it may take more than a few weeks to get well after sleeping with 3 zigbee chips within a meter of my head as well as all around my living space. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and will continue to discuss the health ramifications of wireless technology and the radio frequency radiation that accompanies it.
For more information on steps you can take to reduce your exposure to radio frequency radiation see:
So sorry that you’ve gone through this, Elana, but so glad that you are getting the word out. This really is such a big issue. I live near a cell tower which we didn’t know at the time was so bad for one’s health, and I have had health issues. Trying to move as we speak. All the best on your healing!
Thanks for sharing your story with this Ginnie! It’s so important that we spread awareness on the issue :-)
Sorry you are going through this – but thank you for raising awareness!
We went through the same thing in San Francisco five years ago. I gave a TEDx talk about it:
Also, I just published this article about setting up a truly low-EMF internet system in your home. This is worth considering for your family:
Glad you found Riun. He’s a great guy.
Jeromy, thanks so much for your comment! I’m thrilled to have leaders in the EMF awareness movement such as yourself and Allison Main over here and am so grateful for all you both have done to pave the way for folks like myself!
Debra Davies says
we live about 700 ft above an airport. I’m not sure how many kms we are from it but we see it in the distance from our window. What can we do to protect ourselves from the radar?
Debra, you’re best bet with this is to hire a building biologist, and/or create a Faraday cage in some of the rooms in your house to shield yourself from the radio frequency radiation emitted by radar.
Janien Wilkens says
Thank you very much for sharing this very valuable information.
Get well soon!
I am looking at buying a different home. What would you test as far as EMF’s ? anyway I can do it myself? This has been a concern of mine just living in the Denver area. I was wondering what resources you would recommend that can be done before closing. Obviously there is radon mold but what other ways can I protect myself at the buy. Thanks for being so intense on researching everything. Sometimes intensity is not a choice, but I appreciate it anyway.
Mae, thanks for your comment! Yes, I will be discussing methods for measuring EMF’s during the course of this year. In the meantime, your best bet would be to hire a building biologist :-)
I’ve actually written a book about finding a low-EMF home that will help you with this process. It’s the best of what I’ve learned from being electrically sensitive and having homes that are healthy for me.
I have written it for someone who is new to the EMF topic (yet it covers everything you would want to consider). Hope it helps!
Get a Corned ED88t meter for electro/magnetic/radio frequencies and a Stezerizer meter for dirty electricity.
I developed emf and chemical sensitives about 20 years ago.
To keep it short, I’m a lot better now but not for just removing the sources, I found that dealing with my emotional issues at the same time has helped a lot.
I found that my sensitives were an external reflexion of my emotional suppression.
I know it sounds ubsurd but isn’t it far from what was said about emf’s years ago.
The link between the physical and emotional state has been in a decline, since the technology advances of the last few hundred years.
Thanks for letting me share my story.
Tom, I love your comment and totally agree with it. I think that MCS and EHS can definitely be triggered by a history of trauma.
I’m so sorry to hear of your difficulties. It sounds like you have made great strides in understanding EMFs and in retrofitting your environment to eliminate many sources of EMFs. I notice that you experienced problems after moving into a new home. Was the new home, of recent construction? If so, you may also have effects from exposures to an array of chemicals found in newly constructed homes. High levels of formaldehyde, classified as a probable human carcinogen, can be and have been found in new homes. Generally, formaldehyde can be emitted by modified strand board, that construction board made of large wood chips and copious amounts of a resin, most often a formaldehyde-based resin, as well as other construction materials including many classifications of plywood. If other than solid wood floors are present, flooring and floor coverings can also emit formaldehyde and other chemicals from an arsenal of toxics. Cabinetry and many other “wood” items that are not solid wood can contain these resins. If a formaldehyde resin has not been used, other, stinky and most likely toxic resins may have been used.
There is a rather large group of individuals in the United States and around the World who have become chemically sensitive, most often having become sensitive from exposures to chemicals found in homes and/or workplaces. Some of these individuals have been able to lessen their chemical exposures-related health conditions by eliminating exposures to these chemicals. However, as you might imagine, it is difficult to avoid housing made of toxics since this can actually involve moving into a specially built home or finding an older home constructed of solid wood. Insulation can also be a major source of health impacts. So, it can be a difficult problem to resolve although not impossible for those with appropriate resources.
C, thanks for your comment. We built a green home as I discuss in this post:
C, thanks for your comment! We did a green renovation on an old house using non-toxic materials. I discuss it here:
C, do you have any suggestions on resources for those who are looking for homes without these issues? What to look for, what to ask, how to measure? Are there books or websites on this topic? Thank you!
Ruth Ruddock says
Thank you so much for your posts about how EMF/RF as affected your life. I pray that you will come full circle into excellent health. I have had EHS for several years now, and am planning to have a Building Biologist come to our home to measure the fields. I honestly believe that my environment had contributed to the heart attacks that I had last November. God blessed me with good help in a very rural area of the country, as I had to be air lifted to another city in South Dakota for cardiology. I want to make sure that my home is as safe as it can be made. One of the things I suggest others do to bring more awareness on this issue, is to protest in any way you can about the 5G service that is going to be brought to all of us, rural and towns alike. It is going to be so much stronger than anything we have known so far. We must help to alert the public, and to stop its being installed throughout our country.
Ruth, thanks for your awesome comment! Yes, the 5G service is very scary.
Thank you so much for this information. I have my own autoimmune diagnoses as do my boys. Your site has long been a go-to resource for me to feed myself and my family and a source of inspiration as to how to live our lives with grace and resilience.
I shared this article with my boys- who are not thrilled at the thought of limiting device time or giving up wifi. As I said to them, our job is to keep them safe and healthy and sometimes that means making choices that are not to their liking. Would love to hear more about how you navigated this with you boys. Especially as their school requires so much use of technology for their education.
Keep on keeping on Elana- you are a beacon of light. I so appreciate you and all that you are up to in this world.
Beth, my boys are now 17 and 18. Change is more challenging for teenagers than children since the habits are created and the neural pathways are carved. Still, our family has given up WiFi entirely and my husband and the boys always plug their computers into an ethernet cable to get internet, since WiFi is no longer available in our house :-)
Right on. Better connectivity too.
It’s sad so many young people have become wired to their wireless toys.
There will be a tremendous price to pay.
Donny, what an amazing comment! Full of eloquent wisdom.
Beth, you can turn off the wifi signal and still get internet access as long as it’s a laptop or desktop which can be connected directly to the router or modem. It’s fairly easy to set up. If you must have wifi access for phones and tablets, you can enable the wifi signal during the day and shut it off at night.
Anna, that is great advice! I talk about how we do that in this post:
Thanks for your lovely comments!
Alison Main says
Thank you Elana for writing this! It is so incredibly important to raise awareness for this issue and start this discussion in all of our communities. There is such a tremendous body of research pointing to the dangers of EMFs and wireless radiation, and yet it is not circulated in mainstream media, so most people are unfortunately unaware that their electromagnetic environment can be making them sick.
As you know, I’ve been writing on this topic for some time, particularly in Paleo Magazine. It’s amazing to have your voice added to this. If you’d ever like to connect about awareness efforts, please do let me know. The upcoming deploying of 5G wireless by the FCC, along with the Internet of Everything, will make it a challenge to control our local and home living environments and to live without these harmful wireless frequencies. I am very glad you have delved into the public policy issues about this as well in your post.
I too have worked with a number of building biologists from the International Institute of Building Biology and Ecology in my own homes. And like you, I would urge all of your readers and followers to look into this philosophy of home health, to consider a home evaluation as well, because their approach and solutions really can make the difference in healing from (and preventing) disease.
Thank you again Elana!
Alison, thanks so much for your incredible comment. I’m so glad to be working alongside people like you to promote EMF awareness :-)
Kristy LaFollette says
This is a fantastic and important post Elana. As someone who works in tech, there are many great things and many, MANY deplorable things about how this industry defines itself. The good: there’s a fast-growing awareness about too much tech in the home and in our environment. The bad: many big corporations have too much at stake as you mentioned. We need to inform ourselves, our friends and families and communities on FACTS out there; you’ve done a great service by pulling all this data together!
I am sharing this now with my friends, colleagues, etc. I want to see more of what you write, there is not nearly enough. I also encourage you to get media like Pando Daily, NewCo, Wired and Re-Code to tell your story and explore this big ass “elephant in the room”.
Peace, love you!
Kristy, thanks for your comment! Yes, that is a great point, we absolutely need to inform ourselves. I’m so glad we are on this path together :-)
Cynde Stearns says
Elana, I am soooo sorry for all you’re going thru, all you’ve been thru! You have so kindly & generously shared so much with us, & are helping us. Thank you a million times over. Hope you recover with lightning speed!! ?
Cynde, thanks a million for your incredible comment and support! I really appreciate it :-)