“Keep your phone away from your body,” the California Department of Public Health has warned in a recent set of health and safety guidelines. “Carry your cell phone in a backpack, briefcase, or purse; NOT in a pocket, bra or belt holster.” The California cell phone warning was released to the public on December 13, 2017, in a document titled “How to Reduce Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy from Cell Phones”.
Other tips for reducing exposure include sending text messages instead of talking, using headsets, and not sleeping with your phone near your head unless it’s been switched onto airplane mode.
So why the warning?
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Public Health Concerns
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) notes that “the science is still evolving” when it comes to cell phone radiation and health. And yet, the fact that documents like the California cell phone warning exist at all highlights that there’s more to the issue than a lot of official findings would have us believe.
“There are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith in a statement. “We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults.”
There’s a section in the CDPH’s guidelines that addresses the health concerns directly. It points out that some lab experiments and human health studies have already suggested that “high use of cell phones may be linked to certain types of cancer and other health effects” including “brain cancer and tumors,” “lower sperm counts and inactive or less mobile sperm,” and “effects on learning and memory, hearing, behavior, and sleep.”
These are just a few of the health risks of cell phones that science has demonstrated over the past few decades.
The recent California cell phone is the same advice we’ve been giving in our Healthy Living Tips series.
Cell Phone Use and Children
The CDPH also highlights the dramatic increase in cell phone use in the US in recent years. About 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, according to their statement, while the average age when children get their first cell phone is now just 10 years old.
This sharp increase is part of what makes measuring the effects of cell phone use long-term so difficult. Real-world data for the levels of exposure we’re currently receiving simply does not exist yet on a long-term scale. This is also the case with measuring the true effects of radio frequency exposure on children, since those effects may not become apparent for a number of years, or even decades.
The studies that have been done suggest that children are more at risk from cell phone radiation. “There is not a lot of research about the effects of cell phone RF energy on children or teenagers,” notes the CDPH report, “but a few studies have shown that there may be hearing loss or ringing in the ears, headaches, and decreased general well-being.”
There are several reasons why young people are more at risk. Firstly, the RF energy can reach a larger area of a child’s brain. Secondly, that brain, as well as the child or teenager’s body, is still developing. And thirdly, early adoption of mobile technology will result in many more years of exposure over a lifetime. This is why a “better safe than sorry” approach is recommended by the CDPH and other major health organizations when it comes to cell phone use and children.
Bringing the California Cell Phone Warning To Light
Original drafts of the CDPH document were far more explicit in their warnings. On the matter of children, for example, an initial version from 2009 stated “Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies.”
27 versions of the guidelines were reportedly produced between then and the final public version. The CDPH had become concerned that releasing the information would cause panic within the public — and so wording was gradually softened or removed, and finally the document was buried all together.
In 2016 a Berkeley professor named Joel Moskowitz, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health, found out that the CDPH was withholding the warnings from the public. He sued the state of California, and they were eventually ordered by the courts to release the information.
The legal situation surrounding the California cell phone warning calls attention to a common problem with health information today: too often it can become clouded by bureaucracy, or diluted for fear of causing alarm.
“It seems to me better late than never to notify the public,” Moskowitz has said. “The public has a right to this information paid for with their tax dollars.”
Why Keep Your Cell Phone Away From Your Body?
Cell phones are constantly emitting radio frequency energy as they communicate with cell towers. The closer a device is to your body, the more of this RF radiation you will absorb. As noted by the CDPH guidelines, cell phones also emit RF energy when using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but at lower levels.
Keeping your cell phone away from your body is not always possible. Thankfully there are extra measures you can take to shield your body — and your children — from RF radiation.
One way is to carry your cell phone in an SYB Phone Pouch. Another is to line your pocket with a SYB Pocket Patch or SYB Pocket Card. These subtle and simple-to-use solutions mean you’re always protected, whether your phone is near you or not.