Finally – some awareness that cell phone’s should have been kept away from kids years ago. I remember years back when one of the carriers had to pull an advertising campaign for “Disney” cell phones when a European study about a serious health risk for children who use cell phones and there was a large campaign to spread awareness w/flyers to warn parents to not let their children use mobile phones! Too bad that press never made it to the US market – of course they still pulled the Disney cell phones… 😉
By Julie Kling
Jackson Hole, Wyo.-A parent can have no more humbling experience than a child giving them a tsk tsk look – the kind that parents reserve for shushing kids during church, nudging a fidgety child, and nowadays, scolding them for bringing a cellular phone to the dinner table. Teton County Commissioner Ben Ellis got that look recently in the form of a gift from his 6-year-old son, Flynn, who bought him a headset online to keep radio frequency waves away from his dad’s brain. Ellis, who has been very concerned about warnings on cellular phones, was delighted.
While the National Cancer Institute says there is no proof that cell phones – which emit electromagnetic radio frequency waves, or radiation – can cause cancer, many studies are beginning to link high levels of radiation from various sources to the deadly disease.
Children in Jackson are responding to a local campaign, sponsored by the Environmental Health Trust, to raise awareness of potential hazards of cell phone radiation as they responded to recycling a decade ago. They’re talking about it. And with public health activist and scientist Devra Davis and her team at the health trust, they will be singing, writing, creating posters, videos and maybe even designing other ways to help teach their parents to use a headset and limit their cell phone use.
A competition open to all local students will award a colorful retro headset for the best design from each class that enters the contest by April 11. Since the publication of Davis’s book, Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, the health trust has been singularly focused on warning the public about the potential risks of cell phone use. The campaign, which is gaining increased national media attention, is set to put Jackson on the international map. Already France has banned cell phone companies from advertising to children under 12 and Israel is recommending banning cell phones from school, except for designated cell phone areas, to localize children’s exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
Educators like Pam Shea, the superintendent of Teton County Schools, have embraced the Disconnect message because it rolls into a broader message about the amount of time kids spend on their phones and the way text messaging splits their focus. “It used to be worrying about TV time,” Shea said. “Now, it’s, ‘do you have enough time for studying, do you have enough time for pleasure reading?’ Kids don’t realize how much time they spend on their cell phones.”
Sarina Scott, 17, is trying to change that. Unlike many of her peers at Jackson Hole High School, where the hallways are littered with kids peering down at text messages on their handheld devices, she doesn’t bring her phone to school. She doesn’t talk on it while driving and she mostly uses her speakerphone. But, much to Davis’s chagrin, she still uses it as an alarm clock.
After interning with Davis this summer, Scott says she “tries to tell people about the science behind the warnings that cell phones can cause cancer.”
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found an increase in brain activity after 50 minutes of pressing a cell phone to a human ear. But it did not say that the increased glucose metabolism observed could cause harm. While most of the studies that Davis references were done outside the United States, many of them, including a study by the World Health Organization, concur that heavy cell phone users double their risk of glioma, a rare form of brain cancer after 10 years. Ten years is not far off for teenagers like Scott, who got her first cell phone in sixth grade. “Promoting safer cell phone use is a very big deal,” Scott said. “It needs to be done quickly because kids have been using them since they were 8 or 9 and they need to protect themselves.”
JHHS vice principal Jim Rooks said he hasn’t seen much of a change on campus except for a growing dialogue. Unlike Davis, who wants to make kids the messengers, Rooks sees that dialogue trickling down from the parents. “I’ve probably seen less than five Bluetooth type of devices being used,” he said. “When I’ve asked about it, kids said their parents made them use it. Parents are becoming increasingly aware of the issue. What we see, ironically enough, is adults use their cell phones to talk more than their kids, who are texting. It’s pretty rare for students to put a phone up to their ear.”
Jackson Middle School vice principal Scott Eastman said the kids have already begun submitting entries for the contest and they are “pretty excited about winning that headset.” The middle school has a bell-to-bell policy for cell phones, requiring them to be off and out of view during the school day, whereas high school kids are allowed to use phones between bells.
Twenty-three-year-old Sara Russell is an intern at the Teton Science Schools, another school Davis visited last week. She only uses her cell phone about one hour a week, which doesn’t classify her as a heavy user. According to those studies, heavy use is considered 30 minutes a day. Still, like most people who buy cell phones, Russell never read the fine print. “Devra drew my attention to warnings that come with cell phones,” Russell said. “Something I would have not otherwise known existed.”
Jackson Mayor Mark Barron said he was surprised to learn that the iPhone 4 could exceed FCC radio frequency requirements if it’s not held five-eighths of an inch away from the body. BlackBerry, another popular smart phone, advises use of a hands free device and warns consumers to keep it an inch away from the body, “including the abdomen of pregnant women and the lower abdomen of teenagers.”
“We need to be mindful of this awesome technology and how we put it in precious young hands,” Barron said. The mayor recently passed a resolution with unanimous approval from the Town Council in support of the Environmental Health Trust’s efforts to promote safe cell phone use.
The smaller the noggin…
Cell phones are two-way microwave radios that should not be held to the body or the brain, Davis says. The industry warnings are based on a six-foot male who weighs 200 pounds with an 11-pound head, hardly the average user.
The smaller the person, the more susceptible they are to the radio frequency or radiation. This is the area of study into which Davis and other public health officials want to delve deeper. They agree that children’s brains are at higher risk because they are growing so rapidly, their skulls are thinner and they have more fluid in their brains, which makes it easier for them to absorb radiation.
The iPad and other wireless devices that toddlers and other young children are given to play games with in the car, on planes, or when their parents are out to dinner, are another growing concern for the Environmental Health Trust. “People are using iPhones and iPads like pacifiers,” Davis said. “I hope we see a world where parents wouldn’t give a cell phone to a child no more than they would give them a cigar or a shot of booze.”
A telephone and email request to Apple, Inc. for comment on Davis’s campaign went unanswered the same day that TechCrunch.com reported that Apple Chairman Steve Jobs said he has, “no interest” in a popular application that measures phone radiation. Apple has not offered the application designed by Tawkon, of Israel, to its customers.
In addition to brain tumors, Davis is concerned that cell phones may be causing an increase in the incidence of pituitary or salivary gland cancer and a reduction in sperm count, memory loss, insomnia and DNA damage. In Israel, she said, one in five new cases of salivary gland tumors are occurring in people under 20.
During her PowerPoint presentation at the high school last week, Davis showed a slide about a study that found that using a cell phone for four hours a day cuts sperm production in half and compromises the sperm that survive.
Keith Phillips, a part of Davis’s growing number of friends who are cancer survivors, promptly pulled his phone out of his front pocket and placed it on the table. Phillips, a local musician, had a brain tumor at the tip of his left lobe removed last year and is now undergoing chemotherapy. He said it “seems like more than just a coincidence to me” that the tumor was right where he used to hold his phone. He is left-handed. Still, Phillips is more interested in statistics than speculation.
Davis, an epidemiologist who worked with President George W. Bush’s administration on tobacco legislation and realized how long it takes to bring about change, said she is scouring the Internet daily for more studies and hoping to fund her own.
Dr. Moe Mellion, a retired local physician who is on the board of the Environmental Health Trust said he has seen an increase in what used to be a very rare form of salivary gland tumors in young people in the United States, and that’s all he needs to know to spread the word about the potential dangers. “What we are trying to do with cell phones is like what we tried to do with bike helmets 10 years ago,” Mellion said. “We wear bike helmets and ski helmets and do all these things to protect the brain.”
Davis uses the example of the 40-year delay in proof that the atomic bomb increased the incidence of brain cancer in Hiroshima. “We don’t have 40 years. We need to act now,” she said. “If we insist on having heavy proof of harm before we change our habits, we face a massive global epidemic.”
Her call to action includes requiring cell phones to publish warning labels, including their Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), increasing funding for research, especially toxicology reports that will help predict cancer in the future and set higher standards that hold this $4 trillion dollar industry accountable, especially to children. ???They need to set standards that take into consideration that children use these phones, not just 6-foot males,” Davis said.
Take Joe Kravetsky, 14, a Jackson Hole High School student who listened to Davis’s warnings last week. He was convinced, he said, that it’s important to use his phone safely now. But his eight-year-old brother Jake hasn’t given up on begging his parents for one of his own.
Q&A with Devra Davis
Q: Why did you choose to launch your safer cell phone campaign in Jackson Hole?
A: Because this is a small, smart community of people who take good care of themselves and the environment and respect the fact that individuals have the right to know how to protect their health and safety.
Q: How has this community been most helpful to you?
A: There are three ways. First, the health professionals have been open to new ideas and many people in medicine are not so open. The second is that the policy part of the community, the mayor, the town council and the health board have all been very receptive to new ideas. And the third is the tremendous support of the school system from students and parents who are, like me, deeply concerned.
Finally, we are very proud to be part of Old Bill’s fundraiser for three years now. The modest funds we’ve received have helped us get started. Now we are looking for funding for teacher training and research. This is a clear example of where a small amount of money goes a long way because this community gets it.
Q: What do you hope to gain from the poster/video contest?
A: New ways to reach young minds because children are more influenced by their peers than by their parents. I’m hoping they will come up with ways to get the message out so we can inform people without scaring them and have people take this seriously.
Q: France has banned companies from marketing to children 12 and under. Why is the international community suggesting that cell phones are most harmful for kids under the age of 12?
A: Twelve is not a magic number. The British government issued a pamphlet advising that children under 16 refrain from using cell phones. India too. Many governments are generally advising speaker phones and headsets.
Q: At what age do you think it’s appropriate to allow children to use cell phones? Do you see the age trending upward?
A: For my own grandchildren who play with electronic toys it is important that they are disconnected from the wireless. You don’t want to give children a phone or iPad unless it’s disconnected. In rural communities where the capacity to reach a child is harder, the age could be younger. My thought would be that high school is the time and not middle school.
Q: What is the most important cell phone habit to break?
A: Keeping it next to your bed or your head.
Q: Do you expect your message to trickle down from parents to their children or do you see the children leading the charge for safer cell phone use?
A: I think children are going to lead the charge. Most parents are overwhelmed. But it depends on the age of the child. Parents realize when you give a child a cell phone you are giving up control. They have the ability to reach so many things. It is the job of parents to provide a healthy, safe environment to grow in. That’s our job. A cell phone is a grown-up device, not a child’s toy.
Q: How can the young population of Jackson help lead the nation toward safer cell phone use?
A: They have already started. We had Sarina Scott, our first intern who worked on two videos that have played in local movie theaters and on YouTube. We want to run these as public service announcements around the country. We hope to expand soon into Missoula, Mont. We are also working with the mayor of Philadelphia, public officials in California, Maine and New York. So it’s growing and it all started here.
There is tremendous talent in this community — terrific artists and their children, who are natural artists. We hope to use their videos, photographs, poems; any of their creative ideas. Already, Sarina’s film has been shown in Austria, Australia, Britain and Israel. YouTube is a global village.
Dr. Devra Davis’s 10 suggestions to reduce cancer risk from cell phones
1 Children should only use cell phones next to their heads for emergencies. Children’s skulls are thinner than adults’ and their brains are still developing. Hence, radiation from cell phones penetrates more deeply into their brains and is likely to cause more damage. Texting is still fine for kids.
2 While talking on your cell phone, try to keep it away from your body. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field (radiation) is one-fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and 50 times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speakerphone mode or a wired headset.
3 Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
4 Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.
5 If you must carry your cell phone, make sure the keypad faces your body and the back is positioned toward the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from you rather than through you.
6 Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure. For longer conversations, use a landline with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which also uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.
7 Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.
8 When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, to limit the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.
9 Avoid using your cell phone in places like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone’s electromagnetic fields.
10 Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body).
Handheld Hazards | Planet JH News Article: Cover Stories
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