Scientist and author Devra Davis, who in her 2007 work “The Secret History of the War on Cancer” took doctors and industry to task for playing down environmental factors behind the disease, is now zeroing in on the hazards of cell phones.
The full title of her new book — “Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family” — reflects her views about the potential harm.
Not everyone shares those concerns. Just last month the Federal Communications Commission quietly dropped its longtime recommendation that cell phone buyers look for models with lower levels of radiation emissions. The agency said that emissions are not a reliable measure of potential risk and that all FCC-approved cell phones meet safety standards.
For its part, the CTIA, the trade group for the wireless industry, declined to comment on “Disconnect.”
But Davis, in an interview with Salon.com, raised several points:
- Recent studies have tied cellphone use to brain cell damage, cheek cancer and reduced sperm counts. In 2008, for example, researchers found men with the lowest sperm counts were more likely to keep cellphones on their bodies all the time. Research has also found the heaviest cell phone users have a two-fold to four-fold increased risk of developing brain cancer.
- Many new cell phones come with a small-print warning noting the devices are to be kept at least one-inch away from the ear. In the case of the BlackBerry Torch, there is a warning that says keeping the phone in your pocket could lead to exceeding the Federal Communications Commission exposure guidelines. “What’s that supposed to tell you?,” Davis said. “It sounds like that phone cannot safely be put in your pocket — well, where do they expect people to keep them?”
- Because their brains are still developing, children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to cell phone radiation.
- Many insurers are refusing to provide coverage for health claims related to cell phone use.
- While the U.S. has backpedaled on the issue, countries such as Israel and Finland have issued radiation warnings, and French lawmakers have passed bills to ban cell phones specifically designed for, and marketed to, children.
As for Davis’ own cell phone use, she describes herself as “a big user.” But, she said, “I text, and use speakerphone or an earpiece. I don’t keep the phone on my body or in my pocket.”