In your pocket, your hand, your bra or your purse, right now, there is more than likely a smartphone. It is your baby, your one and only, your shining star with the power to play games, talk to your friends, watch movies, share pictures and just about anything under the sun in a palm-size package. You don’t eat without it, sleep without it, go to school without it, you do not leave your house without it. What harm could your baby ever do to you?
It could kill you.
No, your cellphone won’t turn into a giant robot with buzz-saws for arms and enslave the human race. But it might have the power to kill you with the disease that has, in 2013 alone, claimed the lives of more than 580,000 Americans. That’s right: In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed cellphone radiation as a “possible human carcinogen” (emphasis on possible). Nevertheless, this is frightening news, especially considering how awareness for this issue is very low, and the reports have been open to the public for almost two years. Different reports from different universities will tell you different spots on your body where different cancers can occur (as well as different ways to shield yourself).
I’m not saying throw your phone out the window, but there are some easy, practical things you can do to protect yourself, you know, just in case.
According to Devra Davis, author of “Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation and Your Health, what the Industry has Done to Hide it, and What You Can Do to Protect Your Family,” don’t leave your phone on your night stand; a weak signal means more radiation so avoid that at all times; and use a headset as much as possible to avoid exposure to the head.
Under all the smoke, there are two reports that come up time and time again, both equally shocking. First, Dr. Franz Adlkopher, a professor of international medicine in Munich, Germany, claims he has “conclusively proven” that cellphone radiation unravels DNA. This really gets to me. Adlkopher is taking a direct shot at cellphones. He says those little ∂-inch thick pieces of silicon and plastic that we know and love can get to the core of our beings, the very basis of our existence – our DNA. Even Apple knows these potential risks to our bodies. The fine print for its iPhone states that the little devices “may exceed the FCC exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15 mm (∫ of an inch) from the body (e.g. when carrying the iPhone in your pocket).” If the phone companies themselves have doubts about their products, how can we not?
Before we go any further, if you are a male reader I want you to take your cellphone out of your pocket (where it most likely is). Now set it on a table, countertop, the ground, just anywhere but back in your pocket. Good. Now give yourself a pat on the back because you have just officially enhanced your “fertility and the health and well-being of [your] offspring,” according to the PLoS One journal, an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. It makes a lot of sense, for obvious reasons, to find this among the top results for cellphone-radiation related cancers. Risks like this one, and the one from Adlkopher, are certainly comparable to the findings we had regarding cigarettes and their cancerous effects. It’s the idea that seemingly harmless everyday items have the ability to put us on our deathbeds, and a deathbed is quite an unnerving thing for a teen to think about, when death seems so far away.
I asked a few teens about their thoughts on the issue, and it was a mixed bag for sure; from skeptics to doomsday preppers. One of the people I talked to, on the doomsday side of the spectrum, was Eisa Hashmi, a freshman at Williamsville East High School.
“I don’t want to risk my personal health ... being in touch with friends and knowing what’s going on in the world is not enough reason to risk my personal health,” Eisa said.
It’s strange to see a teen opting against a form of socialization, but when it comes to the health and well-being of not only you but of your potential offspring, perhaps he’s playing the smart bargain.
Maxine Riter, a sophomore at Williamsville East, said, “If there’s radiation, it’s probably not bad enough to cause any damage or else we would have heard more about it.”
Although awareness of this issue might be slim, that doesn’t necessarily mean the dangers are.
Maxine agrees. “You never know what information we’re gonna find out in the next years,” she said.
Madison Irene, another freshman at Williamsville East, isn’t so sure. Cellphone radiation isn’t the first thing the public has seen that “supposedly” causes cancer.
She said she had just learned of a “study about how food heated up in the microwave in a plastic container could give you cancer.”
Microwave radiation and cellphone radiation are really in the same boat of potential risks alongside clear advantages. We can’t be invincible, but we can choose to do the little things to protect ourselves and our loved ones. It’s up to us.
Even among all the reports of danger, refuting reports are just as plentiful. One report, from the National Cancer Institutes, said, “to date there is no evidence from studies of cells, animals, or humans that radio frequency energy can cause cancer.”
It’s amazing, one could even say frustrating, how two institutes of health can say different things. There have also been some questions of Adlkopher’s validity in his testing and even accusations of fraud, according to Sophy Bishop of Harvard Law School.
It’s going to take a lot of solid proof to pry teens away from their cellphones. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without cellphones, and I don’t think it would be practical.
But as Madison said, “We can’t protect ourselves from everything.” But cancer is a risky dice to roll, and we all have to decide whether we want to take that gamble.
Sam J. Schatmeyer is a freshman at Williamsville East High School.