Cell Phones and Cancer Risk: It's Worse Than We Thought

Why driving while chatting on the phone can increase your risk for a brain tumor

If you’re like us, you wake up to your digital alarm clock, listen to the radio or TV while getting ready for work, spend several hours a day in front of a computer at the office and always have your cell phone strapped to your side. And even if you’re not a slave to technology, it’s hard to escape it, with cell phone towers at every turn and Wi-Fi in every bookstore and café.

According to the new book Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution, being so connected comes with a price. Author Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D, who also wrote the New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan, says exposure to all this technology could spell trouble for your health-- including a higher risk of brain cancer.

We caught up with the author to learn more about what she calls the hazards of technology, and what we can do to reduce our risk.

For people who have never heard of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) and electronic pollution, can you tell them what it is and how it may be affecting their health?
Most people don’t realize that the human body generates electricity. Our cells use electric signals to communicate with each other. Electronics emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), which can interfere with our cells’ ability to send and receive messages. By some estimates, we're exposed to as much as one hundred million times more electromagnetic radiation than our grandparents, because of cell phones, PDAs, laptops, cell and broadcast towers, power lines, fluorescent lights, baby monitors and even the electrical systems that power our appliances. They can affect our nervous system, cardiovascular system and respiratory system, which can cause heart palpitations, chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, skin rashes and recurrent nosebleeds. It’s amazing how widespread the symptoms can be. The scary thing is, biological changes can occur at a dose 1,000 times lower than the levels considered to be safe by many experts.

Are we all going to get brain cancer from our cell phones? What have you found in your research?
When it comes to brain tumors, there is a statistically significant risk from cell phone use, especially when the studies funded by the industry are eliminated. Brain tumor risk starts at heavy and long-term use -- think 1,620 cumulative hours of calls or ten or more years of use. Cordless phones are another risk: It’s like having a mini-cell phone tower in your own home. They are the most potentially dangerous phones of all -- because the home phone handset is continually emitting signals to the base station in your home or office.

What can we do to reduce our risk?
Speak for as short a period of time as possible and use the speaker mode. Instead of talking, try to text as much as possible. Replace your cordless phones with good old-fashioned landlines. Also, try to avoid making calls in cars; radiation exposure is much higher because your phone is continually reconnecting to new cell towers while the vehicle is moving.

Are there other health concerns that we need to be worried about?
There are myriad health concerns that are probably exacerbated and made more severe by constant EMF exposure. The BioInitiative Report published in 2007 included over 2,000 peer-reviewed studies which showed that exposure from electrical and electronic appliances, power lines, wireless devices,and antennas exposed us to risks from immune system disorders, Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer, disruption of brain function and DNA breaks.

Besides cell phones, what are some other surprising culprits -- and what can we do to minimize our exposure?
Compact fluorescent bulbs emit radiofrequency radiation (microwaves) and contain mercury -- a major health concern for the body and the environment. Replace these with incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs. Plasma TVs generate high-frequency transients, known as "dirty electricity," which can easily be reduced by using a flat screen LCD TV.

What is the most startling piece of evidence you came across while researching this book?
I think the most startling is the suspicion that EMFs from the ultrasounds that women routinely receive during pregnancy may be linked to the skyrocketing rates of autism.

In your book, you advocate superfoods to counter the effects of EMFs. Why?
Antioxidant-rich foods are key to fighting the effects of electronic pollution. Low-level EMFs reduce antioxidant firepower in our bodies, which promotes free radical damage. [Free radicals are linked to aging, cancer and other diseases.] Glutathione is the body’s premier detoxifier that gets diminished by EMF exposure. It is the master of all antioxidants. Artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cinnamon, cranberries and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts all boost the body's production of glutathione. Garlic, olive oil, blueberries and red beans are additional zap-proofing foods.

If we eat all the colorful fruits and vegetables that we’re supposed to consume on a daily basis, will that be enough to combat EMF exposure?
It’s a start, that's for sure. Just as important is being aware of where you are being exposed. In Zapped, I take you through a room-by-room clean sweep of the house. Just moving some couches and chairs around can make a world of difference. Remember that duration of exposure and location are the two keys. Cell phones and other electronics aren't going away. People need to empower themselves by figuring out what is zapping them, so they can learn to live and thrive in our technological age.

Do you think technology is causing health problems? Chime in below!

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