While much has been made about the health effects of smart meters, there is another device, even more widely used, that could be every bit as dangerous as what has been ascribed to the utility device.
That device is your mobile phone.
Cell phones have been so woven into the fabric of life that there is even a phobia associated with them. "Nomophobia" -- a contraction of "no more phone" -- is the fear of being without any cell phone contact. People, especially young people, have become so dependent on mobile devices that, for some, having a dead phone, or being outside of a coverage area, can lead to increased levels of stress and feelings of isolation.
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Cell phones are everywhere. It has become standard in conferences, libraries and even churches to remind people to silence or turn off their devices so as not to disturb others.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 73 percent of students keep their phones turned on at all times. Some 56 percent of students keep them either in the pocket of a shirt or jeans, close to their body so that they can constantly feel them.
In the U.K., another study indicated 13 million Britons fear being out of cell phone contact and have feelings of anxiety when they lose touch. More than 50 percent of the respondents say they never turn their phones off.
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, the CDC, in the first six months of 2011, over 30 percent of households did not have a landline telephone but did have at least one wireless telephone, and that percentage is steadily increasing.
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According to a recent Pew Research study, more than 200 million Americans own mobile phones, with nearly half of them being smartphones. That represents a 35-percent increase in a single year. As in India and the U.K., cell phones in the U.S. are rarely turned off.
Therein rests the problem.
Several studies point to the conclusion that cell phones and cordless devices can have the same adverse effects on health as smart meters.
Many so-called "modern illnesses" ranging from electromagnetic hypersensitivity to certain cancers and disorders of the immune system have been traced to cell phone use.
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There is also evidence that the increase in the incidence of autism is due to RF radiation doing damage to the developing brains of unborn and young children.
Cell phones emit radiofrequency (RF) energy, a type of radio wave that is called non-ionizing radiation. This is energy that produces an electrical charge that when passing through tissue is not high enough to strip off electrons from an atom forming an ion but is high enough to move electrons to a higher energy state.
In the case of cell phones, the tissues in and around the person's head and around their waist, where most men wear them, can absorb this energy.
In June 2011, the World Health Organization classified the EMF produced by the estimated 4.6 billion cell phones in the world as "possibly carcinogenic," placing them in the same category as chloroform and lead.
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The WHO also found prolonged cell phone radiation exposure is linked to brain tumors such as glioma, a type of malignant tumor that forms in the brain or spine.
Dr. Dietrich Klinghart, M.D., Ph.D., of the Institute of Neurobiology in Seattle, has published a study concluding that the incidence of autistic babies has increased from 1 in 150 in 2002 to an estimated 1 in 50 babies today. His pilot data strongly suggests that RF radiation in the sleeping environment of mothers during pregnancy, as well as electromagnetic radiation in the sleeping environment of children, may be a key factor in a child developing autism.
Klinghart has summarized his suggestions for pre-natal care in a video.
In its July 2012 report to Congress, the Government Accounting Office recommended that the Federal Communications Commission "formally reassess and, if appropriate, change its current RF energy exposure limit and mobile phone testing requirements related to likely usage configurations, particularly when phones are held against the body."
In its report, the GAO noted that the current FCC regulations on RF energy exposure limits were still based on research done in 1996. The premise of the regulations was based on the assumption that RF radiation was not dangerous to humans as long as the exposure did not increase the temperature of its surroundings.
While some mobile phone manufacturers provide health effect information on their devices, the GAO report also said, "There are no federal requirements that manufacturers provide information to consumers about the health effects of mobile phone use."
Apple is one of the companies that issue a warning to its users. Among the warning, Apple advises customers, "When carrying iPhone, keep it 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) or more away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the maximum levels."
The user manual goes on to state: "Exposure to RF energy is related to time and distance. If you are concerned about RF exposure, decrease your total talk time on iPhone and increase your distance to iPhone by using one of the many hands-free options available."
Apple's advice isn't very practical for the average user. The tendency is for the user to hold the phone directly against the ear to make it easier to hear. The alternative "hands-free" device also is not very practical unless one is in a car or a semi-private area. Also, the use of a remote headset can actually increase the RF exposure since the ear bud is generally place directly inside the ear canal.
In addition, it is very common for cell phone users to carry their phone in their pocket, close to the body.
Devra Lee Davis, Ph.D., has been studying the effect of cell phone radiation, and her conclusions are startling. Davis received her doctorate at the University of Chicago and is a former scholar-in-residence at the National Academy of Sciences.
A former skeptic, she held the opinion that if there was a problem with RF radiation in cell phones, "I would have known about it." Research into the issue has turned Davis from a skeptic into a critic.
In a recent presentation titled "Cellphone Exposure, toxicology, and epidemiology – an update," Davis outlined her concerns with cell phone radiation.
Davis explains how the biological impact of a cell phone is not related to its low power but rather to the pulsating nature of its signal and its ability to interfere with DNA repair.
She concludes that cell phone usage is the most reasonable theory for various adverse health impacts, including cancer.
She is particularly concerned that cell phones and cell phone applications are being marketed to children and infants. For example, both Apple and Android devices have applications that emit white noise. One user gushed: "I absolutely love this app. The fan and rain sounds put my baby to sleep when most else fails."
Some women carry their cell phones in unusual places. One company is marketing a cell phone holster bra called the "JoeyBra" for women to carry their phones close to their bodies. They are currently sold out.
Davis also believes that cell phones may be the source of tumors in areas that come in contact with the phone. She cites the case of a Chinese woman who had multiple primary tumors directly in the area that was covered by her cell phone.
There are even devices to wear a cell phone on the head, such as the GoJo.
The history of studies on the safety of cell phones and other wireless devices are spotty at best.
In March 1989, Susan Elen Reynard was diagnosed with what became a fatal brain tumor on the left side of her brain in the area where she used her cell phone.
In 1992, her widower, David Reynard, filed a wrongful death suit against NEC alleging that his wife's use of its cell phone cause her death by brain cancer. The courts eventually ruled in favor of the phone manufacturer.
It was a very good thing for NEC.
Lloyds of London, as well as other insurance companies, refuse to underwrite cell phone manufacturers against the risk of damage to a user's health, so the cell phone companies would have to pay any court awards out of their corporate pocket. The insurance companies have determined that cell phones represent too great a risk to be insured.
While the cell phone manufacturers won in a court of law, the court of public opinion came back with a different verdict.
In 1993, Reynard appeared on "Larry King Live" and produced dramatic X-ray photographs showing the tumor close to where Susan Reynard held her cell phone to her head for hours each day. Subsequent to Reynard's TV appearance, the cell phone industry was pressured by Congress to invest $28 million into studying cell phone safety.
The industry trade association at the time, the Telecommunications Industry Association, claimed thousands of studies proved cell phones were safe and that what Reynard and his attorney said was wrong.
The media demanded to see the studies, but, researcher George Carlo said: "The industry had lied. The only studies in existence then were on microwave ovens. At that time, 15 million people were using cell phones, a product that had never been tested for safety."
Carlo was in a unique position to make that statement.
Carlo, who holds Ph.D., M.S. and J.D. degrees, is a public health scientist, epidemiologist, lawyer and the founder of the Science and Public Policy Institute. From 1993 to 1999, Carlo headed the $28 million research program that Congress had been advocating. It was funded by the cell phone industry from 1993 to 1999.
The findings Carlo presented indicated that by his estimate, by 2010, 500,000 U.S. citizens a year would contract cancer as a direct result of mobile phone abuse.
Carlo's research, which he published in his book "Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age," also indicated that cell phones interfere with pacemakers and the developing skulls of children. It also showed that the blood-brain barrier which protects the brain from penetration from toxins can also be adversely affected by cell phone radiation.
The study also lent credence to evidence that RF radiation can cause genetic damage to human blood cells, which is a known diagnostic marker for cancer.
The cell phone industry did not take Carlo's findings well.
"The industry exerted pressure on the scientists who conducted the work, including renowned German scientist Franz Adlkofer," said Carlo. "It first tried to change the conclusions of the work, then to delay its public release. Then Dr. Adlkofer, the lead scientist, was attacked in the media and threatened privately with no more research money, a ruined reputation – similar to what we experienced in the WTR (Wireless Technology Research). But this situation attracted the attention of a German documentary filmmaker, who decided to do a film on the cell phone issue."
Lawsuits dealing with RF radiation from cell phones are working their way through the courts now. In California, two workers compensation awards were given to people with brain tumors based on a link between their tumors and their cell phone use in the workplace.
On Nov. 6, an Illinois man and his wife filed a cell phone radiation lawsuit against several mobile phone manufacturers after the man was diagnosed with a brain tumor in his left frontal lobe. The lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleges that years of heavy mobile phone use and exposure to cell phone radiation caused the plaintiff's brain tumor.
As the lawsuits begin to pile up with no insurance companies to back them, cell phone companies may be relying on the hope that they are "too big to fail."
"What we have now is a major litigation burden, a vulnerability the cell phone industry has never before been under," Carlo says. "They're uninsured for these health risk claims and are already positioning themselves for a congressional bailout, like the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s. They'll lose a couple of these lawsuits and once they do, there'll be an onslaught of new litigation against them."
Carlo maintains that it would be disastrous for society if the cell phone industry would go under. It is estimated that more than 30 percent of investment stocks in retirement funds are tied to telecommunications shares.
That's why Carlo believes that Congress will devise a way to bail out the industry.
According to Carlo: "The industry thinks they can afford to continue on with this institutional arrogance, endangering millions of men, women and children because, at the end of the day, they believe they'll not be held accountable. They think they can continue to manipulate consumers."