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What the Cellphone Industry Doesn't Want You to Know About Radiation Concerns

A leading expert on health effects from cellphone radiation goes to battle against a multi-trillion-dollar industry.

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Studies done by the Cleveland Clinic and other organizations around the world have found clear evidence of human sperm damage, taking sperm from one man and putting it into two different test tubes and exposing one test tube to cellphone radiation and the other not. And guess what? The cellphone exposed test tube—those sperm died three times faster with three times more damage to their mitochondrial DNA.

With respect to experimental studies, it's much easier to get negative results because all you have to do is study the wrong cell type. Younger cells are more vulnerable than older cells. So if you study adult cells—and really, effects are mostly in neural stem cells, very young baby cells—then you're not going to see an effect. Because older cells, more mature cells, are more resistant to damage. The younger a cell, the faster it grows, the more vulnerable it is to damage.

I'm releasing a study next week in Thessaloniki, Greece, done with researchers in Brazil, where we have modeled exposure, and we show that the exposure of a cellphone gets all the way through the brain of a 2-year-old or 3-year-old. And yet people are giving cellphones to toddlers for educational devices and not turning off their connection to the Internet. So we are very concerned about children's exposure and the greater exposure as well.

BJ: What are the current U.S. safety standards for cellphone radiation exposure based on?

DD: They're based on the assumption that cellphones can only do one thing, which is produce heat. That's number one. They're based on an 11-pound head of a 220-pound man talking for six minutes [a day]. They do not take into account the possibility of any biological impact that has nothing to do with heat. And yet there's growing evidence that that is the case. There's damage to sperm, there's damage to embryos that are growing, there's a whole bunch of things that go on that are not taken into account.

So current standards are outdated, outmoded, and one thing that the FCC has in common with the cicadas is that they take 17 years to change themselves. [The Federal Communications Commission announced in March that it would reevaluate radiofrequency radiation standards for cellphones for the first time since they were originally established in 1996.]

And of course with this new person designated to take over the FCC, I think what it will probably mean—I hope what it will mean—is that the FCC cannot be allowed to set standards for cellphones. How could you have someone who for 10 years masterminded showing there was nothing wrong with cellphones be in charge with setting up the new standards?

BJ: Why has the cellphone industry moved glacially to produce phones with lower radiation emissions while simultaneously generating a never-ending stream of new technological bells and whistles?

DD: Because they can. Because people are ignorant about these things. And because—here's one of the dirty secrets about cellphones—we know that drugs, sex and rock and roll stimulates something called dopamine in the brain. So do videogames. Dopamine is something that we crave. We get dopamine in the brain when we like something a lot. Well, cellphones stimulate dopamine, too. So it really is the case that there are some people who are pretty addicted to these devices.

But once you understand it, you can do something really radical, which is turn your phone off and reclaim your private life.

BJ: But with such a ubiquitous product, so ingrained in our lives it's difficult now to imagine living without them, what are some basic recommendations for how people can limit their risks when using cellphones?

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