Hold the Phone: State Issues Advisory on Cellphones, Radiation Exposure

Despite mixed signals from studies, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently released guidance about health concerns surrounding cellphone usage and tips on how to reduce your exposure to radio frequency (RF) energy.

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high-use exposure to the energy emitted by cellphones,” stated CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith in a news release.

When receiving and sending signals to and from cellphone towers, cellphones release electromagnetic radiation, called RF energy. According to CDPH’s guidance, How to Reduce Exposure to Radio Frequency Energy from Cell Phones, the RF energy goes from the cellphone’s antenna in all different directions, including the head and body of the person using the phone.

The CDPH’s guidance states that studies suggest long-term, high-use of cellphones are linked to health problems such as brain cancer and tumors of the acoustic nerve, lower sperm counts, headaches, and effects on learning and memory, hearing, behavior, and sleep. In particular, children may be at higher risk because RF energy can reach a larger area of their brain compared to an adult’s brain, and children’s brains are still developing and may be more vulnerable to RF energy effects.

To limit your exposure to RF energy, CDPH has several recommendations, including:

  • Avoid holding the phone to your head when talking—instead, use the speakerphone function or a headset.
  • When streaming or downloading or sending large files, keep the phone away from your head and body.
  • Carry your cellphone away from your body; for example, in a backpack, briefcase, or purse, and not in a pocket, bra, or belt holster. Your phone emits RF energy even when you’re not using it.
  • Don’t sleep with your phone in your bed or near your head.

In addition, reduce or avoid using your cellphone during times when it emits the highest amounts of RF energy. This generally happens when you:

  • See only one or two bars displayed on your phone.
  • Are in a fast-moving car, bus, or train.
  • Are streaming audio or video, or downloading large files.

For more information about cellphone safety, visit the websites for U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/cell_phones._faq.html), Consumer Reports (https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/smartphones/cell-phone-radiation), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/all-around/Pages/Cell-Phone-Radiation-Childrens-Health.aspx).


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