Cell Phones and Cancer

I received an email this morning from a friend in NYC. He sent me a copy of a memo with the subject line “Important Precautionary Advice Regarding Cell Phone Use”. It was attributed to a Dr Ronald B. Herberman at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute (UPCI). He asked if I had “Any Comments?” about the memo.

First, I’d like you to know, that my friends, clients, and associates often contact me when they read of some threat or danger from technology or Internet usage.  Some write to warn me, while others ask if it’s “just a hoax”.  (See my post regarding the “UPS Email ‘Partial’ Hoax” and my own web page “Email Hoaxes: How Spot Them, How To Check Them”.


Back to the Memo of the Day. Was It Real?

Eager to help my friend, I did some research about Dr. Herberman’s memo.

  • The memo had a link to a page at the “Center for Environmental Oncology” at the UPCI. (http://www.environmentaloncology.org/node/201). I clicked the link and checked the address bar of my browser.  The link address and the page address matched.
  • Dr. Herberman’s name was listed on the web page, too.
  • Though the web page wasn’t a verbatim copy of the memo my friend sent, there was nothing to contradict the memo either.
  • I went to Google and I searched for “Center for Environmental Oncology” and the address for the center listed with Google matched the address in the memo and the web site.
  • I emailed a Information Contact at the UPCI asking them to verify that Dr. Herberman had actually issued such a memo. They notified me that my request had been forwarded.
  • I also did a search for “Dr. Ronald B. Herberman”. The first two results linked to “UPMC Cancer Centers” and “the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh”.
  • Additional links among the Herberman search results listed the very same memo I was researching. Those sites included Time magazine and The New York Times among others.

I had learned two things:

  1. This memo didn’t look like a hoax
  2. I need to watch and read the news more often

Enough Already, What Did the Memo Say About Cell Phones

FROM: Ronald B. Herberman, MD
SUBJECT: Important Precautionary Advice Regarding Cell Phone Use

Recently I have become aware of the growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer. Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use.

An international expert panel of pathologists, oncologists and public health specialists, recently declared that electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones should be considered a potential human health risk.

To date, a number of countries including France, Germany and India have issued recommendations that exposure to electromagnetic fields should be limited. In addition, Toronto’s Department of Public Health is advising teenagers and young children to limit their use of cell phones, to avoid potential health risks.

More definitive data that cover the health effects from prolonged cell phone use have been compiled by the World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. However, publication has been delayed for two years. In anticipation of release of the WHO report, the following prudent and simple precautions, intended to promote precautionary efforts to reduce exposures to cell phone electromagnetic radiation, have been reviewed by UPCI experts in neuro-oncology, epidemiology, neurosurgery and the Center for Environmental Oncology.

Practical Advice to Limit Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted from Cell Phones

  1. Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
  2. While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or use of a hands-free ear piece attachment may also reduce exposures.
  3. Avoid using your cell phone in places, like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone’s electromagnetic fields.
  4. Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.
  5. If you must carry your cell phone on you, make sure that the keypad is positioned toward your body and the back is positioned toward the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from your rather than through you.
  6. Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure. For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell
    phones.
  7. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.
  8. Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.
  9. When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.
  10. Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” on the internet.

From Batya
C/Net Reviews
10 lowest-radiation cell phones (United States)

Manufacturer and model SAR level (digital)

  1. Motorola Razr V3x 0.14
  2. Samsung SGH-G800 0.23
  3. Samsung Soul 0.24
  4. Nokia 7390 0.26
  5. Motorola Razr2 V8 0.36
  6. Samsung SGH-T229 0.383
  7. Nokia 6263 0.43
  8. Samsung SGH-i450 0.457
  9. Samsung SLM SGH-A747 0.478
  10. Samsung Access SGH-A827 0.486

You should also know that “The current U.S. standard for radiation exposure from cell phone towers is 580-1,000 microwatts per sq. cm. (mW/cm2), among the least protective in the world. More progressive European countries have set standards 100 to 1,000 times lower than the U.S. Compare Australia at 200 microwatts, Russia, Italy, and Toronto, Canada at 10, China at 6, and Switzerland, at 4. In Salzburg, Austria the level is .1 microwatts (pulsed), 10,000 times less than the U.S. New Zealand has proposed yet more stringent levels, at .02 microwatts, 50,000 times more protective than the U.S. Standard.”

— end of memo —

What Distinguishes This Memo From A Hoax

HOAXES have:

  1. No links or contacts to back them up.
  2. Phrases in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
  3. Egregious spelling and grammatical errors.
  4. Phrases such as “Send this to everyone you know” or “This has been confirmed”.
  5. A hoax would have said something such as “Don’t use your cell phone! You’ll get CANCER!”
  6. Hoaxes ask you to “Tell everyone”.

This message attributed to Dr. Herberman does none of the above.

  1. It has a legitimate link to the Center for Environmental Oncology (www.environmentaloncology.org) at the University of Pittsburgh
  2. The message on the linked web page, while not the same message, backs up the content of the email message.
  3. Dr. Herberman’s name is on the page along with the other members of the international expert panel.
  4. Dr. Herberman is a doctor at the Univ. of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Center (http://www.upci.upmc.edu/about/bio-herberman.html)
  5. It isn’t trying to scare or alarm anyone as a hoax would. It only asks people take “precautions” with cell phones.
  6. It isn’t asking you to “Tell everyone”.

Thanks Dr. Herberman. And thanks, too, to my friend for sending me the message. Time for me to get a new headset.

If anyone has a question, please email them to me using the Contact link, or, if it relates to today’s message, please use the Comment and Question link below. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


2 comments

  1. […] Cell Phones and Cancer. This is not a hoax. It was a legitimate message from a cancer specialist, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute. […]

  2. Wonderful site:) Going to want a bit of time to think about the story..

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